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Attitude Matters

“Think happy thoughts!”

“Attitude is everything!”


And so on. You’re bombarded with quotes like this day after day: from Pinterest, from the chipper lifestyle blogger on Youtube, from that one lady who’s friends with your mom. If you struggle with mental illness it’s even worse; people will tell you over and over again to stop thinking negative thoughts, to start thinking happy ones, to shift your thinking and the magic cure will come. But how much truth is there actually in just thinking positive thoughts?

Quite a lot, actually. But it’s not as simple as people make it sound.

For the longest time I’ve considered myself a pessimist. Glass-half-empty. You know the type. When I scroll through Tumblr I relate to all the posts about having no energy or motivation, the posts that romanticize being depressed and lazy — yes, lazy — and procrastination and not trying. And as long as I think that, as long as I convince myself that I’m stuck there and that’s okay, if that’s what I tell myself over and over and over again...I’m really truly stuck. It took me a long time to get out of that attitude. I still deal with it every day, shaking off the last of it while it tries to stick to my anxious brain. But the more I practice “positive thinking” and constantly readjusting my attitude, the easier it gets, the more it helps, and the more it makes sense.

Now, there is truth in the fact that saying “just think happy thoughts” is probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. It isn’t going to stop the anxiety running through your head or the depression seeping into your nerves. Happy thoughts are not the magic cure that makes everything stop. They don’t come immediately.

Positivity, and practicing attitude, however, is crucial, I’m convinced.

It takes practice. Lots and lots of practice. More often than not it’s a constant reminder, a whisper to yourself, the rhythm you tap out with nervous fingers on the desk.

I am not going to succumb to wanting to hide under the blankets forever.

I am loved. I can make it through the day.

I have to do this. I will do this. My current feelings do not define truth.

I can get through this and I am going to keep going.

The simple truth is, what you tell yourself matters. What you feed yourself matters. Wallowing in how you feel and how you’ll never get out of it will only drag you deeper, and that’s a simple fact. Don’t cover up your natural feelings. Let them happen. Feel sad, depressed, anxious, upset, hurt, exhausted thinking about the day or the event ahead of you. Feelings will not hurt you; feelings are natural, and you need to let them run their course. But you can feel something without being pulled down to it, and in the same breath you acknowledge that this is what you’re feeling right now and accept it, you can also resolve to keep going despite it.

You are upset.

You are anxious.

You are tired.

But you are going to stand tall, you tell yourself.

You are going to keep going.

You can keep going.

You don’t have to believe it. Trust me, I don’t believe these things half the time — and that’s when I remember to work on my attitude. But if you tell yourself something enough times, eventually it’s going to stick. That’s a proven fact.

In the end, your attitude really does matter, more than anything else.

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