"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." This truism reminds us that a positive attitude can make bad times bearable. People who have a positive outlook also enjoy many health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a longer life expectancy. A positive attitude can help you maintain the mental energy you need to function well in all aspects of life. However, a positive attitude isn't as simple as being cheerful all the time -- it takes many helpful and powerful forms such as optimism and acceptance.
Optimism doesn't mean ignoring your problems or denying the existence of adversity. Instead, an optimistic outlook allows you to deal with challenging situations more productively, according to Dr. Ron Breazeale's article, "'Positive Reframing' as Optimistic Thinking." Optimism manifests itself as a willingness to make an effort and take a chance, rather than assuming that your efforts will be unsuccessful or that your circumstances will never improve. Instead of telling yourself "There's no way it will work," tell yourself, "I can try to make it work."
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, circumstances just don't work out. For those circumstances, acceptance can help you learn from your mistakes, according to Best Health. Acceptance can also help you maintain perspective, rather than exaggerating the situation. "You have to stop shooting yourself, stop berating yourself for something that didn't work quite right," explains Pam Wyess, who developed the human resources development course "The Choice Is Yours: An Introduction to Attitudes in the Workplace."
Resilience allows you to rebound from adversity rather than turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse. A major component to resilience is the ability to maintain daily routines while coping with major setbacks, Help Guide explains. However, it's not necessary to "keep a stiff upper lip" or attempt to handle adversity alone. Instead, resilience is about reaching out to other people as well as nurturing yourself. Building and maintaining a support system is an important aspect of resilience.
Gratitude is an important aspect of a positive attitude. Help Guide advises taking time each day to contemplate the good aspects of your life, through such activities as enjoying a sunset. Noticing beauty in your surroundings can generate a sense of gratitude. Practicing gratitude is an active, ongoing process that requires active cultivation, according to Brigham Young University. Wyess recommends giving yourself a daily pep talk and making a habit of enjoying good moments that occur in your life.
- American Heart Association: Heart Disease Patients With Positive Attitudes Likely to Exercise, Live Longer
- Psychology Today: "Positive Reframing" as Optimistic Thinking
- Help Guide: Improving Emotional Health
- Best Health: Five Steps to Positive Thinking
- Brigham Young University: A Positive Mental Attitude is Critical for Optimal Health
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