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Developing an Optimistic Outlook

“Your attitude determines your altitude in life.”

While most people believe that a positive attitude contributes to our personal happiness and success, a recent research study by Harvard School of Public Health in Boston found that people with a more positive and optimistic outlook had a reduced risk for heart disease. In fact, the study found that people with a more positive outlook on life exercised more, ate healthier and slept better. Additionally, they were physically healthier, and were less likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or be obese.

But even knowing the health benefits of an optimistic outlook, it’s so easy to slip into a dark place, overcome with negative emotions - feelings of contempt, fear, anger, envy, jealousy or sadness. Negative emotions can be stirred up by our reaction to an event or another person’s comment. For instance, you may feel envious when a friend buys the latest phone or car that’s on your own wish list. Or you may feel overlooked and angry if a co-worker receives a promotion at work because you thought you were more deserving. These responsive negative emotions, can lead you down an even darker path where you begin to think you’re not smart enough, not good enough or that the whole world is conspiring against you.

There is a popular quote by Greek philosopher Epictetus: “It’s not what happens, but how you react to it that matters.”

Here are a few simple tips to turn negative thinking into a more positive mindset:

  1. Recognize and Identify:The first step to positive thinking is to recognize that you have slipped into a negative mindset and identify negative phrases and emotions that have become a natural part of your life. If your response to even day-to-day conversations has a negative slant, it’s time for an attitude adjustment. Try to remember one of the Dalai Lama's famous sayings "One can overcome the forces of negative emotions, like anger and hatred, by cultivating their counter-forces, like love and compassion."
  2. Develop and Maintain:Developing and maintaining a positive outlook on life is a constant work in progress. Each time you notice yourself thinking negatively about a person or an experience, change the chatter in your mind. Don't allow your feeling to manipulate your mood. Work to strengthen your emotional stability and enhance positive moods. For example, if you are stuck in traffic, take the time to listen to your favourite music or simply focus on your breathing to calm your body and mind. Rather than stressing out about an upcoming presentation at work, think of it as an opportunity to showcase your strengths. It’s all about replacing negative thoughts with a more positive outlook.
  3. Surround yourself with positive people. Remind yourself no one wants to be stuck with someone with a negative outlook. So while you’re working on a more positive approach, also take the time to socialize with positive and supportive people who share your new optimistic outlook on life. You will always encounter negative people in your life, but it’s important that you don’t allow their outlook to influence your mood and attitude.
  4. Choose Gratitude: Give gratitude for what you have in your life rather than focusing on what’s lacking.  Dr. Robert Emmons, a research professor at University of California and author of Thanks: How Gratitude Can Make You Happier, has discovered through his research that people who view life as a gift and consciously acquire an “attitude of gratitude” will experience improved emotional and physical health, as well as strengthen relationships. Practicing gratitude strategies can be as simple as keeping a daily journal, reviewing a list of all the things in your life to be grateful for at the end of each day or beginning the day with a simple thank you.

By implementing these suggestions in your daily life, you will gradually change the world you live in. Over time with practice, your new positive outlook will become second nature.

These are suggested practices only. If symptoms of sadness and depression persist, consult your family doctor.


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