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These trying times demand close attention to attitude

by Mary Ann Kizer Special to The Commercial | February 5, 2021 at 3:13 a.m.
Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, a six-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, gestures as she leaves Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo., with her husband, Tom Rouen (left), in this Aug. 14, 2014, file photo. Van Dyken-Rouen was left paralyzed just below the waist in an all-terrain vehicle crash on June 6, 2014, but has kept an upbeat, positive presence on social media. As of 2021, her Instagram features photos of her smiling, working out and spending time with her family and her dog.

The covid-19 pandemic has stretched the patience of many people, and with it, their attitudes. Social distancing, mask wearing, quarantining – most people have been affected by all three.

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort,” German painter and printer Herm Albright is quoted as saying about 100 years ago.

Keeping this in mind, let’s look at our attitude and ways to improve it. Attitude is defined by Merriam-Webster as “manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind.”

There are few things in life that we can control. One of them is our thoughts. What does a positive attitude look like? What makes us happy? What makes others happy?

David Myers, a happiness researcher, is among those who say money does not buy happiness. Rich people are no happier than people with average incomes, he says. Older people are neither less nor more happy than younger people.

Who is happy? Only about 10-15 percent of Americans identify themselves as truly happy. However, in the right situation, anyone can be happy and have a positive outlook about life.

As we approach Valentine’s Day, are we wondering if we will receive valentines? Or, are we planning to send valentines to family and friends?

Personal happiness is more likely to be achieved when we remove the focus from ourselves and focus on using our talents to help others. It is also important that we try to focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses.

The initial first lady of the United States, Martha Washington, said, “I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not our circumstances.”

Try to discover your strengths and talents. We all have strengths that we can develop and celebrate. If we do this, it will help us stay focused on the positive.

To strengthen your personal happiness and add more joy to your life, try the following:

Work on something that challenges you.

Do something for others.

Smile often.

Join a group or organization.

Give someone a break.

Try to keep things in perspective.

Take care of yourself — physically and mentally.

An optimistic attitude can do wonders for our health. A study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal that spanned 30 years looked at patients’ attitudes after surgery or a health procedure. The study found that the power of positive thinking was real. Patients who felt they would do well in recovery did do well. Patients who were scared or pessimistic about recovery did not recover as quickly as the optimistic patients.

Positive habits and positive thinking can do wonders for your life. Try these positive habits:

Think of yourself as successful.

Have positive expectations for everything you do.

Remind yourself of past successes.

Don’t dwell on failures, just avoid repeating them.

Surround yourself with positive people and ideas.

Keep trying until you achieve the results you want.

Philosopher William James said more than a century ago, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.”

The discovery is still true today. We need to choose to have positive attitudes and take control of our lives. Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture has an educational research-based series that will aid you in developing a positive attitude. Publications are “Managing Stress: Turning Challenges into Blessings,” “Getting Our Hearts Right: 3 Keys to Better Relationships,” and “Your Blueprint to Happiness.” For your free copies of these publications, contact Mary Ann Kizer, (870) 534-1033, mkizer@uaex.edu or on Facebook @UAEXJefferson-CoFCSMaryAnnKizer.

Mary Ann Kizer is a Jefferson County Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent with the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service.

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