With reports of the latest terrorist attack, volcano eruptions, tornados and other violent storms, global warming, a political system that seems caught in an endless impasse and drug addiction on the increase, life can seem filled with negativity.
Our society can be focused on the negative aspects of life and forget what is good and worthy of celebrating. The result is that we’ve been conditioned to look for things that are wrong. And we overlook the good things that are done for the right reasons. So how do we shift negative outlook to positive outlook? Here are three suggestions.
How many times have you heard a friend say they’d like to lose weight, learn to play the piano, master a language, or accomplish something on their bucket list? What we would like to occur often does not because our desires are not followed by action. Being intentional about taking action is an important first step in changing a negative outlook to a positive one and can look different for different people. Here are some suggestions
- Limit the amount of news you read, watch, and/or listen to.
- Pay attention to your thoughts. When you notice negative thoughts, shift to something more positive.
- Refuse to participate in gossip. Not only does the Bible tell us not to gossip, the practice is never edifying and draws people to a lower standard and outlook.
- Start a gratitude journal. (More on gratitude in the next section.)
- Analyze your entertainment. Some types of entertainment have little to no lasting positive value and can have a great influence on our outlooks.
- Volunteer by helping a child learn to read, bringing smiles to residents in nursing homes, or spending time at an animal shelter. Possibilities are almost endless. When we are able to have a positive impact on a given situation, our outlook is affected.
- Read uplifting, heartwarming true stories.
However you decide to be intentional, remember that change seldom takes place overnight. With a little bit of effort your outlook can change.
Years ago, I worked for a very difficult boss. I don’t think anyone in our department really cared for this former executive secretary who became head of a department she knew little about when her boss retired.
On my way home after a particularly trying day, the Lord nudged me to think of ten things I was grateful for. With some thought I was able to list the ten items. As the Lord prompted me on succeeding days, sometimes I breezed through the list. Other days, 4-7 items was the best I could do.
In the end, it wasn’t the number that matter. What really made the difference was focusing on what I had to be grateful for rather than becoming stuck on what was wrong. I also found that even the most difficult of bosses possess something to be grateful for.
Cultivating a habit of gratitude lifts our eyes off of our immediate circumstances and broadens our perspective. It also puts us more personally in touch with God as we remember the ways He has blessed us.
Praying takes our focus off ourselves and invites God into our circumstances. It can be tempting to make our prayers a litany of asks; simply presenting to God what we need and then being done. Prayer is at its best when we create space for dialogue with God. And as God speaks into our lives, He often gives us a new perspective, fills us with peace in the midst of the unknown, reveals the positive side of a negative situation, or gives us greater compassion. Really, the possibilities of what God might do are endless.
There is no doubt there are a lot of bad things happening all around us. But there are good things as well. They often just take a little more effort to find. Making the effort to focus on what is good can protect against being overcome by all that is wrong in the world and losing hope. God is at work and fills us with hope when we are intentional about cultivating positive outlooks.