In this day and age where life can seem hurried and chaotic, we don’t always stop to give our mind the break it needs. Not only that, but when we do stop to pause, we are often overly critical and pessimistic about our lives.
Studies have shown that having a positive outlook on life significantly reduces stress, aids in healing the body and immune system, and creates an overall happier state of mind. John’s Hopkins expert Lisa R. Yanek, M.P.H and her colleagues found that people with a family history of heart disease who also had a positive outlook, were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within five to 25 years than those with a more negative outlook. Some ideas to help foster positive thoughts are:
Positive affirmations: Remind yourself daily and nightly of something good you are, you do, you believe, or you’ve seen. Try these thoughts and say them to yourself: “I choose to find hopeful and optimistic ways to look at this”; “I surround myself with people who treat me well”; “Peaceful sleep awaits me when I go to bed tonight”; “This day will bring me nothing but peace and joy”; “All of my problems have a solution.” Affirming what is or could be positive in your life will help keep a healthy frame of mind.
Find humor in less than ideal situations: Life happens. Sometimes it is wonderful and happy and carefree. Other times it is stressful and hard and worrisome. Whenever we can make light of something hard without diminishing the reality of it, that can help us cope. Pipe burst in your house and flooded your basement? Tell your family and friends you have opened up a new community pool and will be charging an entry fee. Lose your job? Submit an application to the zoo to be the next kangaroo handler. In reality, we know that a burst pipes and lost jobs can both be potentially devastating, but having the mental capacity to find humor in any situation will help with your overall health and let you see the forest for the trees.
Transform negative self-talk into positive self-talk: It is all too easy to try something, fail, and think “I can’t do this.” However, with enough of those negative thoughts and feelings about yourself, you will start to believe you really can’t do it. If you train your mind to think positively instead, you will notice a happier and healthier you. Try “Once I practice more, I will be able to do this easily.” By changing your perspective from negative to positive, you will begin to see the world in a more optimistic light.
Turn failures into lessons: Ben Franklin famously said “I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.” Not only is this saying of his a good example of number’s two and three from this list, but it brings us to number four. Failure doesn’t have to be the end result. Often, it is the act of failing itself that helps catalyze us to success. My favorite failure turned success is the chocolate chip cookie! In the 1930s, Ruth Wakefield and her husband, Kenneth, were the owners of the Tollhouse Inn near Whitman, Massachusetts. While attempting to make a certain cookie recipe that called for baker’s chocolate, Ruth had to substitute a different type of chocolate. When the cookies were done, instead of the chocolate melting as she expected, the bits of chocolate had retained their shape, giving the cookie that gooey chocolate bite we all love today. I don’t want to imagine a world without our beloved chocolate chip cookie!
Don’t discount how important this seemingly small but impactful act of thinking positively can be to your life. It is a form of self-care that we often overlook, but when we do it, we realize how beneficial it can be to us and to those around us.