Brain Awareness Week is in March, a time to promote brain science for kids and adults. For more information, download The Dana Foundation’s article on Successful Aging & Your Brain.
Our brains contain powerful tools for creating health and wellness. While studies haven’t identified precisely why positive people are healthier, researchers suspect that it is because people who are more positive process stress better and move through hard situations more easily.
Negative attitudes and feelings of helplessness can create chronic stress, which can, in turn, damage the immune system. Anger and hostility are related to health conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, and increased instances of infection.
Surprisingly, the tendency toward a positive or negative outlook does have a genetic component.
However, this doesn’t mean that people can’t improve their outlooks. Some tips to improve your outlook include:
- Smile more. Even fake smiling can reduce heart rate and blood pressure during stressful situations.
- Practice reframing. Instead of stressing about a current situation, try to find a positive aspect to it.
- Build resiliency. Having friends and family nearby to share the situation with, accepting that change is a part of life and finding new ways to adapt, and feeling like you have the control to change the current situation are all ways to embrace whatever life throws your way.
- Share your feelings. Often, we spend too much time in our heads. Sharing our feelings with a trusted other can help find a different way to look at a situation. If others are mired in their current negative situations, encourage them to share their fears.
While some might resist the idea of optimistic thinking, there are solid health reasons to reconsider. Positive thinking can lead to:
- Better sleep
- Increased life span
- Lower levels of distress
- Lower rates of depression
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better cardiovascular health
- Better coping skills during extreme hardship
Do you know if you are a negative or positive thinker? Listen to your own self-talk – the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that goes through your head. Some forms of negative self-talk to watch out for include:
- This means magnifying the negative aspects of a situation and not acknowledging the positive. For example: Your loved one had a good night’s sleep, a fun phone call with their grandchild, and took a walk on a beautifully sunny day outside. But then they tripped and fell with minor injuries. At the end of the day, did they say it was a “bad” day because of the fall or a “good” day because of the rest
- When something bad occurs, you or your loved one automatically takes the blame. Sometimes no one is to blame.
- You or your loved one uses language that makes things out to be much worse than they are, or assumes that because one bad thing happened, it’s all downhill from there. Single events in the day are rarely the “worst” or “most horrific.”
- You or your loved one sees things as either good or bad and not the huge gray area in the middle. This leads to feeling like one is only perfect or a failure; healthy or dying tomorrow; capable or completely incapacitated.
If you are seeing these tendencies in your loved one, you should take care when addressing the subject, as they are more likely to see it as an attack and apply all of the above thought processes to that interaction. Sometimes these are signs of more serious issues, like depression, and should be brought to the attention of a doctor.
If you or your loved one are ready for a more positive outlook, here are some tips on how to make a change:
- Get better sleep.
- Take a walk outside.
- Follow a healthy lifestyle.
- Practice positive self-talk.
- Surround yourself with positive people.
- Be open to humor or create a place for smiling and laughing every day.
- Consciously work on experiencing three positive emotions for every negative one.
- Actively evaluate your self-talk at various points during the day to see how you’re doing.
Companionship, assistance on walks, and support with task that may be frustrating for seniors, are all available from Assisting Hands Home Care serving Columbus, OH. Give us a call today and find out how we can help put bring more positivity to your life and the life of your loved one.
Sources: ClearCare, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin Health