“Is the glass half full or half empty?”
Research suggests your answer to this question may be more important than you think. If you answered “half-full,” you could just be in for a longer, healthier life.
“Positive psychology tells us that our brain actually works better in a healthy, positive state, versus a state that is negative, stressed, or even neutral. Positivity makes us more accurate, more creative, and more likely to have success at work and in our relationships,” said Melissa Schmidt, Licensed Professional Counselor at ThedaCare.
But that’s not all. Additional benefits to positivity include:
- Reduced rates of depression
- Reduced stress levels
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Lowered risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Increased resistance to illnesses like the common cold
Ready to work towards more positivity in your day-to-day life? Here are five tips to get you started.
Cut Back on Social Media
For many, browsing social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram is a natural part of their daily routine.
But you may want to think twice next time you grab your phone. Research suggests consistent social media use can negatively affect subjective well-being.
“We truly need to take extraordinary care of what we allow into our awareness, now more than ever,” said Schmidt. “In an already anxious world, social media has a tendency to make us feel even worse.”
Stay in tune with how you’re feeling while using social media. If it’s causing you to feel depressed, anxious, lonely or inadequate, its probably time to cut back.
Sure, exercise is great for your heart and body, but did you know it’s good for your brain too?
“Exercise increases endorphins, and can dramatically reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression,” Schmidt said. “Mind-body exercises like yoga and tai chi have been shown to decrease symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and strength training can be particularly helpful for relieving anxiety.”
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, but as Schmidt pointed out, the most important thing is to move.
“Go on a walk, take a Zumba class, or ride your bike,” said Schmidt. “Finding something that you enjoy and can do consistently is the key.”
It’s easy to get caught up in a busy day and start worrying about everything that needs to get done in our professional and personal lives. When we don’t take a moment to catch our breath, however, the stress can quickly turn into negativity.
On days like this, research suggests mindfulness could make the difference between a tolerable day, and a terrible one.
“A few key components to mindfulness include non-judgement, non-attachment, and awareness in the present moment,” explained Schmidt.
Luckily, mindfulness can easily be integrated into your everyday life.
“Mindfulness practice can start by simply paying full attention to what you’re doing in the moment,” said Schmidt. “Start with something you do daily, such as washing your hands or eating a meal. From there you can begin to consider adding other mindfulness practices to your routine, such as meditation.”
Outwardly expressing gratitude to others is a wonderful practice. Equally important is how we internalize gratitude in our own daily lives.
“Taking time to recognize a few good things that happened during the day can gradually help change the lens through which you see the world,” said Schmidt. “The simple act of counting your blessings is a great way improve your overall well-being.”
Practicing gratitude can take many forms, including:
- Keeping a journal of positive moments from your day
- Acknowledging how far you’ve come, versus how far you have yet to go
- Viewing challenges as opportunities
- Focusing on your strengths, instead of weaknesses
- Finding perspective through volunteer work and giving back to the community
Talk to Someone
If you’re struggling to find more positivity in your life, a therapist can help guide you in the right direction. Engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for example, can help you challenge negative thoughts and work toward a healthier mindset.
“In CBT, we teach clients about cognitive distortions, which are negatively biased thoughts not based in reality,” said Schmidt. “Often these thought patterns are learned over time and can be difficult to overcome, such as catastrophizing about the future, or jumping to conclusions without having all of the facts. In therapy, we can help clients reverse this thinking and focus less on impulsive assumptions.”
Schmidt encourages individuals to remember that processing negative emotions is normal and healthy, and stresses the importance of normalizing therapy and counseling.
“We don’t always have good days, and that’s ok,” she said. “Maybe you’re running on too few hours of sleep, dealing with financial stress or relationship issues. Overcoming physical illness can be mentally challenging as well. It’s not about being positive all the time, but slowly integrating practices into your life that actively promote positivity. With consistency over time, you’ll be seeing that glass half full more often.”
Ready to improve your well-being? Our behavioral health specialists can help you establish coping skills that can restore mind, body and spirit.