The Power of Positive Thought in Wellness
In addition to my work as an aromatherapist and cosmetic formulator, I also tutor high school students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination or AVID program. Sometimes when I'm working with students they'll say things like "I'm bad at math" or "I'm not a good student" or a refer to a label that has been placed on them concerning their academic or personal success.
When I hear such I stop and suggest ways to rephrase what they just said. Yes perhaps math is challenging for you but rephrasing the statement into "I'm working to improve in math" or "I'm finding ways to improve my study habits" acknowledges the challenge with a growth mindset.
The same can be true for all of us. We can entertain negative thoughts, worry, fear, or hold on to labels that limit our growth, can under-mind our ability to grow into the fullness of our purpose and have been shown to negatively impact our health.
Positive and growth minded thinking on the other hand, not only help set the stage to overcome obstacles and set and achieve goals, but also have a huge impact on health and wellness.
According to the Mayo Clinic positive thinking and optimism can result in a longer life span, reduced rates of depression, less distress, provide greater resistance to the common cold, improved psychological and physical well-being, better cardiovascular health, and better coping skills during times of stress. (1)
WebMD also adds lower blood pressure, better problem solving skills, better mood, and more creativity. (2)
Positive thinking is not about ignoring problems, wearing rose colored glasses, and being a overly optimistic "pollyanna" but rather looking at a situation realistically, believing in your ability to face and solve challenges, looking for solutions, and learning from past experiences.
Do You Harbor Negative Thinking?
Some common forms of negative self talk include
* Filtering: You magnify the negative aspects and filter out the postive ones. For example you ignore all that you managed to accomplish in a day and focus on the fact you forgot one thing on your list.
*Personalizing: when something bad happens you blame yourself. If a friend cancels your lunch plan you assume you somehow offended her.
*Catastrophizing: You automatically anticipate the worst scenario. You automatically assume there's going to be drama during thanksgiving dinner with your extended family.
*Polarizing: You things as either good or bad with no middle ground. You have to be perfect or you have failed.
Shifting to Positive Thinking
Like any habit, changing areas of negative thinking to positive thinking takes practice. Here are some ways to shift to a more positive perspective.
*Identify negative thoughts or patterns. Do they occur concerning work? Exercise? Relationships? or other areas. Start small, maybe even with a single recurring thought and start focusing on changing it.
*Notice your thinking and redirect it if needed. If you catch yourself thinking negatively reframe the thought. I know some people who actually say "cancel" and mentally or verbally replace the thought with a more positive one. For example if you wake up to worry about health and think I'll never lose this extra weight you can "cancel" the thought and remind yourself that you'll love yourself by making good food choices and moving today.
*Reframe the situation. Stuck in traffic? You can stew or turn on a podcast or call a friend.
*Give gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal or mentally give thanks for the blessings you have. Make note of all that is good in your life.
*Imagine things going right. Athletes use visualization to improve their physical performance. People often create vision boards to acknowledge goals and dreams. Visualize and journal how you'd like things to go -- the job you'd like to land, your relationships, your hobbies, your health, etc. Focus on the good and imagine things going well.
Surround yourself with positive people. Positive supportive people will help you see the best in life, look for solutions, and give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people increase worry, stress, and increase doubt. Find the positive people.
Choose a healthy lifestyle. Love yourself by moving at least 30 minutes most days and eating real food. Find healthy ways to manage stress such as practicing a hobby you enjoy, prayer, meditation, exercise, spending time with family and friends, etc.
Remind yourself of your strengths. Think about one of your personal strengths daily, like kindness, creativity, discipline, etc., how you can use it that day, and act on it. One study revealed this exercise boosted positive mood and reduced symptoms of depression after just one week. This improvement was still going strong six months late.
Our thoughts and words are powerful. And the quality of our thinking and speech can impact our physical and metal wellness and that of those around us. Positivity is powerful.
Aromatherapy can be a useful tool in enhancing the development of a habit and supporting a positive mood. Aroma directly affects the emotional brain or amygdala via the patch of neural cells called the olfactory epithelium located inside the nasal cavity. Inhaling essential oils can also impact the physiology of the body as the aromatic compounds enter the lungs and are absorbed by the blood stream. There they can affect the body systems and promote relaxation and well being.
I like using essential oils during prayer and journalling, during affirmation exercises, and to boost mood and promote relaxation. When I identify negative thoughts I like to create a positive mantra and "weed out" the negative thought by replacing it with a positively reframed thought.
How do you combat negative thoughts when they arise? How do you stay positive during challenging situations? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
aromatic blessings my friends,
Mayo Clinic Website, Stress Management: Positive Thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress, accessed from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950
WebMd Website: What is Positive Thinking?, accessed from: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/positive-thinking-overview#1