These easy steps will help you live a more positive life today.
When you are at a tough spot in your life, is there anything more difficult to hear than, “think positive?” Some people may naturally have a positive outlook on everything—but for the most of us, a scary diagnosis or other personal challenge send us into battle with our negative thoughts.
Positive psychology researchers have two pieces of very good news for us, though. The first is the simple truth, backed by an ever-growing body of research, that a positive outlook on life has tangible health benefits in times of wellness and illness alike.
Jane Brody recently summarized this idea in a New York Times column about the health benefits of positive thinking: “When facing a health crisis, actively cultivating positive emotions can boost the immune system and counter depression. Studies have shown an indisputable link between having a positive outlook and health benefits like lower blood pressure, less heart disease, better weight control and healthier blood sugar levels.”
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader
Brody also cites Yale School of Public Health research that showed both biological and psychological benefits for older adults who have a positive view of aging. Participants ranked statements like, “As I get older, things are better than I thought they would be” on a scale of 1-6. Then, the researchers measured levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of stress-related inflammation in the body. Those with positive views of aging tended toward lower CRP numbers—and those with lower CRP lived longer and felt better than those with higher markers.
If you are thinking, “that’s great for people who are naturally positive, but I struggle with that in my life,” you are ready for the second piece of good news—a positive outlook is really just a set of skills…a set of skills that can be learned.
Citing research that found a relationship between positive thinking, lower stress, health, and longevity in HIV patients, Brody shares eight positive thinking skills. Here’s a bonus piece of good news—patients needed only receive training in three of these skills, and practice just one per day to see benefits.
1. Recognize a positive event each day.
2. Savor that event and log it in a journal or tell someone about it.
3. Start a daily gratitude journal.
4. List a personal strength and note how you used it.
5. Set an attainable goal and note your progress.
6. Report a relatively minor stress and list ways to reappraise the event positively.
7. Recognize and practice small acts of kindness daily.
8. Practice mindfulness, focusing on the here and now rather than the past or future.
Do any of these skills seem within reach for you—or perhaps even reflect something you are already practicing? If so, that’s good news indeed!