Life throws a lot of crap our way over the years, and if you’ve experienced more than your fair share of it, it makes sense that you might become a bit jaded. The problem is that this viewpoint is pervasive and can end up taking over your entire life, keeping you locked into a pattern of misery it feels possible to escape from. Obviously, some people suck and life is unfair, but walking around with a bad attitude isn’t going to make it any better, so it’s time for a change. Here’s how to be less cynical — you’ll be a lot happier, I promise.
1. Admit that you’re cynical.
The first step to changing any kind of toxic patterns or behaviors is admitting that it’s an issue to begin with. You can’t stop being cynical if you don’t even recognize and own up to the fact that you are. It takes a lot of humility and self-awareness to be like, “Ugh, I do actually assume the worst of everyone and everything and it’s kinda ruining my life.” However, it’s only when you do that you’ll be able to make any kind of meaningful change. Just sayin’.
2. Fake it ’til you make it.
You’re not just going to wake up the next morning with the sunniest disposition ever. It took years to develop your jaded outlook and it’s going to take a long time to undo those instincts and perspectives. However, much like portraying yourself as a more confident person as you build your self-worth, pretending to be optimistic and trying to see the best in people are good practice for when those things become natural and second nature.
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4. Drop the judgment and opt for curiosity instead.
One of the worst parts of cynicism is that it turns you into a judgmental person. Because you think everyone is fake and everything is some dark underbelly, you walk in with a bias and judge people and things unfairly. Instead of thinking you’ve already got the real scoop before you actually know what’s up, get rid of your judgment and instead, try to be curious. Be open to being pleasantly surprised even if it ultimately doesn’t happen. You might end up surprised at how often things and people are genuinely good.
5. Examine your social circle.
A motivational speaker named Jim Rohn once claimed that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and while many people disagree, it stands to reason that your own attitudes and perspectives are going to be impacted by your closest friends. It’s going to be nearly impossible to stop being cynical if you’re spending most of your free time with jaded people who are complete misanthropes. Look at who you’re hanging out with and adjust accordingly.
6. Find an accountability partner.
Because undoing cynicism takes a while, there are going to be times when you slip into old patterns. That’s why it can come in handy to have a friend, partner, or even a family member who’s there to call you out on it when they notice you taking steps backward instead of forward. Maybe you have a code word or you just ask them to look at you a certain way when they notice you being cynical. This can really help bring your awareness back and stop your ‘tude in its tracks.
7. Try to practice gratitude.
I’m well aware that a cynical person’s first thought here is going to be, “What do I have to be grateful for?” but if you truly take a minute to reflect, you’ll likely realize that you have a lot in your life for which to be thankful. If you have a job, a roof over your head, and food on your table, you’re already in a pretty good position. If you wake up in a part of the world where you can walk out your front door and not worry that a bomb is going to fall on you, consider yourself lucky. Same for if you have indoor plumbing, clean drinking water, friends and family that love you, etc. etc. Your gratitude list can and should be long, and the more you acknowledge the abundance in your life, the harder it is to be a total hater.
8. Consider positive affirmations.
I get that this one is going to be a stretch for many people, but they’re worth a try. Even if you think they’re totally ridiculous and don’t work, there’s no harm in repeating some positive affirmations in the mirror each morning or even just in your head while you’re getting ready for work. The more you replace the negative self-talk in your head with positive alternatives, the more your subconscious will begin to absorb them and shift your perspective accordingly.
9. Self-moderate via self-awareness.
We’re all about personal responsibility here, so it’s up to you to get to grips with your unhealthy tendencies and do the work to correct them. When you notice yourself becoming cynical, stop yourself by being like, “Uh uh, we’re not doing that today.” Shut down the negativity and replace it with a more open-minded and positive approach. It may take a while for these habits to take root, but the more you try, the better off you’ll be in the long run.