Thinking your way to good health

Thinking your way to good health
Negative thoughts can cause more damage than you think, writes Madison Duddy

 

With stresses like work, family, friends, relationships and money, it’s hard to stay positive. Some days, people feel like it is just one thing after another.

On days like that, when the alarm doesn’t go off, the car won’t start and coffee spills everywhere, negativity takes over like a bad cold. Although it’s easy enough for people to be certain that the entire world is against them and they just can’t catch a break, it’s vital to remember one thing: someone has it worse, so be grateful.

There are few things simpler than taking a negative approach to life; complaining is easy. The hard task is being able to recognise everything one should be thankful for and using that positivity to overcome the bad stuff. Taking a pessimistic approach to life creates miserable people, and can be detrimental to one’s physical health.

When a person is constantly negative, their brain is affected. As a result, they will not handle stressful situations well. Not only is stress bad for one’s mental health, but it releases the stress hormone, cortisol, which, among many things, weakens the immune system and makes people feel horrible. Side effects like stomach pain can be common when someone is really stressed, making eating a difficult task.

In terms of the immune system, stress caused by negativity forces dominance on one side of the immune system, the Type 2 side of extracellular threats. This dominance on the Type 2 side is unhealthy and messes with the immune system, making it weak.

Ishita Sangra, a physiotherapist in Dublin, says “the immune system will tire and cause people to be very lethargic and have a hard time to get out. Physically, negativity does all these things. The more you sleep, the more you will want to be sleeping, and this will impact your feelings and behavior quite a bit.”

Positive thinking can have short and long-term health benefits. Besides producing lower rates of depression and distress, positivity can increase one’s lifespan, helping them fight off illnesses like the common cold, improve cardiovascular health, and reduce the risk of death from heart disease.

So how can people train themselves to find the silver lining in everyday experiences?

First, focus on the positive. No matter how bad a person’s day is, there is always something positive they can focus on. Negative people highlight the bad things that happen in their life rather than the positive. Few days are perfect, but no days are one hundred percent bad. Even if it is honing in on general things to be grateful for like health, family, friends, employment, a place to sleep, and food to eat, these are some of the most important blessings to recognise. Millions of people in the world don’t possess some or any of these simple blessings. Even just recognising the opportunity of being able to live another day can put things into perspective and make a person remember that so many people’s lives were cut short.

Ishita also emphasised the importance of focusing on the good over the bad.

“You can start with acknowledging the blessings that you have in your life, gratitude about things that maybe you can’t see. We always concentrate on what we don’t have instead of what we have, so if you can really concentrate on what you have, you can feel more positive and concentrate on here and now.”

Negative self-talk can be one of the key aspects of an adverse outlook. Mainly, pessimistic people filter, personalise, catastrophise and polarise.

Filtering is when one highlights the negative in a situation, causing them to forget the positive. Ignoring the positive creates an unfavourable outlook, feeding into a stressed and depressed person.”

Filtering is when one highlights the negative in a situation, causing them to forget the positive. Ignoring the positive creates an unfavourable outlook, feeding into a stressed and depressed person.

Personalising is simply a case of overanalysing a situation from a negative viewpoint, so much so that the person always blames themselves when things goes wrong. A lot of events that happen in life are out one’s realm of control. Trying to control everything or blaming oneself ruins self-esteem and is self-deprecating.

Stressing about something before it has even happened yet is more or less the equivalent of a person getting upset about their dog dying the day they bring home a new dog.”

Catastrophising is when a person always expects the worst. Negative anticipation can be one of the most dangerous things a person can do to themselves because it causes them to worry about things before they even happen. Simply, they descend into stress at the possibility of a bad thing happening, which makes no sense. The common parental advice of ‘don’t worry about things until they happen’ can be one of the most valuable phrases to live by and fights a lot of the negativity and stress in people’s lives.

Stressing about something before it has even happened yet is more or less the equivalent of a person getting upset about their dog dying the day they bring home a new dog. Yes, some things in life are inevitable, but if people focus their energy on events that will not occur for a long time or may not happen at all, they will never be happy or stop becoming stressed.

Lastly, polarising is when someone cannot see a situation as having good and bad aspects. To them, the event is polar. Although it sounds banal, looking for a silver lining in every situation can change a person’s outlook on life. There is always something positive in the negative, no matter what happens. It’s hard to find the positive sometimes, but when a person does, they will be grateful for every experience they have in life.

It’s hard to find the positive sometimes, but when a person does, they will be grateful for every experience they have in life.”

If someone passes away, a person can be thankful that they got to know them and share part of their life with them. Especially with love, people will end up heartbroken, and although breakups can look like negative situations, one can consider the lessons they learned from that relationship. In every life experience, there are lessons learned, and those lessons are often a perfect silver lining in a sea of dark clouds.

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