How To Change Your Attitude When You Can’t Change Your Situation
The phrase “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” may not always be one you embrace—especially when an unexpected life situation arises. But no matter how difficult life feels, there’s something to be said for making the most out of the moment.
This doesn’t mean you should lie down, get comfortable, and refrain from making changes in your life because everything is spiralling out of your control. What it does mean, is making changes to how you feel about it. When you can’t change your situation, you can make changes to your attitude. Roadblocks may make you feel out of control, defeated, and emotionally exhausted, but you don’t have to live there.
Most of us feel uncertain and distressed when faced with situations we can’t change, no matter what personality type we are. The good news is, no matter your situation, you can learn to change your attitude.
1. Managing your stress
Stress plays a large factor in our emotions and how we handle them. Suppressing your stress or mismanaging it can provoke changes in your attitude, and lead to any number of things that affect your mood.
For instance, unmanaged stress can result in physical ailments, anxiety, or depression. Prolonged exposure to stress may weaken the immune system, and when you don’t feel well physically, it can impact how you feel mentally.
The Mayo Clinic also points out that anger, restlessness, a feeling of being overwhelmed, and a lack of motivation are all physical symptoms of stress.
If your situation is causing you to feel stressed, the first thing to implement is a proper stress management regime to uplift your mood and attitude. Common recommendations include exercise, art therapy, journaling, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, and social activities. It’s normal for everyone to have their own techniques.
2. Recognize negative feelings and thoughts
Regardless of whether you type as a Feeler or a Thinker in the Myers and Briggs personality system, your emotions (and how you process them) will play a large part in your attitude. You can’t move forward with an attitude change if you’re still letting feelings of disappointment or unhappiness lead your day.
If you’re a highly rational Feeler, you may feel you’ve already recognized your feelings and looked at them logically. Other types may struggle with this process. Either way, it is not until you deal with your emotions, rather than dismissing them or rationalizing them, that you will feel better equipped to begin the journey to changing your attitude.
The best way to get your feelings out on the table is to write them down or engage in a hobby that allows for emotional expression. Running, for example, is a meditative activity that may allow yourself to engage in inner reflection.
After identifying your feelings and recognizing negative thought processes, such as blaming yourself for life events that are outside your control, ask yourself why you feel that way. Acknowledge it, and then give yourself permission to let go of thoughts that do you no good.
3. Changing what is possible
While you may not be able to change your situation as a whole, you can always implement small changes in your life that help improve things. Ask yourself, “What can I change that’s been bothering me?”
Think of small things that will make life easier, lighten your mood and give your outlook a boost. Is your home office too cluttered? Have you been putting off organizing? Maybe you have a small goal you’ve yet to implement, such as reading ten pages a day or starting a new exercise routine or cooking regimen?
While implementing small, focused goals in your day-to-day life may not feel like the big-picture solution that types like ENFPs, ENFJs and ENTPs crave, it’s still a helpful tip for every type. Judging types especially may feel better when they meet small goals, because it gives them a sense of control and accomplishment. For Perceivers, different goals are always emerging. But it’s the act of doing something – rather than doing nothing – that helps you feel in control of a situation. Alphabetizing your new bookshelf can give you an attitude lift!
As an INFJ, the recent COVID-19 shut down in California forced me to embrace these small goals I’d been putting off for months. And the steps I took, while small, have given me a feeling of consistency, peace, and accomplishment when I otherwise might have felt out of my comfort zone, with little control over my day-to-day.
Most of the time, small changes are doable, so why wouldn’t you take them on? Take a look at your schedule, find a slot of ten minutes, and think, “What can I fill this time with to make myself feel happier? What changes can I make?”
4. Practice gratitude and acceptance
My mother told me that she never knew what acceptance was until she’d been through the fire after an illness she couldn’t control. Like many people, she used to think that “accepting what you can’t change” means to accept that you have no control over your life; a surrender.
But acceptance doesn’t mean you take whatever life is throwing at you at face value. It means you’re aware of when a circumstance is inalterable, but you remain grateful and aware of other things you can change to pull yourself through. It’s recognizing that sometimes, we aren’t in the cockpit of the plane (yes, I know it’s hard Judging types). But you can, and will, get through difficult life events.
Life doesn’t always hand out the easy cards. But if you accept that you can’t change your circumstance, you’ll find yourself more readily equipped to roll with the punches rather than sitting in a negative stew of blame. You’ll understand that you’re not surrendering control, but altering where you focus your control.
Perceiving types may find more comfort in not planning, but even they can grow tired of feeling out of control. Accepting doesn’t come easy for everyone, especially when you’re a hard-headed INFJ who craves an odd balance of structure and freedom like me. But once you allow yourself the chance to accept life as it is, you don’t need to feel out of control. There is always something you can control, and always a way to make life brighter during the tough times.
5. Set affirmations
Changing your attitude is learning a new habit. That means you’re going to have days that require extra patience and extra reminders. That’s okay. You’re allowed to have days where you feel down—we all are.
One way to commit to an attitude change is to remind yourself daily. Voice your intentions, or affirmations, before you get your day started. Wake up and tell yourself that you’re going to have a good day and you’re going to be more positive. When you repeat something to yourself long enough, it has a lasting effect on your mood, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
6. Acknowledge your accomplishments
I am the first to say how much I hate giving myself praise, but there are times when it’s essential to give yourself a pat on the back. Whenever a situation has you down, acknowledging your past accomplishments gives you a chance to reflect.
Try reminding yourself of the times you pulled through a tough situation; remember the things you’ve accomplished, no matter the odds. Take time to cheer yourself on and remember situations will eventually change.
7. Immerse yourself in things that make you happy
You’d be amazed how much lighter you’ll feel when you immerse yourself in things that make you feel joy. Although your day-to-day may make you feel negative, you can give yourself a boost by incorporating things you’re passionate about into your life.
This can be as easy as singing along to a song you love, listening to a podcast that inspires you, practicing a self-care routine, cooking a favorite dish, or watching a film.
Make the changes!
This year has been anything but predictable, and that can cause even the most unflappable person to feel out of kilter. Making these changes may not be easy at first, but once you’ve changed your attitude, you can better handle any situation life throws at you and learn to cope when you feel out of control.