Let the New Year be the Catalyst for Looking on the Bright Side of Life
While many people view the tradition of making resolutions at the start of a new year as a waste of time (according to Statistic Brain, only 8 percent of people are fully successful in achieving their New Year’s goals), milestones of any type, including birthdays and anniversaries, can be a good time to take stock of one’s life and see if there’s any room for improvement.
We all face challenges in life – it’s part of the human experience. Regardless of our own specific goals, one universal way we can all benefit from a more productive and enjoyable year is to focus our attention on the good things in our life – often referred to as “positive thinking.” Positive thinking doesn’t mean you are necessarily constantly happy or that you ignore life’s unpleasantness – it simply means you approach life’s challenges in a more positive and productive way. A positive attitude not only helps reframe our thoughts about life’s circumstances, it also has major health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking can:
- Increase your lifespan
- Decrease depression
- Lower your risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Provide greater resistance to the common cold
- Increase your psychological and physical well-being
Conversely, negative thinking can be harmful to your health. Two recent studies at Yale University discovered that people who had negative thoughts and feelings about aging had an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
But shifting one’s attitudes can be difficult. So here are a few tips to help you develop and maintain a positive attitude throughout the New Year.
Reframe your attitudes about life’s challenges
While we don’t always have control over the things that happen to us, we do control our response to them. Instead of having a “programmed” response to challenges, take a step back and see how you can learn and grow from the experience. For instance, if you lose your job, look and see if what you were doing was really your heart’s desire. If it wasn’t, perhaps this is an opportunity to find what truly feeds your soul. If we learn to recognize challenges as a way to learn and to grow, we are better able to deal with them and have a more positive response to them.
Be grateful for the good in your life
Recognizing all we have to be thankful for is good medicine. A study conducted by Robert Emmons, University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough, University of Miami, discovered that people who practiced gratitude regularly were more optimistic and had an increased sense of well-being. One way to incorporate gratitude into your life is to keep a gratitude journal. Each day, just jot down a few things for which you are grateful. Research has shown that those who kept a gratitude journal – just a single sentence of five things each day for which they were grateful – were more optimistic and felt happier about life.
Become conscious of your thoughts
Your thoughts are very powerful. Research has discovered that repetitive thoughts form neural pathways in the brain, so if you have a belief that life is hard and you give voice to that belief or activate it with a thought, the stronger the pathways become. So, if you change your thoughts –“Life is an exciting journey and you never know what will happen” – you can form new pathways in the brain which may, in turn, change your experience of life.