Saturday, May 31, 2014
A Positive Mindset Made Practical
According to the well-respected Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, positive thinkers enjoy:
• A longer life span
• Less stress
• Lower rates of depression
• Increased resistance to the common cold
• Better stress management and coping skills
• Lower risk of cardiovascular disease-related death
• Increased physical well-being and better psychological health
There are many renowned educational institutions such as UCLA that extensively research the dynamics and the benefits involved in a positive mindset but it also just makes so much sense: a positive outlook on life and positive thinking patterns do you so much more good than the negative counterpart.
Last Thursday I presented on the power of mindset for a large financial institution in Minnesota. My audience especially appreciated the practical tips for positive thinking. So that’s my focus for this post:
• Pay attention to your inner monologue and correct negative self-talk such as “This is a disaster”. Some things really are a disaster, but most are not. Of course everyone has their own standards, but be sure not to exaggerate the negative, neglect the positive, and talk yourself down. Another example is “I can’t do this.” It’s much more productive to ask yourself “What is it that I need to learn and what is it that I need from others to master this?” Challenge yourself and learn to recognize or self-sabotaging and self-deceiving thoughts and behaviors.
• Focus on living in the here-and-now and appreciating the present moment. Most of us score pretty low when it comes to living and appreciating the moment right now. We spend a lot of time regretting the past and fretting about the future, which is mostly a waste of time and energy. Mindfulness based stress reduction training and other awareness training programs help you live more in the moment without neglecting the past or the future. And they prove to have positive effects on sleeping problems, attention spans, and eating disorders (UCLA, University of Minnesota and many other research institutions).
• Focus on what is working (and celebrate success) rather than on what is not working or what might possibly not work in the future. Focus on solutions rather than problems.
• When dealing with a problem or worry, you want to do a reality check: How much will this honestly matter in a few hours, next week, next month, and a year from now?
• Practice a positive explanatory style, which is a positive way of explaining events in your life: Optimists explain positive events as having happened because of them and they see them as evidence that more positive things will happen in the future and in other areas of their lives. Conversely, they see negative events as not just being their fault. The latter can pose a danger, of course, because you do need to see your own role in negative events and you do need to hold yourself accountable. But the idea is to see negative events as isolated events that have nothing to do with other areas of your life or with future events. Unless they clearly do, of course, in which case we’re talking a totally different situation.
• Do a reality check with someone you trust to be candid and enlist their help for feedback. Again, I’m talking candid feedback, on your mindset and on your thinking style. Actively seek out perspectives that are significantly different from yours.
• Open yourself up to humor and laughter, especially about your own idiosyncrasies.
• Write down worrying thoughts and set aside a certain time to think about them. Don’t allow them to interfere with everything you do.
• We all know it but do you act on it? When you eat, sleep, and exercise well, you feel better and are healthier and more successful. Proper nutrition keeps your mind sharp and your brain healthy. It helps you stay alert and handle pressures and stress from your everyday life. In 2012, at the yearly meeting of the Society for Neuroscience scientists were able to associate the foods people eat to how and what they think.
• Practice gratitude daily. There is increasing interest and research into the benefits of gratitude. One of the findings tells us that a five-minute daily gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent. That’s 2.5x the impact of winning $1,000,000 in the lottery! How does a free five-minute activity do what $1,000,000 can’t? Gratitude improves your health, relationships, emotions, and career. Even though the money is pretty awesome, the principle of hedonic adaptation assures that we quickly get used to the extra money and we stop having as much fun and happiness as we did when we first received it.
• Distract yourself with something positive that is realistic and convincing. Really take time for things you enjoy.
• Notice when you’re complaining. Limit it.
• Surround yourself with positive people.
We all know that the above is easier said than done. Not every technique leads to success in every situation. Choose a few techniques that you can practice every day and choose specific techniques that fit the change or situation that you are facing.
I close this post with Michael Jordan: