Building a More Positive Outlook and Attitude

Jim celebrating another year older with a sense of humor. 

We are disposed, as humans, to being in the defense mode as we protect ourselves from the hazards of surviving in this world. This is the tendency to always be on the lookout for danger and watching for ways to be safe, whether it is health related, work related, society related, or harm related. This can be the basis for mental and physical stress and can add anxiety in your life.

As we have been told, stress can be good to get us moving and meet change and challenges. This, however, should be a short-term event. It is the continuous and chronic stress and anxiety that are long-term which can lead to serious problems. Some of the health effects for men and women are the same, though women tend to be more affected by stress than men. Also, as we age, the mechanisms to combat stress and deal with the many health and life stressors are lessened and can exacerbate health conditions with stress building upon stress.

Stress exhibits itself in the following ways:

  • Isolation from friends. They may diminish socialization in activities they used to enjoy.
  • Change in eating habits and loss of appetite.
  • Mood swings and depression.
  • Memory issues may arise, with a lessening of judgment and concentration.
  • Poor sleeping patterns may increase.
  • Health issues increase, such as heart problems, muscle tension and pain, sleep problems, stomach symptoms, obesity, headaches, and potential falls.

Statistics show that 10-percent of strokes are caused by stress, and three out of four doctor visits are estimated to be stress related. Stress also increases the risk of heart disease by 40-percent and a heart attack by 25-percent. Estimates are that 40-percent of stressed people overeat or eat unhealthy foods. With these statistics and the known results of stressors, it is evident that stress is a problem for the older population.

One big change that can be a powerful antidote to stress is positive thinking. A positive attitude can literally change brain chemistry and provide more energy. We know we feel better when we are happy and a good laugh raises our spirits and comforts our spirit. You become calmer and are more pleasant to be around – isolation can diminish and social interaction is heightened. I had an uncle who lived to be 101 years young and always had good things to say and had a cheery and bright disposition. He was always pleasant to be around and made those with him feel better.

So, what can we do to become more positive, happy and popular with others, and to brighten our view of the world? Psychology Today Magazine lists six steps toward a more positive outcome.

  • Make it a point to practice gratitude. Start by listing the things in your life for which you are grateful. Use the “I am grateful for” phrase when you think of the opposite of what you don’t want, like this: “I do not want to be anxious and I am grateful for the calm that I have today,” and “I do not want to be lonely so I am grateful for the people that love and care for me.” It is also recommend you consider starting a daily gratitude journal listing the blessings noted that day for which you are grateful. If you have a close friend, you can ask him or her to remind you when you reverse to a negative attitude.
  • Observe your thought patterns. Try to be aware of those times that you become critical of others, focusing on failures, and criticizing yourself for actions or your body. Try to replace each negative thought with two positive thoughts.
  • There is a relationship with body posture and positive attitude. You will find standing up straight and your chin held high can make you and your mind feel more positive and powerful.
  • Practice the simple act of smiling. Do this wherever you are, even at your desk or walking along the sidewalk passing strangers. You will feel better and more than likely the others you smile act will “get the message” and feel “up.”
  • Surround yourself with positive people. You can practice modifying a negative conversation by changing it to something more positive. Don’t be pulled down by the negativity of others.
  • Step forward to help another person. This act can be a catalyst to change your perspective and fill you with positivity. Call that sick friend or the shut-in neighbor who may be lonely.

We can change that set of negative messages that play over and over in our minds. We will feel better and our level of stress will be lowered as we become better able to cope, and to see the situation in a different light. Get rid of that black cloud above you and replace it with a bright sun surrounded by beautiful fluffy white clouds.