There seems to be a lot of negativity in the world today – recent natural disasters, such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma as well as the earthquakes in Mexico, remind us of the fragility of life. And while we can’t change what happens in the world, we do have control over our reactions to events. For instance, if you receive a diagnosis of a potentially life-threatening disease, instead of reacting with fear, take a step back and allow yourself to be grateful for everything you still have and seek out support from people who can help you deal with your state of being, both physically and emotionally. If we learn to recognize challenges as a way to learn and to grow, we are better able to deal with them and have a more positive response to them.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that negative attitudes can actually impact a person’s health and well-being. A recent study from Yale showed that negative beliefs about aging may be linked to brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease – specifically, people who had more negative thoughts about aging had a significantly greater number of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, two conditions associated with Alzheimer’s.
Many of us have negative associations with growing older, yet research shows how important a positive attitude really is in improving quality of life. Another study from Yale University demonstrated that positive attitudes about aging could extend one’s life by 7-1/2 years – a greater lifespan gain than low cholesterol, low blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, or even from not smoking.
Repetitive thoughts – such as “Getting older is for the birds!” or “Old age comes with pain and suffering” – form neural pathways in the brain. The more you think them, the more ingrained they become in your psyche and your unconscious mind will continue playing these thoughts over and over until they become true.
Fortunately, you can “rewire” your brain by actively thinking positive thoughts and focusing your attention on the good things in your life. Positive thinking doesn’t mean you are necessarily constantly happy or that you ignore life’s unpleasantness – it simply means you approach life’s challenges in a more positive and productive way.
Here are some ways you can help “reprogram” your brain into thinking more positively.
Be conscious of your thoughts
Your thoughts are very powerful. The first step to reprogram your brain is to be conscious of them. If you find yourself thinking “Life is hard,” notice what you’re thinking and choose another thought to replace it. You may choose to shift your thoughts to “Life is hard and I continue to experience joy every day” or “Life is a blast and the challenges I face simply make me stronger.” If you change your thoughts, you can form new pathways in the brain which may, in turn, change your experience of life.
Start your day with gratitude
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Likewise, mornings are the most important time of day to work on creating a positive attitude, as it can set the tone for the entire day. Get up early enough that you can prepare for your day leisurely. Acknowledge the beauty of the day and all you have to be grateful for. When you start your day with gratitude, you’ve wired your brain to notice the good in your life.
Surround yourself with people and things that support a positive attitude
People can take on other people’s energy without even being aware of it. If you find yourself feeling negative, find some positive people to hang out with. Read a book with a positive message or listen to music that inspires you.
Focus your attention on the good in your life
We all have something to be thankful for. Your job is simply to discover those things and acknowledge them. Once you start focusing on the good things in your life, you’ll start attracting more and more things to be thankful for.