We Are the Attitude We Keep
"We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses." – author unknown.
Think positive. Keep your chin up. Look on the bright side. Every cloud has a silver lining. Today may not be a good day, but there's something good in today.
We've all heard it before, in various versions and incarnations. Experts have been touting the power of positive thinking for generations. Hippocrates (460 BC – 377 BC) probably said it best, "The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well."
Now it appears modern psychology and medicine are realizing what Hippocrates and grandmothers through the ages have known: our mental and emotional perceptions influence our physical body.
In short, we are the attitude we keep.
Health Benefits of a Positive Attitude
Physicians and psychologists continue to investigate the effects of positive thinking and an optimistic attitude on our health. Some of the benefits that seem to come with positive attitudes:
- Lower rates of depression
- Decreased levels of distress
- Increased life spans
- Improved immunological resistance
- Emotional stability and general sense of physical well-being
- Decreased blood pressure
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- Improved coping mechanisms, both physical and emotional
How It Works
Keeping a positive attitude doesn't mean you ignore negative events or you don't prepare for unpleasant future events. You must be realistic; it isn't about thinking everything is butterflies and unicorns.
Maintaining a positive attitude means you approach disagreeable situations in a positive, productive manner. You think the best is going to happen even while you prepare for the worst, if necessary.
Positive thinking begins with your personal self-talk and your thoughts. These are the endless streams of thoughts and words that walk across your mind throughout the day. They may seem to be automatic but we can change them. It takes a bit of work, but the outcome is worth the effort.
Steps in a Positive Direction
Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., is a psychologist in Mill Valley, California. She authored the book The Stress-Proof Brain and blogs The Mindful Self-Express for Psychology Today. She offers tangible ways to implement positive thinking in daily life:
- "Keep a gratitude diary. Every day, write down 2 or 3 things you are grateful for. Try to vary them from day to day. You may want to say why you are grateful for these things."
This can be an electronic format or old-school with a pen-and-paper journal. Don't post your thoughts to Facebook; there's no need to broadcast to the world. These are your thoughts, for your benefit.
- "Savor the small pleasures of life! Eat strawberries mindfully, paying attention to the color, texture, and flavor of each bite. Savor the beauty of the spring flowers. Take time to breathe in the scent and color."
Stop and smell the roses – literally.
- "Practice cognitive reappraisal. If you have a negative view of a situation, ask yourself if there's a more positive, hopeful, or compassionate way to look at it."
Again, write it down if needed. List the negatives of the situation, then cancel each one out with a positive or optimistic viewpoint. For example: Doctors diagnose Grandma with colon cancer. A positive outlook would be: Doctors diagnosed Grandma's colon cancer early, giving her a much better prognosis and higher chance of complete recovery.
- "If you find yourself being self-critical or perfectionistic, remind yourself of your strengths, the things you do well, and the challenges you've overcome."
This is one of those times when life should imitate art. Think about Kathryn Stockett's book The Help: "You is kind. You is smart. You is important."
- "Try to acknowledge negative thoughts and then let them go, rather than suppressing them. Suppression doesn't work. Rather, deliberately redirect your attention to something positive. Think of someone you love or a beautiful place you've visited or something you're excited about."
In today's world, this exercise is often equated to going to our happy place. Sounds goofy but it works.
It's a Cycle
Positivity takes practice. There will be ups and downs. The more you practice, the more ups you'll have than downs. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the better you'll feel.
Byline: Bobbie R. Byrd
Bio: Bobbie is a retired registered nurse and teacher. She lives in rural southwest Mississippi where she spends her days writing, playing with her dogs and smelling the roses.