By Angie Horjus, NBC-HWC
Every person has approximately 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. Unfortunately, 80 percent of the time we tend to focus on those thoughts that are negative, as opposed to concentrating on the positive.
As a health coach, I’m often asked by clients if there are health benefits to positive thinking and the answer is yes. They include lower rates of depression, better cardiovascular health and even greater resistance to common colds. Not to mention better coping skills during times of stress.
Here are some helpful tips I share with my clients who are looking to boost positive thinking:
Choose your attitude.
Being an optimist and having a healthy attitude has been proven to help us live longer, healthier lives. The way we see the glass—as half empty or full— impacts our health directly. Take time to seek knowledge about your thinking style. If you’re one whose thoughts tend to be worrisome, sad, angry or negative, perhaps an objective look at the origin of the thought will help put it into perspective. And when all else fails, remember the old adage, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Putting on a positive attitude even when you’re feeling down may lead to being in an actual good mood.
Practicing integrity is being able to be exactly who you are wherever you go. Being yourself builds trust and healthy relationships. When we come from a place of good intention, we will have no regrets. Living in alignment with your beliefs ensures the flow of life-giving thoughts that are proactive and positive.
Speak kindly to yourself.
How you speak to yourself matters and what you think of yourself matters. There are two choices of how we talk to ourselves; positive and negative. Practicing kindness, especially through self-talk, is always good for your wellbeing.
Be open to humor.
Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday events. When you can laugh at life, you will feel less stressed.
Follow a healthy lifestyle.
Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes most days of the week. If you can’t do 30 minutes at once, break it up into 10 minute chunks throughout the day. Exercise can positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. And learn techniques to manage stress.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Make sure the people you spend time with most frequently are positive, supportive connections who you can depend on for helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
Identify negative thinking.
Not sure if your thoughts and self-talk are positive or negative? Some common forms of negative self-talk include:
- You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all of the positive ones. For example, you were complimented at work for a job well-done. Later that evening, however, you focus only on what didn’t go well and forget about the compliment from earlier in the day.
- When something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself. You might hear that an evening out with friends is canceled, and you assume it’s because no one wanted you there.
- You automatically anticipate the worst. The drive-through gets your breakfast order wrong and you immediately decide that the rest of your day will be bad.
- You see things only as all good or all bad—no in between. You feel that you have to be perfect or you’re a total failure.
Identify where negative thoughts occur.
Which areas of your life do your negative thoughts occur most frequently? Is it work, your daily commute or a relationship? Start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them. Here are some examples of changing negative self-talk to positive thinking.
|It’s too complicated||Let me try it from a different angle|
|I’m too lazy to get this done.||I wasn’t able to fit it into my schedule, but I can re-examine some priorities.|
|It’s too big of a change.||Let’s take a chance.|
|I’m not going to get any better at this.||I’ll give it another try.|
|No one bothers to communicate with me.||I’ll see if I can reach out to open more communication channels.|
I’m reminded of a quote by Henry David Thoreau that speaks to me when I am working with clients who are working through negative thoughts:
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
This demonstrates the power of recurrent positive thinking and how it’s so important for the actions we take. So starting right now, turn some of those 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts you have each day into more positive ones. Your health, and overall wellbeing, will thank you.
About the Author: Angela Horjus, NBC-HWC is among the first National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coaches at Priority Health, and in the U.S. She approaches her clients and all people with curiosity, respect and a spirit of fun. Angela’s passion for helping others become the best versions of themselves has inspired her current work as a health and wellness coach and throughout her past ventures. Her fitness career of 20 years, including but not limited to group fitness and personal training, cultivated the inspiration to write articles promoting self-improvement and personal growth. Angela’s continuing education is with nationally recognized institutions in health, fitness and wellness specialties. She also has a bachelor’s degree in English from Grand Valley State University. Angela is currently working on her American College of Lifestyle Medicine certification.