The New Year Is a Good Time to Adopt a New Attitude
The dawning of a new year allows us to pause for a moment and take stock of our lives. For most of us, there are things that could use some improvement – such as our outlook on life!
According to a study at Yale University, researchers discovered that people who had positive thoughts about aging lived 7-1/2 years longer than those who saw aging in a negative way. A separate Yale study showed that people who had negative thoughts and feelings about aging had an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Many studies have shown that you can “rewire” your brain by actively thinking positive thoughts and focusing your attention on the good things in your life. A positive attitude not only helps reframe our thoughts about life’s circumstances, it may improve our health. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking may be able to:
- Increase your life span
- Decrease depression
- Lower your risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Provide greater resistance to the common cold
- Increase your psychological and physical well-being
But shifting one’s attitudes can be difficult. Exactly how do you start reprogramming your brain? Here are a few tips to help you develop and maintain a positive attitude.
Look for the opportunities in life’s challenges
We don’t always have control over the things that happen to us, be we do have control over our response to them. For example, if you lose your job, instead of feeling hopeless, allow yourself to recognize the new possibilities available to you. If we 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.
Become aware of your thoughts
Repetitive thoughts – such as “Life is hard,” “I’m a failure,” or “I’m not good enough” – 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 who you are. This is what is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your thoughts about yourself – even if they aren’t true – can lead you to subconsciously work to ensure these beliefs become manifest in your daily life. So, try rewiring your brain with positive thoughts like “I’m enough” or “That challenge made me stronger.”
Be conscious of what you say
Words are powerful and can shape the way you feel about things. Try replacing the phrase “have to” with the phrase “get to.” Instead of saying (and thinking) “I have to go to work” or “I have to mow the lawn,” reframe your thoughts by saying “I get to go to work” (many people are unemployed and hurting) and “I get to mow the lawn” (many people don’t have their own yards to mow). This simple shift in consciousness can help you realize how much you have to be thankful for.
Create an environment for positive thought to flourish
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. Consider leaving yourself positive notes around the house.
Recognizing all we have to be thankful for is good medicine. One way to incorporate gratitude into your life is to keep a gratitude journal. Each day, just jot down a few things for which you are grateful. Robert A. Emmons at the University of Davis and Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami conducted a study that discovered those who kept a gratitude journal – just a single sentence of five things each day for which they were grateful – were more optimistic and felt happier about life.