Our inner dialogue informs the trajectory of our entire day. Research suggests those who tend to keep a positive mindset often live longer with fewer health complications.
A study from CNN revealed the science behind why folks with a sunny disposition tend to outlive the curmudgeons in their midst. Those who practice positive thinking live 11-15 percent longer! If you’re a glass-half-full kind of person then it turns out you’ll probably live to 85 years or older.
Interested parties that would like to take a full glance at the comprehensive study published by CNN can find that here.
You might be struggling to conjure up positivity organically in the middle of a pandemic so a lot of therapists recommend playing an optimistic song to get your day started on the right foot. Mary A. Hermann, Ph.D., and licensed counselor practicing in Virginia swear by “O-o-h Child” by The Five Stairsteps to boost her mood first thing in the morning in an interview with Thrive Global recently.
“This is the go-to song that helps me stay optimistic. The lyrics include the lines, ‘O-o-h child, things are gonna get easier. O-o-h child things will get brighter. . . . Someday, we’ll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun. Someday when the world is much brighter.’ I use it as my 20-second handwashing song, too!”
How to train your brain to be more positive
I mentioned earlier at times it’s tough to remain chipper when we are living within such unprecedented times but there are simple practices to stick to each day that might help.
One positivity boosting activity is meditation. Meditation actually reshapes the brain and long-time meditators were discovered to have more grey matter proving meditation has age-reversing brain healing capabilities.
Previous research conducted at Ladders also shows us that meditation has the power to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus and through Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) This facilitates emotional regulation and self-referential processing. Sarah Lazar and her research team at Harvard pointed out that MBSR also decreases brain cell volume in the amygdala that’s the brain’s center for fear, stress, and anxiety. Once we control these emotions we have an easier time tackling insurmountable obstacles with a clear mind and more positive perception.
There is power behind positive affirmations. Try starting your day by writing for 15 minutes first thing in the morning a hypothetical “day-in-the-life” for you in which you accomplish all of the goals you set forth for yourself with gusto. This model is deemed the “Best Possible Self Exercise” and back in 2011 students that participated in this exercise for 8 weeks reported higher levels of optimism that lasted up to 6 months.
Another positive hack is keeping a gratitude journal. Some of you who are familiar with recovery programs might recognize this practice as the daily gratitude list. Instead of tracking your failures, count your blessings, and you’re more likely to be appreciative of the things you do have. When you are reminded daily of the things you’re grateful for that usually breeds positivity. One expert from CNN adds,“Taking a few minutes each day to write down what makes you thankful can improve your outlook on life. A number of studies have shown that practicing gratefulness improves positive coping skills by breaking the typical negative thinking style and substituting optimism. Counting blessings even lessened problem behavior in adolescents.”
All of these gratitude practices lend themselves to the umbrella term for practicing mindfulness which has many benefits if you choose to live a life aware of the beauty and blessings around you. Once you take the leap, positivity will abound.
Why should I care about being more optimistic?
Having a positive attitude has so many benefits. I mentioned previously the statistics for longer life spans attributed to a buoyant outlook and with all things considered such as socioeconomic status, underlying health conditions, mood disorders like anxiety or depression, smoking, diet or drug use those who admitted handling life’s letdowns with civility and grace definitely thrived.
When you have a positive mindset you usually take care of yourself better. This includes a healthy diet, exercise, and self-care rituals that lead to better heart health, improved immune function, and healthier lungs. Frankly, with a respiratory virus on the loose, you’ll have a better chance at fighting off viral infections such as COVID-19 if you actively practice positivity.
Women with this can-do attitude have 1.5 greater odds of living to 85 and optimistic men had a 1.7 greater chance to go beyond the 85-year mark. Lead author, Lewina Lee Ph.D., explains this phenomenon in the aforementioned interview with CNN, “Optimistic individuals tend to have goals and the confidence to reach them. Those goals could include healthy habits that contribute to a longer life.”
Life is truly what you make it. The phrase may be trite but it’s the little voice inside your head reacting to outside stimuli that controls what kind of day you’re going to have. Get back into the driver’s seat to control the upward trajectory of your bright future by practicing the “positive brain trains” I mentioned in this piece today and find peace of mind for many years to come.