Attention Training

How to think fast, find your focus, and sharpen your concentration.

7 Ways to Get Back to Feeling Positive

Returning to optimism.

For some people, transitioning from one season to another can be troublesome and painful. This can be the case with any of the seasonal changes. However, for many, seasonal anxieties seem intensified during the autumn and winter seasons.

The transition from summer to late summer and autumn is a period where days become shorter and less “bright” and everything darkens earlier. Temperatures become cooler and in some locations cold.

As the natural environment seems to be slowing down around us, we still have responsibilities and activities to engage in. Remember, too, that this is all happening following the hot bright days of summer. For some of us, responsibilities routinely pick up this time of year. So in a way it is easy to feel a little out of sync. And it’s easy to lose your balance in the transitions if you try to keep doing things the same.

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Expectations, as such, play a role in transitioning. You have to watch out here. Expectations can guide your focus and not always in the right direction. In fact, they can drive you to miss something important.

This time of year is also spiced up with some people’s favorite holidays. Adding these to the mix and for many individuals, it is one festivity right after another, and your feelings are spiked by the expectations of others as well: family, friends, colleagues. Then there is all the media focus on holidays. And then there are the memories, which also move your expectations in one direction or another.

Memories can get tricky. When you don’t rise to what you come to anticipate, even though what you are experiencing may be pretty good, even above the normal routine, you can respond negatively. If you are having a perfect 10 day and the next day you have a perfect 7, you may feel a little blah, even though your day is running more positive than what’s typical for you. Negative memories, on the other hand, can shut you off to a potentially positive experience.

Emotions are an integral part of you and your daily interactions and so you need keep aware of what you are feeling and how that is affecting you and your goals, be they professional, personal, inter-personal etc. Emotions have a lot of pull on how attentive you will be and to what. They can determine what you think, remember, and whether you will respond to certain people, situations, ideas, places and so on responsibly or irresponsibly.

Being prepared to acknowledge and deal with them is a good plan. Here are a few tips to help you get back into the positive mindset whenever you’re slipping into the proverbial doldrums.

1. Ask yourself: What am I feeling? What’s going on that makes me feel this way? And why – what shifted? How has this specific feeling affected my behavior in the past? Is there anything about that behavior I would want to change? Action: Visualize solutions. Consider a few ways you can bring that “change” into your current life situation.

2. Identify some healthy activities. Pinpoint a few healthy activities that you know have a relaxing influence on you and some that bring you “up” so that when you feel anxiety or low motivation, you are prepared with several natural and healthy ways to reverse them. On the flipside, make yourself aware of feel-good but self-destructive behaviors that are triggered when you are under the influence of these specific feelings. These behaviors, though they may feel good, can become obsessive and rather than leaving you feeling positive, plummet you even lower. Becoming aware of these behaviors and their triggers is a first step toward trying to regulate them.

3. Meditate more. Go inward. Soul-search. Set a reachable goal that is meaningful to you, no matter how small and go for it. Repeat this step daily. Keep it light, especially at first.

4. Use Music – just enough to reverse a mood that has entered your mind uninvited. Decide on whether you need to calm anxious feelings or bring yourself up. Put together a playlist of songs you feel can do that. Upbeat rhythms and messages work best to uplift and slower tempos and lighter messages work well to relax. But note: you should use tunes you like a lot. Also, play them as you feel the mood coming on: at least 10-12 minutes to relax and 7 minutes to lift yourself up. Note: some people like to listen to “white noise.” Songs from your past, especially ones you listened to as a child when you felt safe and happy or tunes that have other positive memories attached to them work very well. When you play them, generate a mental movie of your good memories. This will help amplify their effects.

5. Exercise. But don’t over-do it or this can have an opposite effect as you can deplete your energy. Combine exercise with music.

6. Make yourself available to others in need. This will help broaden your own information base and empathy. By making yourself available to others who are experiencing a rocky seasonal transition, you can become more aware of these transition’s influences on you and more empathetic to your own needs. By helping others, you help and reward yourself as well.

7. Socialize with close friends who are part of your support system. If you are aware that a situation is coming up that can leave you feeling negatively, this can provide you with some necessary feedback to help reverse it. Plus socializing can have its own rewards.

Practice everything in moderation, including moderation. Enjoy.

Joseph Cardillo, Ph.D., is the author of Can I Have Your Attention? How to Think Fast, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Concentration.

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