Many studies have shown that those who maintain a positive outlook have a significantly reduced risk of dying from all the major killers, including cancer, stroke, heart attack, infection, and respiratory disease.
In other words, thinking positively is almost as important to health as maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Here are 10 ways to look on the bright side.
1. Use Affirmations. The way we talk to ourselves, the messages we give ourselves minute by minute greatly influence our outlook on life. By consciously changing negative messages to positive messages, we can literally brainwash ourselves into a more upbeat frame of mind.
2. Use Prayer, either religious or secular. The most well-known example of using prayer to effect a more positive outlook is the 12-step cornerstone: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This prayer has brought peace and hope to so many and can be useful, whether or not the 12 steps are relevant to you.
3. Keep a Gratitude Journal. A wonderful practice that definitely can open your eyes to the better things in your life is to simply keep track of them in a deliberate way. When you wake up in the morning or when you go to bed at night, write down five to seven things for which you’re grateful for that day. At the end of each week, review your journal, and you’ll soon see that no matter how dismal your circumstances, you still have a number of things to cherish.
4. Meditate. One of the best ways to take a break from the worries and negative thoughts assailing you is to simply stop thinking for a while. Meditation is like taking a short vacation from the mind’s obsessions. And like an actual vacation, a break afforded by meditating allows you to come back to your life with a fresh perspective.
5. Exercise…tai chi, chi gung, yoga. Any kind of exercise can distract the mind from its obsessions, but energy-based exercises may be particularly useful. Tai chi, chi gong, yoga, and the like direct the attention to the flow of energy inside the body. Being in close touch with your life force makes it more difficult to stay in a dark mental space.
6. Take a break from the news. No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, the news can be depressing and can lead to plenty of doomsday-type thinking. You really don’t need to know about every stupid thing a politician says, nor about every murder or death or theft in your city. As you know, the news focuses on the most dramatic, frightening, and worry-provoking things in order to hook you into watching the rest of the report or reading more of the story. It really is okay to give yourself a break.
7. Listen to what you love. Like meditation, music has the power to help the mind get over itself. Music has enormous power to energize and uplift. When you feel frightened or negative, listen to half an hour of Bach or the Beatles or Bob Marley or whatever makes you feel happy to be on the planet. Listen to what you love and positive thoughts will follow. On the other hand, you might want to avoid music that is sad or depressing. I had a friend who, every time they were depressed, listened to a Joni Mitchell album. She loved Joni Mitchell. She never understood, though, why she was even more depressed after listening to the album than before. Sad!
8. Share feedback with your partner. Make it a daily ritual to spend 15 minutes with your partner offering and receiving appreciation, even if you’re fighting. You can also use the time to talk about whatever feelings you’re experiencing. Not only will you develop greater intimacy, but you’ll also find that life seems a whole lot brighter.
9. De-Clutter. Make a list of the top 10 annoyances that you haven’t had time to fix or deal with. Then, make a commitment to tackle one annoyance each week until you’ve finished clearing up your entire list. Examples of annoyances might be things such as the broken light in your garage, the pain in your ankle when you run, the pile of papers from 2012 that still need filling, all those email lists that you need to unsubscribe from. It may seem trite, but it really is true that a cluttered life helps sustain a cluttered, unhappy mind.
10. Surround yourself with positive images. Choose artwork that inspires you. If everywhere you look in your home and office ignites joy in you, it will be much easier to stay on the sunny side.