“You’ve got five minutes to change your attitude,” said my mother anytime we had less than a sunny disposition. Mom never explained how to change our attitudes — just that we needed to do it and do it quickly. Even now, decades later, my sister and I use it for levity when one of us calls the other with an emotional outburst.

As change is the only constant in life, human emotions and ego cover a wide spectrum from joy to joyless, and some of us may stay stuck in a destructive stage for longer than is healthy. It is easier to remain dark and feel victimized and overwhelmed by events seemingly out of our control than to muster the emotional strength to generate happiness and light. Procrastination is my number one bad behavior that causes panic and anger at missed opportunities. I struggle each day with this one. Sometimes I don’t win, but more often now, I do.

Mom may have been on to something with her five-minute mantra. Here is a five-minute approach that I use to try to maintain a positive outlook and to promote healthy growth of mind, body and spirit:

  • Minute 1: Take a Selfie. Well, maybe not a selfie with your phone…or maybe you should to see how you are projecting to the world. Take this minute for yourself and ask, “What habits or thoughts are keeping me bogged down?” and “What habits or thoughts are helping me stay positive and productive?” There’s a reason flight attendants instruct passengers to put the oxygen mask on themselves first before helping others. We are not helpful to anyone if we are not functioning properly. Also, think about your physical health and how it may be affecting your emotions. Walking around the lake near my home, and doing yoga and meditation, help me feel better by stretching my body and mind into a healthier state.
  • Minute 2: Community. As a writer, my job is, most often, a solitary one. I take this minute to make a list of people I’d like to check in with that day or week. It’s so easy to get caught up in our lives that we neglect a very important aspect of our being — community. I am thankful for the love and support of my family and friends who will all take a minute — and sometimes that’s all I need — to say hello or tell me a joke or just listen. I hope they will count on me when they need it in return.
  • Minute 3: Simplify. So many things can overwhelm us if we let it happen. Many of us have shelved the word “No” in our vocabulary closet. Taking on more responsibilities can lead to excessive stress and then anger as we strain to complete obligations. Prudently using the word “No” will definitely reduce your emotional stress. Technology is both a boon and a bane, as it allows us to be accessible 24/7/365 (and 366 in leap years!). Less is more and we have to be ruthlessly honest in obtaining and using only that which helps us move forward. Use this minute to unplug — you can do it — and just simply, be.
  • Minute 4: Be grateful. Gratitude rhymes with attitude, and being grateful can boost your mood. Take a minute to appreciate what and who you have in your life. Really make this minute count. Pray, meditate or just sit quietly and listen to your own breathing. No matter how mad or sad you may feel, I guarantee you that there are plenty of people who would happily trade your problems for theirs.
  • Minute 5: Take action. Decide what is important to you now and going forward and take steps, even if they are baby steps, to accomplish those goals. Write them down and monitor your progress. You’ll feel happier as you near and then reach your goals.

Five minutes really can change attitudes. Now you have the rest of your day free to tear down destructive behaviors and build on those that lift your health and heart.

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Michelle Gardner
Michelle Gardner has been writing and editing professionally for over 20 years. She is a newly-minted empty-nester and currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and her large cat, who doubles as muse and menace to her writing. Contact Michelle at Michelle_Gardner@comcast.net.

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