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It’s possible there's a reason to be cynical and apprehensive, particularly when worrying over a forthcoming matter that is likely to be unpleasant. But what does that have to do with your partner, or the kids, or a neighbour? Why should they be made to suffer for something they have nothing to do with? And on the way to work, the motorist who makes a silly mistake doesn't do it on purpose to annoy you, so there's no justification for road rage. Your overriding problem has a time and place to be tackled. It can't be resolved over the breakfast table, or behind the wheel. Until you reach the point of confrontation, your anger and posturing are wasted energy and you are making yourself suffer unnecessarily. Even if you feel the need to steel yourself mentally beforehand, think about it - what will be achieved by storming into a meeting super-charged with aggression? Staying cool and acting calmly will have far more impact. Whether going up against a person or a situation, keeping a clear head is always the best option.

But this is almost impossible when you feel the way you do. Why is that? Can you remember what sparked it? Was it one thing, or a string of unhappy events that continue to worsen your mood? To be honest, do you really enjoy being miserable? Then again, you may think, at the end of the day, does any of this truly matter? Of course it does. Not only do we have to live with other people, but we also have to live with ourselves. I would ask you to keep an open mind and accept that past problems may shape our approach to the future, but not our attitude towards it. This is something we control. If we appreciate what life has to offer, rather than bemoaning what it throws at us, we are well on the way to happiness.

Understanding what will give us this is relatively simple - anything that lifts our spirits or makes us smile is just what we need to be happy. Focus on those moments and the good physical feelings that come with them. These are the best guides we have to what we truly want. Any discomfort is a warning that a current attitude is waiting to take over. Don't let it! If you use it to resolve a current issue, the outcome is more than likely to be regretted afterwards. Before you respond, pause and think of your best-case scenario. Never mind what your attitude is telling you - do what will keep you happy after the fact. And as soon as you have five minutes to yourself - that means when there are no up-coming issues to be dealt with that your attitude might affect - see if you can figure out what is causing the negativity.

Much like any other exercise, improving your attitude takes practice, and this is best done in private, or at least away from situations that require an immediate response. Your ultimate goal is to cultivate a natural optimism, the confidence to know that every outcome will be pleasant. I know: you are probably thinking never in a million years! That's your attitude making decisions for you again, all based on bad experiences from the past. If you can identify them, try to recall what happened and why they continue to make you feel the way you do. There's a lesson in them: perhaps mistakes made that don't need to be repeated; unfortunate situations which, if encountered in future, can be avoided; hasty decisions that proved wrong and you'll give more thought to next time. Most regrettable eventualities come about by reacting, or over-reacting, too quickly, usually prompted by an inappropriate attitude. During those quiet moments, practice restraint and forethought. Re-live a bad experience, the reasons it occurred in the first place, how you handled it and the final result. Then go back and imagine changing your response to one that would have produced a satisfactory outcome. It may not work for you, not at first; not if your motivating attitude is stronger than your desire to be happy. But persevere and you will eventually get there.

Another tactic you can employ is something you will already be doing - picturing a future event and how it is likely to turn out. If the mere thought of it makes you cringe, this is exactly the kind of situation you need to prepare for, but with anticipation, not apprehension. Nudge the bad attitude aside and think about positive ways to resolve the issue in your favour. Appreciate that inner feeling of satisfaction and triumph over the win. Okay, so it's just in your mind - at the moment - but you can make it happen if you truly want to. Maybe the event doesn't need to occur at all. Have you thought of that? Are you heading towards a confrontation just because you are spoiling for a fight, in particular one you are convinced you can never win? Once again, that's not the real you - that's attitude! Consider whether you really need to see this person who is going to give you grief. Will it matter if you simply walk away? And if it has to be, put attitude back in its rightful place as the tactical guide and not your General. You aren't fighting a war, not even a battle - you are simply living your life, and you have every right to enjoy it.

And if you are wondering whether, by adopting a change of attitude and approach, you might miss out on something material or advantageous, compare the true value of what you could get with the eventual cost of getting it. Then decide if the end justifies the means.

Next issue:   Kids! Who’d Have Them? - how to cope when you do.

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Where every effort has been made to be accurate and fair-minded, comments and opinions expressed on this website are based on personal experience and do not necessarily reflect the views of the wider community or those groups and institutions mentioned. A Season of Happiness and its staff accept no responsibility for any outcome based on suggestions offered. What works for us may not work for you. Please bear this in mind.

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