Posts

Renew Your Attitude Daily

Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz would tell his players, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing.  Motivation determines what you do.  Attitude determines how well you do it.”

Victor Frankl, survivor of a Nazi prison camp and beacon of light for hundreds of other prisoners suffering under Hitler’s Third Reich wrote, “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

Isn’t it amazing that a football coach and prisoner of war are saying the same thing — that it’s not our circumstances that hold us back, but rather that attitudes we display in our circumstances?  We all know people who delight in laughing at the cockeyed optimist — the one who always seems to be happy and on top of things, the person who has a bumper sticker on her car that declares, “Business is great, the sky is blue, and people are wonderful.”  But what’s wrong with this?

A life of cynical pessimism is a poor second choice and does nothing but drive us deeper into sadness and depression, making us weaker, not stronger, and ultimately setting us up for emotional exhaustion.  Oscar Wilde said a pessimist is one who, when confronted with the choice of two evils, chooses both.  Bad way to live.

On the other hand, a spirit of optimism is life-giving.  People who are upbeat regardless of their physical or emotional circumstances look for the good, just as bees gravitate to the center of a flower for their honey-making resource.  But it’s not a onetime flyby.  The bees in your garden need to fly back to gather the pollen from the flower again and again, through daily action.  It’s the only way we can keep them positive, vibrant, and alive.

Without a regular renewal of our attitudes, we will remain stagnant and uninteresting, and we will be able to offer little to those who need us most.  It’s just not possible to win at life and relationships with a self-defeating, unrenewed, boring, business-as-usual attitude.  That’s why the real attitude winners are the ones who:

  • Provide valuable service to others before thinking of their own needs
  • When discouraged, dig deep to the source of their faith and confidence
  • When trapped in a tunnel of misfortune, believe there will be light at the end of the tunnel
  • When roadblocked by poor decisions, remember that God is still in control and that no failure is ever final
  • Know that the greatest degrees one can earn are not academic but degrees of growth, persistence, and compassion for others

Be disciplined to review your attitudes and look to renew them on a daily basis.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

Containing Your Runaway Thoughts that Cause Anxiety

Jill suffered a devastating anxiety attack. She had been depressed for months over her upcoming fiftieth birthday. Instead of being a celebration of a half-century of life, Jill dreaded the date. She forbade her family from making a fuss.

Jill refused to go out with friends as the date approached. She was emotionally distant and began to complain of a variety of physical ailments. Instead of engaging in social events and her normal routine of volunteering, Jill spent months going from doctor to doctor, unable to find out why she was feeling so bad. The weekend after she would up in the emergency room, Jill called to see a counselor.

Together they worked on the reasons for her depression and subsequent anxiety attack. During their time together, the counselor noticed that Jill talked a great deal, almost nonstop. Once she got started on a topic, Jill would keep right on going. One thought led to another, and another, and another. Often, the thought three or four steps down the line had only a marginal connection to the first. The runaway thought pattern helped contribute to Jill’s depression and anxiety attack.

Jill was concerned about turning fifty. She thought about all of the conditions and health problems she had heard about in those over fifty, from cancer, osteoporosis, and menopause to Alzheimer’s. As she dreaded her approaching birthday, she convinced herself that being fifty automatically meant a loss of health and vitality. On the night of her panic attack, the spiral of her thoughts led her to believe that common indigestion was actually a heart attack. The more she worried, the more adrenaline surged through her system and the faster her heart raced.

The faster her heart beat, the more she was aware of it. It seemed abnormally fast and beating erratically. Jill remembered hearing a radio commercial about the signs of a heart attack, and sure enough, she suddenly found herself experiencing each one—rapid, erratic heart rate; shortness of breath; lightheadedness; tingling in her extremities. These symptoms, of course, are also present during anxiety or panic attacks.

The humiliation of creating such a crisis in her family caused her to worry she was losing control over her mental process. This fear of losing mental control prompted her to come in for counseling, something she had never considered in the past. Her counselor coached Jill to “slow down” and practice thought containment.

Many times, emotional depression and its companion, anxiety, can be brought under control when the depressed person learns to contain his or her thoughts without letting them escalate into predetermined catastrophes. Jill had convinced herself that her fiftieth birthday would bring nothing but problems, so it did.

It is part of the human condition that negative thoughts seem to flow easier than logical and more positive ones. An overactive brain can take a small incident and inflate it into a major crisis. If this pattern is repeated often enough, the person becomes swept away in the mental torrent, unable to find the footholds needed to return to the solid ground of common sense and reality. When the flow of thoughts slows down, the person is able to better realize the truth and maintain a grip on the probabilities.

If a person is naturally pessimistic, inclined toward runaway thoughts, depression is often the result. The person who feels powerless to control his thoughts assumes that the worst can happen soon will. This focus on disaster does not allow the person to keep optimistic, hope, or joy in his sights for very long. Negative self-talk and the grim atmosphere of a foul mood fuel this fatalistic mental spirit.

If you are struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.