Being positive is the best self-care and self-love you can do for yourself
I always say I am an optimist with life experience, and a pessimist with hope for the future. I get anxious often and feel overwhelmed very easily, therefore I don’t always have a sunny disposition. But when I close my eyes I can imagine a better world, as well as at least ten steps to ensure we get there. I also don’t expect the worse, but plan for it regularly. That is why I usually have a plan B to Z. Just in case. I teach my kids that life is unfair and cruel, but we don’t have to be, and there is beauty in everything. Even the storm can be beautiful if you remind yourself that it also has to end. Everything has a beginning, and everything has an end. We just have to hold out until then. Being prone to anxiety, I sometimes find it difficult to think positive. Difficult but not impossible! I strongly believe that what you visualize will happen, so thinking positive makes absolute sense to me. It makes me happier, more content, more productive and creative, just all-in-all a better person. And research agrees with me!
Positive thinking. Thinking positive. Having thoughts that are not negative. Yeah, sounds easy right? For some, it is. For others, not so much. Some people are just wired to see the negative, to anticipate the worst, and to expect a no. Being an optimist does not mean that you are naïve or blind to threats, it just means that whatever you are faced with, you approach with hope and a smile on your face.
But why is this important? Why does it matter how you see the world? Because your thinking impacts your life, and thinking positive has major benefits to your health and overall wellbeing. It adds value to your life.
Not feeling very positive? Don’t worry, it can be learned like any skill.
Positive thinking starts with self-talk – that endless conversation you have with yourself in your head. These thoughts and snippets can be positive or negative, and can be borne from logic and reason, or facts, or misconceptions and even lies that you have heard or believe. If this constant stream is mostly negative, your outlook on life will be equally grim. If positive, your outlook will be much more pleasant. And this has a direct impact on your success and health. Positive thinkers are more prone to:
1. Life longer, and have more fulfilled lives.
2. Have lower rates of depression
3. Have lower stress levels since they don’t focus on the negatives
4. Have greater immunity (not only do they resist negative thoughts, but also the common cold)
5. Be physically and psychologically in better shape
6. Have a reduced risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease, and better cardiovascular health overall
7. Have better coping skills, making them more resilient
8. Handle disappointments better. Positive thinkers tend to think about solutions when faced with a problem instead of assigning blame.
9. Focus and concentrate better, with improved problem-solving skills
10. Utilize the “Broaden and build” theory - positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life.
How your thoughts can improve your health and well-being is still scientifically unclear, but a working theory is that positive thinking is a key part of effective stress management, and because positive emotions allow you to find alternative solutions, you have the opportunity to build new skills. Managing your stress better means reducing the negative effects that stress has on your body and mind. And acquiring new skills allows you to pursue your passions and dreams. Positive people also tend to lead healthier lifestyles.
Now you might be asking yourself, how would I know if my thoughts are positive or negative? Use this handy checklist to determine:
· Polarizing. A situation can only be classified as being good or bad, no grey areas. You are either right or wrong, perfect or a failure, nothing in between with no room for error.
· Personalizing. You see yourself as the catalyst of every situation, and blame yourself if something bad happens. For others this sounds absurd, for you it is a normal reality.
· Catastrophizing. Enlarging situations in your mind. You immediately expect the worst, and a bad event is never seen as an isolated event – rather the start of a long chain of disasters.
· Filtering. You choose to emphasize the bad, and filter out the good. Critique drives you, with compliments not really registering.
Sounds like you? Then you need to do something about it. Luckily, you can change by creating a new habit, or learning a new set of skills – positive thinking!
Some ideas to minimize the self-doubt and cultivate positive thoughts:
· Allow yourself to see the funny. Smile. Laugh. Find the absurd and funny in your daily life, especially in the difficult bits. Laughing relieves stress.
· Surround yourself with positive people. Allow them to support you, and to give the narrative of your life. It will definitely be more positive!
· Identify areas that you can change. Find your stress points, or those scenarios where you automatically feel defeated and negative. Focus on one area at a time until it has become second nature to think more positive. And remember to talk to yourself!
· Improve your lifestyle. Include physical activity, a balanced diet, and lots of water. Practice techniques of lowering your stress, and periodically check in with yourself to ensure you are still on track.
Of course it is great to “just be happy”, but that is not the real reason why we must practice positive thinking. Positive thoughts and emotions are needed to broaden your mind, to allow you to explore, giving you the skills that you will need later on in other areas of your life. Of course the decrease in stress is a great benefit, but the real value lies in the future – when you will be able to use the skills that you have acquired through smiling, and being happy.