Using positive thinking to propel your year

positive thinkingAlthough there’s only one week left in January, there are still 11 more months of the year. Perhaps you had the best intentions of fulfilling your resolutions, but haven’t seen them through. It’s not time to give up. Now is the time to approach your goals (and your life) with a fresh perspective and some positive thinking.

Optimism is more than just seeing a glass as half full rather than half empty. It is a perspective grounded in critical thinking and problem solving. Negative emotions stem from survival instincts, but positive thoughts can help shed new perspectives on challenges that you might not have otherwise thought of.

It’s good for you

Positive thinking is good for your mind and body. Researchers have shown that it reduces levels of stress, which we all know can lead to health problems. Well, positive thinking can also help improve resilience, which is essentially how well we deal with problems. “When dealing with a challenge, optimists typically look at what they can do to fix the problem,” says author Kendra Cherry. She goes on to explain that “in the wake of a crisis, such as a terrorist attack or natural disaster, positive thoughts and emotions encourage thriving and provide a sort of buffer against depression among resilient people.”

It can also boost your immunity. Ever heard mind over matter? Here’s where it becomes a reality. Research has actually shown that when people are thinking positively about their lives, they show a greater immune response.

How it works

Here’s how positive thinking works. It allows your mind to be open to options other than those that are right in front of you. A study led by Barbara Frederickson of the University of North Carolina, tested how well participants would respond to a writing prompt after being directed to think about negative emotions, positive emotions, or none at all. The results showed that thinking about positive emotions not only did better than the negative, but better than the neutral, too.

Fredrickson also explains that experiencing positive emotions during activities like play open up possibilities in your mind that allow you to build new skills.

Now you try

So how do we add more positive thoughts? You’re either an optimist or a pessimist, right? Not exactly. Anyone can reduce negativity in their mind and replace it with positivity just by being mindful. First, identify patterns of negative thinking. One example is if you find yourself excluding all the positive things that happened in the day. Another example is taking things personally when they aren’t directed at you. Perhaps you take small setbacks as a sign for more trouble, or you think things will only be good or bad.

Next, look for chances to infuse positive thinking into your daily life. You can start small with things you can control in your life. Take time throughout the day to check your disposition. Did you get unnecessarily upset over a bad email? Look for humor in your life and practice positive self-talk.

The Mayo Clinic offers this handy guide to swapping out negative thoughts for positive ones.

Negative self-talk Positive thinking
I‘ve never done it before. It’s an opportunity to learn something new.
It’s too complicated. I’ll tackle it from a different angle.
I don’t have the resources. Necessity is the mother of invention.
I’m too lazy to get this done. I wasn’t able to fit it into my schedule, but I can re-examine some priorities.
There’s no way it will work. I can try to make it work.
It’s too radical a change. Let’s take a chance.
No one bothers to communicate with me. I’ll see if I can open the channels of communication.
I’m not going to get any better at this. I’ll give it another try.

Go ahead and give positive thinking a try. Perhaps it will help you tackle those New Year’s resolutions once and for all.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, About.com, HuffPost

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