Positive thinking

Berny Unruh
K-State Extension

Is the glass half empty or half full? It is believed that those who see the glass as half full tend to be more optimistic and those who see the glass as half empty are more pessimistic. Of course, there will be those who say, “You should be just glad to have a glass and have something to drink!”.

I have enjoyed several webinars through Illinois Extension that focused on being positive and aging. Extensive research has shown that optimism improves well-being and physical health. Studies also show that resilience and optimism are associated with greater longevity. Another study found that when employees are positive, there is a 12% increase in productivity.

Are there things we can do to stay positive? Yes, there are. However, I have found that some of the suggestions on the list have been much more difficult to do the last six months. That means we will just have to work a little harder on staying positive.

The first suggestion is to be around positive people and those who support you. While it is not possible to always be around positive people, be aware of those who bring out the best in you versus those who bring out the worst in you. If possible, find a way to limit the time you have to spend with the difficult people.

Laugh and surround yourself with things that help relieve stress. Doctors tell us that the physiological effects of laughter affect every part of the body. When we laugh, the heart rate and blood pressure speed up. Afterward, these sink below the previous levels and we feel a sense of relaxation. Author, Norman Cousins, was faced with a life-threatening disease but when he had a good belly laugh it allowed him to least two hours of pain-free relief.

Another suggestion is to practice positive self-talk. We most likely all have negative thoughts and self-talk, but it is possible to train your brain to turn it around. Instead of saying, “I’ve never done it before” try “It’s an opportunity to try something new.” Positive self-talk does take practice but we can mold ourselves through our thoughts. If you don’t listen to and believe what you have to say, then who should you listen to?

One last thought is to practice being grateful. Work to find the small things that make you happy. At the end of the day, try to list three things that you are thankful for. Write them down in a gratitude journal or record them in a gratitude app. If you take the time to do this, it will become obvious there are many, many things to be thankful for. If life becomes difficult, look back at your gratitude journal and savor the memories.

Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District. She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at bunruh@ksu.edu