Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
– Winston Churchill
There’s a direct correlation between a positive attitude and better relationships, superior health, and greater success.
Some studies show that personality traits like optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that typically comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. A positive attitude can boost your energy, heighten your inner strength, inspire others, and garner the fortitude to meet difficult challenges. According to research from the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking can increase your life span, decrease depression, reduce levels of distress, offer better psychological and physical well-being, and enable you to cope better during hardships and times of stress. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits.
Here are several ways to adopt a positive mental attitude:
- Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head every day. 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.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Spend time with people who are positive, supportive, and who energize you. Remember, if you get too close to a drowning victim, he may take you down with him. Pick a positive person instead.
- Be positive yourself. If you don’t want to be surrounded by negative people, what makes you think others do? Learn to master your own thoughts.
- Control your negative thinking. This can be accomplished in the following ways:
- See the glass as half full rather than half empty.
- Anticipate the best outcome.
- Stay the middle ground. Don’t view everything in extremes — as either fantastic or a catastrophe. This will help you reduce your highs and lows.
- Consciously resist negative thinking. Be cognizant of and mentally avoid negative thinking. This will help you modify your behavior.
- Be nice to yourself. Unfortunately, some people say the meanest things to themselves. If you criticize yourself long enough, you’ll start to believe it. This negativity can drag you down over time. It may be time to fire the critic and hire the advocate.
- Set realistic, achievable goals. There’s nothing wrong with setting a high bar — unless you beat yourself up for not achieving your goals. The key is to build confidence by setting realistic goals and by hitting a lot of singles rather than swinging for the fences.
- Keep it in perspective. Life is all about prioritizing the things that matter most in your life and focusing your efforts in these areas. This means that trivial things that go wrong every day shouldn’t get you down. Learn to address or ignore small issues and move on. It’s time to sweat the big stuff.
- Turn challenges into opportunities. Instead of letting challenges overwhelm you, turn them into opportunities. (Rather than hitting the wall, climb over it or go around.)
- Count your blessings. Be grateful and give thanks for the special things in your life rather than taking them for granted. Some people do this by giving thanks around the dinner table, keeping a written journal, or posting one special item each day on Facebook. Remember, some of the greatest possessions in life aren’t material. Take every opportunity to make a wonderful new memory.
It’s unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. It’s also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess.