Ask Dr. Julie / Health & Wellness / Managing Stress / Mental Health

Positivity: Your Mind’s Best Medicine

"Positivity: Your Mind’s Best Medicine"Think positive. Look on the bright side. Believe in yourself. We’ve all heard and been told affirmations like these when we were feeling down or needed advice. Positive thinking always sounds great on the surface, but more often than not people forget to remind themselves to stay positive once life’s responsibilities and stresses set in. Its difficult for many people to remain positive in times of grief, when work is stressful or life seems plain overwhelming.

For skeptics, positive thinking may feel like sentimental fluff. But science is now confirming the benefits of positive thinking beyond just having an upbeat attitude. Positive thinking has been linked to more productivity at work, better health, improved relationships and even increased creativity. So what makes negative thinking so harmful to your health?

Negativity and Its Effect on Your Brain

Negativity, and the anxiety and fear it causes, stems from an innate instinct known as the fight or flight response. In times when we feel fearful or threatened, our bodies naturally tell us to concentrate on that fear. In the modern world, our minds can still function in a similar way by responding to negative feelings with fear.

Negative emotions take a detrimental toll on your brain and overall health. Fear, doubt, and negative emotions have the ability to hold us back from our potential by setting up roadblocks to progress. For example, self-doubt and feelings of negativity about your body could discourage you to go to the gym or join a yoga studio; similarly, having anxiety about starting a long to-do list can keep you from actually completing any tasks. Negativity has the potential to overwhelm your thoughts and decisions without you even consciously registering it. 

Why Positivity Works

Having a positive outlook on life isn’t just good for morale, but also has a number of health benefits such as lowering depression and anxiety, improving relationships with others and promoting better coping skills when times get tough. Acting positively when difficult situations arise makes compromise and understanding other people’s perspectives much easier to grasp.

By focusing more on the positive, your body benefits physically as well as mentally. Stress and anxiety take a serious toll on your body and can make you more susceptible to illness and clinical depression. Having a positive outlook on life gives you better tools to make good decisions, leading to less stress and anxiety. The results of positive thinking are powerful. Belief that the future will be positive leaves plenty of room for emotional and creative growth to occur. By eliminating the fear and doubt negativity brings, your mind has room to wander and create freely.

Getting on Track with Forward Thinking
Embracing a positive attitude in life requires you to retrain your brain to focus less on the bad and more on the good. Spending just five minutes a day consciously monitoring your thoughts is a great way to assess if you participate in negative thinking. Try these strategies below to put your brain on a path towards positivity:

Choose a mantra – Find a phrase or word that means something to you and repeat it throughout the day when you feel like negativity is creeping its way back into your mind. It can be something as simple as reminding yourself to breathe and smile.

Make a list of things to be thankful for – Nothing is too big or small for this list, and once you get started there’s a good chance you’ll be reminded that there’s a lot in life to be thankful for. Make a list of five to ten things you’re thankful for and reflect on why they are important to you.

Meditate – Meditation is not only a wonderful way to improve focus, but also increases mindfulness, positive thoughts and purpose in one’s life. Meditation is for everyone, and it can be practiced at home in a calm and quiet space without distractions. Even five minutes of concentrated meditation and focus per day has long-lasting benefits for your outlook on life.

Have fun! – Positive feelings are at their highest when you’re doing something that you love. Incorporate one relaxing or leisurely activity into your everyday routine to allow your mind to take a break from responsibilities and stress. Pick up a new hobby, exercise with friends or simply curl up with a good book. Make time for activities you enjoy and feel the positivity radiate.

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