In the Spotlight
Positive Attitude and Wellness
Contributed by Richard Harvey, Ph.D.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that people who have a positive attitude and who are generally optimistic (positive and hopeful) about life enjoy better health and quality of life than those who are pessimistic. A positive attitude may allow a person to feel more energetic, get fewer colds, flu, and other diseases, and recover more quickly from illness or injury. Optimistic people may even live longer than pessimistic people. Besides that, people with a positive and optimistic attitude are usually more enjoyable to be with. This does not mean that a positive attitude makes all your problems and worries go away, but you may not feel like they are such a heavy burden.
How to have a more positive attitude? The first step is to recognize when you are entertaining negative thoughts. You may catch yourself criticizing other people, ideas, places, events, or things. You may find yourself feeling discouraged, irritable, or angry. There are always negative thoughts going on behind these unpleasant experiences - the negative thoughts cause them. The trick is to ask yourself "what am I thinking?", recognize those thoughts, and tell yourself to get rid of the negative ones. Then, substitute positive thoughts in their place. For example, instead of letting yourself think "This guy is an idiot," replace that thought with something like "I am glad that we have the freedom for everybody to express their opinion, even though I may not agree." Instead of thinking "I hate this place," let yourself think "No place is perfect, and there are actually a few things I like about being here." You can do this! If you pay attention, you can be in full control of your mind. This process will need to be practiced over and over again, but over time, your thinking habits will change, your overall attitude will be more positive, and life will become much more pleasant. Go for it!
There are other ways to have a more positive attitude. One of those is to "talk to yourself" with positive messages. The idea is to identify some positive thought about you, or about a person, place, or situation, and make sure you think that thought often. Even better, write several of those thoughts out on note cards and carry them in your pocket so you can look at them often. Why not post them someplace where you will notice them every day. Examples might be "I am not perfect and nobody expects that, but I am basically a very good person," "Lots of people like me - I have friends," and "Every door that closes opens new opportunities, and I am going to find and use those opportunities."
Here is something else. Just smile. Even if you do not feel like it, smile and act happy anyway. You will be surprised at how quickly your grumpy feelings turn into positive feelings. You may find other people react in a happy way to your smiles. It is contagious! Surrounding yourself with positive people makes you feel that way, too.
Experiencing pleasure also adds to a positive attitude. Make sure you take time often to do things that will bring you pleasure. It might be seeing a movie, going fishing, taking a ride out in the country, playing cards with friends, or doing a hobby. These "feel good" experiences bring lots of pleasant thoughts with them. They also give you something to look forward to at other times. There are also lots of little pleasures going on every day you can enjoy. The key is to notice how pleasing they actually are while you are doing them. Examples might be talking with a friend, taking a hot shower or bath, eating something you enjoy, or watching a funny show on TV. Some other things might be socializing with friends, sitting on the porch on a nice day, looking at the sunset, surfing the internet, sleeping, and a million others.
The main message here about having a positive attitude is that life is what you choose to make it, and you have the power to make it positive. A positive attitude feels good, and will help improve or maintain your good health. Just enjoy life!
Reframe Your Thoughts (American Heart Association)
Updated/Reviewed: June 30, 2009