a special feature from Kay & Leslie, founders grandparentslink.com
Is your glass half-empty or half-full? How you answer this age-old question about positive thinking may reflect your outlook on life, your attitude toward yourself, and whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic — and it may even affect your health.
Indeed, some studies show that personality traits such as optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits. If you tend to be pessimistic, don’t despair — you can learn positive thinking skills.
Understanding positive thinking and self-talk
Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations – it just means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst.
Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of lack of information.
If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly negative, your outlook on life is more likely pessimistic. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you’re likely an optimist — someone who practices positive thinking.
If you tend to have a negative outlook, don’t expect to become an optimist overnight. With practice, eventually your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you. Practice being in the present moment, not worrying about the past, and being mindful of ‘now’.
Here are some tips to help focus on positive thinking
You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it takes time and lots of practice — you’re creating a new habit, after all.
- Identify areas to change. If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify areas of your life that you usually think negatively about, whether it’s work, your relationships, or even your daily commute. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way. Set an intention each day. Think about how you want your day to be, or what you would like to pay special attention to.
- Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, see if you can find a way to put a positive spin on them. Pause a moment, access your breath, and count to ten.
- Be open to humor. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday happenings. When we lighten up, we feel more optimistic. By the way, laughing out loud is the best stress reliever.
- Follow a healthy lifestyle. Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week. You can also break it up into 10-minute chunks of time during the day. Exercise can positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. And learn techniques to manage stress. Try meditating every morning. There are many apps that help with meditation and calming yourself, such as Calm and Insight Timer.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
- Practice positive self-talk. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you. Learn to be grateful. Create a gratitude habit: every day write down three things you are grateful for.
When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you’re better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. It’s that simple; practice positive thinking every day. You may be pleasantly surprised. It’s worth a try, right? We think so!
*Portions of this article are from: Mayoclinic.org and Grandparenting: RENEW, RELIVE, REJOICE by Pam Siegel & Leslie Zinberg