Having a positive day-to-day outlook has many benefits. Besides the obvious outcome of having a more pleasant day, positive people tend to live longer. They have lower rates of depression, greater resistance to the common cold and better cardiovascular health. The exact reason for these benefits is unclear, but it may be that having an optimistic outlook helps you better cope with stressful situations, which can minimize the harmful health effects stress can produce. Positive people also tend to lead healthier lifestyles in general, which leads to healthier outcomes.

Positive people are better able to maintain a broader perspective and can see “the big picture.” This helps put the focus on solutions rather than problems. People with positive outlooks tend to have more friends and are more productive at work. They also tend to be more confident and comfortable with their lives.

So, how can we be more positive? The old adage of “garbage in, garbage out” holds true here. If you are feeding yourself with negativity, those emotions will be hard to shake. Instead, we need to be intentional in our actions to make positive change. Being more positive won’t “just happen” on its own. Don’t wait until you feel like it.

Here are several ways to purposely flex our positivity muscle:

• Smile! - This one may seem simple, but it can reap big rewards. Smiling produces the brain chemical serotonin, which is a natural antidepressant. Putting on a sincere smile will not only give you a positive boost, but others who see you will likely smile back and receive the same reward. A smile can be the source of positive energy, and the result.

• Laugh! - A good hearty chuckle can be a powerful way to feed your positive energy. Make sure you have access to cartoons, funny videos, jokes or jovial people that will make you laugh during your day.

• Be Grateful! - Pump your gratitude muscle frequently by bringing to mind specific people or things, which you appreciate. Use the “silver lining” principle to replace negativism with thoughts of the positive aspects of the situation. For example, instead of focusing on the cold and gloom of a rainy day, recall the reality that rain cleans the air and makes things grow.

• Change “Have To” to “Get To” – Look at various obligations as opportunities and privileges, i.e., instead of thinking, “I have to pick the kids up from play practice,” say, “I get to pick up creative kids in a car that works.”

• Turn Challenges into Opportunities – We all have bad things happen. Turn them around by asking, “What can I learn from this experience?” “How can I grow from it?” “What do I do now?”

Heartfelt positive energy is contagious. What you think and feel can be projected to others. Optimism has a crazy boomerang effect: You benefit initially. Others benefit. Then it comes back to you and boosts your outlook again.

So, do you see the glass as half full? If not, try the above techniques to brighten your outlook as well as that of others. Like any new exercise, it may take a while to strengthen your positivity muscle. Don’t get discouraged. That will only feed your negativity! Keep looking for ways to infuse your day with optimism and eventually it will become second nature.

For more help on your journey to positivity, try these library resources.

• “Positive Dog: A Story About the Power of Positivity” by Jon Gordon

• “I Can Make You Happy” by Paul McKenna

• “Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain: How to Retrain Your Brain to Overcome Pessimism and Achieve a More Positive Outlook” by Elaine Fox

• “Heart Thoughts: A Treasury of Inner Wisdom” by Louise L. Hay

Check our catalog for location and availability, or for similar resources. Until next time, focus on the bright side!

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Linda is the White River Branch Manager and leader of our staff wellness team. Staying healthy and keeping fit are keen interests of Linda. Her goal is to enable others to live a healthy lifestyle through good nutrition, physical fitness and a positive outlook, although (shhhhh) she does confess a weakness for potato chips and Cheetos! Join the conversation at linda@jcplin.org.

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