Research shows that our thoughts play an important role in overall health and even how we bounce back from illness and stress. Positive thinking doesn't mean wearing "rose-coloured glasses", ignoring real difficulties or pushing away important feelings. It is about finding balance; noticing what is good in ourselves and focussing on what we can change when problems arise. Positive thinking is also key to longevity: people who live longest often have a positive outlook on long life. They are also more likely to engage in healthy activities. Research shows that our brains are built to keep learning our whole lives, and are not prewired to fail. Dementia and depression are not usual parts of aging. Positive thinking itself has been linked to:
It turns out that changing the way you think about yourself as you age might be one of the most important things you can do for your long term health!
Changing thinking habits isn’t easy but it is possible to work with the help of a few useful tools!
Fountain of Health invites you to try out these positive thinking ideas:
A Gratitude List - Noticing What's Good:
Take time to notice what's good in your life. No matter what the challenges, it helps to remember daily what we feel grateful for and keep those thoughts weighing in the balance. (Check out the free positive thinking web link at www.happify.com)
"Time Chunking" Exercise to Troubleshoot Problems:
Set up a time to think about the challenges in your life such as medical or mental health concerns, study or work stress, financial or relationship challenges, job hunting, loss or retirement. Try to find a short time each day around the same time. Notice your thoughts, emotions and beliefs about these situations. Allow the feelings in without judging them. Are there any problems that you think you can change? It can help to write your ideas down and troubleshoot them. When the time chunk is up, practice letting go the worry/problem to regain balance in your thinking and develop mental flexibility. (A useful practice link: www.thecut.com)
Mindful breathing can help you improve how you think and feel by being in the present moment. Start with just a few minutes at a time. Notice your breath moving in and out. Focus on breath even while thoughts come into your mind. When your mind wanders (this is what minds do!), bring your attention back to your breath. Regular practice of focused attention through breathing can improve health. Focusing on our breath can improve our ability to bounce back from illness and stress, and prevent anxiety and depression. Start with just a few minutes a day. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the breath. (A useful practice link: www.headspace.com)
Shifting Negative Thinking and a Self-Compassion Exercise:
When you find yourself in a difficult situation, check in with your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes our thoughts are unhelpful and can make us feel worse than we need to feel. If you tend to see the "glass half empty" you can try to shift your thoughts. For example, instead of "This is impossible" ask "What would a good friend say to me right now?" or "What will make this easier?" or "Who can help me with this?" Treat yourself with kindness and compassion, like you would a good friend. Remind yourself that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes. Research shows that treating ourselves with compassion makes us happier, and lowers anxiety and depression.
Signature Strengths Questionnaire:
Would you like to think more positively about yourself? Find out your character strengths with Dr. Martin Seligman’s validated free 15 minute (link is external)Signature Strengths Quiz. Positive and more balanced thinking habits can take time to develop but keep at it! Small changes over time can lead to big health benefits in the long term. Why not make it yours by trying out a SMART positive thinking goal from the list above, or choosing your own. Remember the more specific, measurable and realistic your goal is, the more likely you are to succeed. SMART goals are small, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-limited.
A positive outlook on aging might be one of the most important factors in optimal aging. See TedX Talk on Aging Well by Dr. Keri-Leigh Cassidy, founder of the Fountain of Health™.
Set a valued SMART positive thinking goal from the Ideas to get Started list, or choose one of your own. Remember the more specific, measurable and realistic your goal, the more likely you are to succeed!
Invitation: We invite you to try out The Wellness App(link is external) to track your goal over the next 4 weeks. No goal is too small and The Wellness App will encourage you along the way!