Power up with positive thinking

If you think you can, you can.

Researchers are continually discovering the many benefits of positive thinking, including a longer life span, less depression, distress and greater resistance to colds.

Researchers are continually discovering the many benefits of positive thinking, including a longer life span, less depression, distress and greater resistance to colds.

Michigan State University Extension has many resources to help people learn to manage stress and become healthier individuals. One recommendation for dealing with stress is by changing your own negative attitude to a more positive one. It sounds simple enough, but just like changing any habit, moving into a more positive frame of mind takes conscious thought, effort and daily practice.

What is so important about positive thinking? Will it make you happier? Sometimes, but not all the time. Will it make you wealthier? More than likely it never will. Will it solve all of your life’s problems? Nope. Will it make you healthier? Yes!

I used to be an adamant pessimist and worrier. Some of that was teenage drama, but it lasted for much longer into my late 20s. I always expected the worst to happen, which of course sometimes it did. When something really good happened, I didn’t let myself feel too much joy, just in case something bad might happen next. It took me some time to realize that all that negative thinking and worrying was keeping me stuck. I was afraid to try new things, learn new things and meet new people or challenge myself in any way.

A good, honest friend helped me start to think differently. She said, “What you need is a rainbow that you can always keep over your head so you can let those negative thoughts roll right off and hit the ground.” Funny thing is, since then, I keep that mental rainbow over my head all the time. It is very empowering to know that I am the one who decides how I am going to view life’s ups and downs. I count on the ups, so I can handle the inevitable downs.

According to the Mayo Clinic, as I changed my way of thinking, I may also have changed my health for the better. Researchers are continually discovering the many benefits of positive thinking, including a longer life span, less depression, distress, greater resistance to colds, better psychological and physical wellbeing, decreased risk of a heart attack and better coping skills during times of stress.

To start, Mayo Clinic recommends increasing your positive self-talk. Make it a rule to never say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else. Although a good, realistic view is important, we tend to be our own worst critics. You can start by periodically checking your thoughts during the day to see if they are mostly positive or negative. Make a conscious effort to put a positive spin on negative thoughts. Change, “I can’t handle this!” to “I have handled tough things before, and I can get through this!”

There are many resources out there to help you move from a stormy thought to a sunny thought. MSU Extension has two courses that help with managing stress, RELAX: Alternatives to Anger and a new class that will be offered in fall 2014 called Stress Less with Mindfulness. For more information visit www.msue.msu.edu

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