How To Stop Being So Cynical: Try These 7 Simple Steps

Do you want to feel happier and more satisfied at work? Do you want to be less cynical, but are too jaded to censor the sarcastic remarks before they slip out? Do you want to have an attitude you can be proud of, but don’t want to live in a mental version of a Disney castle like the “Be Positive!” folks seem to want you to?

You’re in the right place. In this article I share specific actions to take to rekindle your idealism and quiet down your inner cynic. If you haven’t read my previous post on idealism yet, check it out before you continue reading: Have You Acknowledged The Death Of Your Idealism?

Did you read the above article yet? If not, I can wait. I’ll be right here when you get back.

Okay, now that you’ve acknowledged that your idealism is in bad shape, and spent time grieving it, it’s time to take concrete steps toward rekindling it.

Step 1: Recognize Your Inner Cynic

For many nurse practitioners, “jaded” is our default state of being. We have been hurt too many times, tried too hard, failed too often, and cynicism starts to come naturally to us. It becomes such a constant companion that we forget that our cynicism isn’t natural at all.

Your cynicism is a highly targeted protection mechanism. It prevents you from being hurt by horrific sights and sounds, heart-wrenching emotional decisions, death, failure and the worst of human conditions. You work in health care, after all, and often it’s not a pretty sight. However, when your cynical armor becomes so rigid that you can no longer engage with your idealism, it’s time to figure out how to remove the armor and move more lightly.

Action Step #1: When you have a negative, cynical thought, notice it. Then let it go.

Step 2: Challenge Your Inner Cynic

When your inner cynic is telling you how appalling things are, notice and acknowledge the thoughts, then challenge them. For example, if you think “every single patient is a drug seeker today! I hate this!” look at your schedule and recognize which patients were NOT “drug seekers.” It’s amazing how our brain can ignore seeing a kiddo for an ear infection not 60 minutes ago, and still have thoughts like the above.

Remember how wonderful your patients are sometimes, and how interesting and amazing. Think about how your inner cynic is exaggerates how negative your situation is.

Action Step #2: When you have a cynical thought, challenge it by comparing it with objective reality. Then let it go.

Step 3: Evaluate Your News Consumption

News media don’t get paid to report what is happening. They get paid to convince people to consume their version of the news. Because our brains pay closer attention to the negative than the positive, reporters focus on negative events to get people to watch their media channel.

That is why the news is filled with bombings, threats, brokenness, anger and sadness. Yes, news channels report on happy and positive events as well, but the negative topics easily dominate, as they garner more viewers.

You may feel it is important to stay current with the news, and that’s okay. But do you really need to check your news feed on Twitter and Facebook 34 times today, and then watch the six o’clock news on television, too?

Action Step #3: Decrease or eliminate how often you consume television and social media news. Decide how often is appropriate for you, and don’t check it any more than that.

Step 4: Examine Your Social Network

When are you the most negative? Who is the most negative around you? What is the tone of the groups you follow on social media? Who is the most negative/positive of your coworkers?

Have you ever noticed that if you complain to one person, you get constructive help, and if you complain to another you get entangled in a battle of one-downmanship?

Action Step #4: Examine your social network at your job, in your free time and on social media. Change how you interact with negative people and groups so they don’t affect you as much, or remove them from your life.

Step 5: Focus On The Positive

Yes, straight-up optimism has immense value in declawing cynicism, even if you are just “faking it until you make it.” You did it with new procedures when you first started nursing, so I know you can do it for optimism!

We work in an inherently chaotic environment with rapidly-changing situations. It’s what we signed up for in joining the US healthcare industry, and there will always be frustrating times.

However, focusing on the positive catalyzes your return to idealism by crowding out energy for negative thoughts and feelings via a positive feedback loop mechanism.

Action Step #5: At the end of every day, write down 3 positive things that happened.

Step 6: Cultivate Your Curiosity

Go outside and play.

Spend time with children.

Engage in flow activities.

Lose track of time.

Jump in puddles.

Go for a walk.

Practice mindfulness.

Spend time in nature.

Be loving to yourself and others.

Enjoy art, music or theater that moves you.

Action Step #6: Do something playful and fun for five minutes every day.

Step 7: Practice Not-So-Random Acts Of Gratitude

Gratitude powerfully neutralizes cynicism, and cultivating an attitude of gratitude takes you a long way toward being present with your idealism. We have so many opportunities for gratitude in our profession, but they are so often overwhelmed by the crushing responsibility and stresses of being a nurse practitioner.

We make a difference in other peoples’ lives every day through our profession. Take advantage of this and recognize the phenomenal work you are doing in the world.

Action Step #7: At the end of every workday, make a list of three things you are grateful for.

Do you have any other ideas for ousting cynicism? Are you struggling with feeling jaded? Share your story in the comments below!

10 Comments

  1. Yasir says:

    I’m not a nurse. I simply stumbled on this looking for an answer to my cynicism. Thank you for this helpful read 😀

    • Samantha says:

      You are quite welcome Yasir! I am glad I was able to help. :)

  2. bob says:

    I’m too cynical to simply just change my thoughts just like that. you make it sound much easier than it is

    • Samantha says:

      Challenging your own deeply-held cynicism can certainly be a challenge. I can vouch that it can be done, but in small steps.

    • Kyle Leonard says:

      of course she does! saying and doing are two different things. besides to make it sound/read as hard as it actually is, it would have to be in heiroglyphs… or at least latin lol

      • Kyle Leonard says:

        ps. thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habit, and habits determine character. lil advice from one cynic to the rest,can’t control all of them, but we need to control the ones we can!

    • Anonymous says:

      Anyone reading this seemingly has identified a problem. that is only step one. Good read.

  3. donna says:

    I definitely agree that avoiding social networks will likely help reduce my cynicism. My cynicism makes me too stressed and I feel how unhealthy it is. I wish I could be positive, but it’s hard given reality.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I too stubbled on this looking for help. I’m the full-time care giver of my 93 year old parents who watch fox news all day and complain about everything. I do not want to be like that, ever.

  5. Anonymous says:

    you have to make the voice in your head your best friend, or you WILL find yourself in a church tower with a high-powered rifle.

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