This Feels Like the Start of Something Good: The Power of Positive Thinking
How we perceive what happens in our daily lives is almost as important as what actually happens. September 13 is Positive Thinking Day and we thought it would be a great opportunity to share some ways that you can help yourself be more positive (and why that even matters in the first place)!
Here are 5 ways to help yourself be more positive!
1. Smile - Sometimes Easier Said than Done
Smiling is a great way of communicating - we smile when we are happy, when someone makes us laugh, as a greeting, and sometimes we even fake smiles. A study from the University of Kansas found that the act of smiling (even if it was fake) reduces your heart rate and blood pressure! When you smile, your body releases dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin (all the feel-good transmitters that make us happier!).
Smiling doesn’t just affect you, either! A study published in the Scandanavian Journal of Psychology examining automatic mimicry and emotional empathy showed participants photos of people expressing various emotions. Although instructed to frown, participants unconsciously smiled when shown photos of people smiling - it’s contagious. And when people smile back at you, well, that is also something positive! It’s a happy circle!
2. Practice Reframing - Turn Negativity to Positivity
Ever have something happen in your day and immediately turn it into a negative thought? Of course we have all done that! It’s simply so easy, but what about turning that into something positive (or at least neutral)?
Reframing the way that you react to these things can be a powerful way to turn them into a positive!
So, the next time that you get stuck in a long line at the grocery store, try not to let yourself go down a negative path. That could be a great opportunity to talk to someone next to you, catch up on e-mail on your phone, call a friend, or even just take that time for some reflection on your day!
Over time, reframing these experiences that may seem frustrating or negative into something positive becomes easier!
3. Exercise - Get Up and Move
Exercise is a great (and super healthy) way to get your daily dose of positivity (with the help of endorphins released during exercise)! It doesn’t have to be a killer workout, but just something to get you moving! A few examples of something easy can be.
- 30 minute brisk walk or jog outside (where you can exercise, smile AND get in your sunshine!)
- Use a bicycle to commute to and from work
- Join in on a group exercise or yoga class
4. Sunshine - All Natural Positivity Boost
Sunshine is an important part of our day - and a part of our routine that is often overlooked. Besides the myriad of health benefits associated with exposure to sunlight, it causes our bodies to release serotonin.
Remember how smiling releases serotonin? Well, this hormone is responsible for boosting your mood (cue positive thoughts and happy people!). While sunlight should ideally be a part of your day, as little as 5-15’ spread out over 2-3x per week is enough to reap the benefits.
If you are living in a place with less sunshine in the winter months, a rainy season or simply can’t get enough time outside, a light therapy lamp can be an amazing substitute
5. Positive Self-Talk - Make It a Habit
Positive self-talk is a popular tool used in psychology as a way of reframing (there we go, reframing!) our inner dialogue. So what is the difference between reframing negative situations into positive ones and positive self talk?
Well, they are quite similar, but positive self-talk is more structured. Try creating positive self affirmations or even a positive script that you can say to yourself when you are feeling negative about something. Think of this as training for your brain (in the same way as you might train in the gym) to make a mental switch.
Now, why does it even matter if we are more positive or not?
Positive thinking helps you cope with stress
Focusing on positive thinking has been shown to decrease anxiety levels and help with sleep. When you are stressed about something in your life, try some of the methods mentioned above (serotonin and endorphins help to counteract elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone).
Positive thinking actually makes you healthier
Studies have also shown that negative emotions are associated with a weaker immune response. Happy thoughts = happy immune system!
Positive thinking can help you improve your relationships
When you are at a positive place within yourself, it is easier to be that way with others around you. In a similar way that smiling can be contagious, so can a positive attitude and positive thinking!