How many times have you jumped out of bed up and said, “Today is going to be a great day!” Or arrived at work and as you left the car said, “I can manage anything today!” Positive thinking can make a huge difference in what our day brings. It can’t change a crisis, but it can change how we respond to one. And that can mean the difference between a great day, or a rotten one that infects us and those around us.
There’s no question those who think more positively enjoy health benefits pessimists don’t:
- they live longer
- have less depression
- improvement in pain levels
- improved immune system
- less cardiovascular and stroke events
- less respiratory issues
- lower cancer rates and death
- feel better physically and emotionally overall
- increased resiliency and ability to cope in difficult times
Probably due to stress on our bodies and the chemical reactions it creates i.e. increased levels of epinephrine, cortisol, decreased blood flow to the gut, kidneys curtailing their function while surging blood to the heart, lungs and extremities all waiting to respond to a fight or flight risk. If not released this shreds cardiac and skeletal muscles, causes indigestion, irritable bowel, and more. Optimists also tend to have healthier lifestyles- diet, exercise, less alcohol, and are often non -smokers.
Positive thinking starts with identifying negative thoughts and changing them
Too often all we see, hear and focus on is the negative. “I have too much work to do, it’ll never be finished.” Instead of focusing on what was accomplished.
Downplaying or ignoring compliments and allowing only the negatives through. Convinced the nice comments weren’t heartfelt or real. Next time you are given a compliment. Take a moment. Hear the words. Savor their meaning and appreciate the source.
Stop being the victim. Everything isn’t about us. When a dinner is cancelled it’s not because, “No one wanted to be with me.” In all likelihood, it’s because an issue occurred that had nothing to do with you.
Catastophizing is a theory first discussed by Dr. Albert Ellis in 1963 as it relates to pain but has since been extended to mean automatically anticipating the worst outcome in all circumstances. A horrible name that implies histrionics and weakness. Neither are true. But when it’s the go-to response, failure tends to follow.
“I’ll never lose weight. Nothing I do helps.”
“No one cares how I feel.”
“I’m late for work, now the whole day is ruined.”
All embellishing and over emphasizing the negative without any consideration to the truth.
- Weight loss takes time and persistence. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat healthy. Exercise. Hydrate.
- When you feel all alone, remind yourself of all the people in your life who do care about you.
- Being late for work isn’t a great start but it doesn’t have to affect the entire day.
- Avoid the blame game. Maybe you wouldn’t have been late if that jerk hadn’t taken the parking spot, but you could have left a few minutes earlier, too.
When you blame others, you no longer claim control over your thoughts and actions. No one can control us. Taking responsibility for yourself is empowering. It sets you free to change your destiny.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda. It’s just another way to blame and shame yourself for results you don’t like. We’ve all had those thoughts. Move on. Tackle the here and now.
Everything isn’t all good or bad. There are degrees along the way. Recognizing not every action has to be perfect. This allows for adaptation and change, which are important ingredients for growth, maturity and success.
Magnifying every issue until it’s been analyzed and blown out of proportion puts everything on the same level. There are priorities. Passing a kidney stone isn’t the same as a toothache. Let go of the small stuff. Put minimal concerns like not getting the parking spot you wanted in its proper place.
Positive thinking takes practice
Focus on times you tend to be the most negative. Consider who you’re around- are you a work, home with friends, or with a spouse or child? Is it when you’re stressed or angry? The minute negative thoughts start, shut them down and switch to the positive.
- See the humor in life. It’s hard to be angry, stressed, upset when you’re laughing. Look for the fun and upside to whatever is bothering you. Need a jump start? Watch a comedy movie. Studies show we release endorphins, our feel-good hormones, when we’re happy.
- Exercise. It’s hard to stay negative when the body is releasing its pent-up energy and feel-good hormones like endorphins are surging through the body.
- Surround yourself with happy people. There’s nothing more depressing than being with others who only talk about the end of the world or doomsday events. Yes, the world has issues that need changing. But focusing only on the negatives and nothing productive to change it might only make you feel better in the short run.
- Be good to yourself. Be gentle and supportive. Be your own best cheer leader. Own up to errors, mistakes and poor choices by making it clear you learned your lesson and will follow a different path. Beating up on yourself only reinforces anger, self hatred and immobilization. Free yourself from guilt when appropriate. Admit when you’re wrong when necessary but most of all give yourself a break.
Change the outcome
From: I’m not very good at this
To: I’m just learning, I’ll get better with time.
From: I’m too lazy to get anything done.
To: I’ll prioritize what needs to be accomplished.
From: No one listens to me.
To: I’ll express myself, in a calm, open manner so I’ll be heard.
From: It’s not working.
To: I need to try another tactic.
We all feel better when we are upbeat and feeling good about ourselves and others. That starts with positive thoughts. Next time something negative begins to percolate, stop it in its tracks and think, “Is this really how I want to experience this moment?”
No one controls what we think or feel.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”