Start the New Year with a Positive Attitude

Milestones – such as birthdays, anniversaries and the start of a new year – can often trigger self-reflection in people. Anything that reminds us that time is passing can often create the need to examine one’s life and determine if steps could be taken to improve one’s happiness and well-being.
One of the simplest – and paradoxically, the most difficult – ways to achieve this is to change our attitude about the challenges we face – often referred to as positive thinking. 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. A positive attitude not only helps reframe our thoughts about life’s circumstances, it also has major health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking can:

  • Increase your lifespan
  • Decrease depression
  • Lower your risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Provide greater resistance to the common cold
  • Increase your psychological and physical well-being

Conversely, negative thinking can be harmful to your health. Two recent studies at Yale University discovered that people who had negative thoughts and feelings about aging had an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
But shifting one’s attitudes can be difficult. So here are a few tips to help you develop and maintain a positive attitude throughout the New Year.
See challenges as an opportunity
We don’t always have control over the things that happen to us, be we do control our response to them. 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. The longtime civil rights activist Bernice Johnson Reagon said, “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”
Practice gratitude
As we discussed in this post, 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. Another way is to replace the phrase “have to” with the phrase “get to.” Instead of saying (and thinking) “I have to go to work” or “I have to empty the dishwasher,” reframe your thoughts by saying “I get to go to work” (many people are unemployed and hurting) and “I get to empty the dishwasher” (many people can’t afford such a luxury). This simply shift in consciousness can help you realize how much you have to be thankful for.
 Become conscious of your thoughts
Your thoughts are very powerful. Research has discovered that repetitive thoughts form neural pathways in the brain, so if you have a belief that life is hard and you give voice to that belief or activate it with a thought, the stronger the pathways become. So, if you change your thoughts, you can form new pathways in the brain which may, in turn, change your experience of life.

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