After spending a considerable amount of time with my 87 year old mom over the last several months, I noticed her words are beginning to turn from positive affirmations to negative self talk.
I started to wonder if her negative thoughts might be harmful for her health, and according to many studies, it appears that they do. On any given day, there are thousands of thoughts that run through our mind and we have a choice to make those thoughts positive or negative. We all have the opportunity to think about thoughts of good health and happiness or think about thoughts of illness or defeat. Researchers often say, whatever we think about is what is going to happen, so it makes sense for us to focus on good things and blessings.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the health benefits from positive thinking are:
- Increased life expectancy
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better psychological and physical well being
- Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills in times of stress and hardships
It is unclear why positive thinking helps provide healthy benefits, but the thought process is relatively simple. Those who tend to be more optimistic live healthier lifestyles. They have a tendency not to smoke or drink alcohol excessively which will help extend the quality of life for most older adults.
If an older adult experiences a fall during their lifetime, they may have a tendency to become anxious or worried, so it is important to spend time thinking positively. Scotland's National Health Information service (NHS Informs), recommends setting goals and challenging your thought process. NHS Informs indicate negative thoughts prevent you from overcoming anxiety which could cause a fall. If you experience anxiety, it is important to slow down your breathing by taking deep breaths and focus on your achievements. By taking a few minutes to work on breathing drills and focusing on your successes, it should give you the confidence in the future.
The National Institute on Aging studies show the aging process can bring positive cognitive changes. Older adults have more knowledge and insight from a lifetime of experiences. Older Americans can still:
- Learn things
- Create new memories
- Improve their vocabulary and language skills
The good news for older Americans who are thinking about a second career or just striving to keep your brain sharp, there are excellent programs available. A recent Kiplinger article highlights opportunities available in all 50 state's across the USA for retirees to take advantage of free or deep discounted college courses. It is a proven fact that keeping the mind sharp can have a positive impact relieving stress, reducing depression and improving memory.
In addition to keeping the mind sharp, Johns Hopkins Medicine reports those with a family history of heart disease who also have a positive outlook are 1/3 less likely to have a heart attack. Negative thinking is similar to a bad habit, but the good news, it can be changed. It does not happen overnight but if you practice thinking positive thoughts, your health and the world around you will steadily improve. Just finding a way to smile more will reduce the heart rate and blood pressure during stressful times, according to a University of Kansas study. Even fake smiles help!
If you struggle to find ways to think more positive these tips will help:
- Identify the areas where you may need help
- Practice your positive thinking daily
- Keep and open mind
- Create a gratitude journal and write down what you are thankful for
- Surround yourself with positive people
- Laugh at your mistakes
- Enjoy success and celebrate your small victories