For any of us that grew up reading Lurlene McDaniel novellas*, the following news likely won’t come as too much of a shock: Positive thinking and a positive attitude may indeed have power.
Psychologists and medical doctors alike have been hunting for a correlation between what’s right in your head and what’s right in your heart and body — literally. According to USA Today, Carol Ryff, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has “shown that individuals with higher levels of well-being have lower cardiovascular risk, lower levels of stress hormones and lower levels of inflammation, which serves as a marker of the immune system.” Basically, people with peppy minds and a healthy mental state are more likely to be healthy physically.
The thing is, how does one find, embrace, and continually have positive thinking? A quick Google search of “how do I make myself happy” brought me scores of suggestions and lists from therapists and self-help gurus alike; but if you are already stuck in a rut of low-levels of well-being, what can a list like this really do for you? Yes, it would be delightful not to worry or to relax, but I think people who are seeking this sort of information require more in-depth details as to how to do these things, not that they simply need to be done.
My friends Sean and Corso have a running joke (no pun intended) where they whisper “Get excited!” to each other when they want to pump each other up, and yell “Relax!” at each other when they’re attempting to be soothing. Whenever the guys do this to me, I laugh almost uncontrollably, because someone forcefully requesting that you relax is about as relaxing as someone hurling walruses at you while you’re at the bottom of a well.
So what’s the well-rounded health seeking individual to do? (Besides dodging walruses, of course.)Well, that’s the rub. Understanding what makes your positive-mind activate is a completely personal experience. I can tell you what keeps me mentally sound: Battlestar Galactica, reading a remotely good book for a few minutes a day, taking a walk with a balloon and good tunes, conversing with strangers and friends alike…but none of these things may work for you. In fact, you may spend the better part of the next six months finding even one thing to put on this list. Maybe it’s yoga. Maybe it’s a cake decorating class. Maybe it’s video games.
And the frustrating part is that what makes you happy can change. It can evolve over time so that while sometimes swimming cures your blues, it won’t always. Which means you’re constantly on the look out for finding the right balance of stimulating and satiating your mind with challenges and relaxation.
However, when you figure out what activities or techniques work for keeping your spirits lofted, you’re in fat city! Not only is your head right, but your body is thankful too and you’re ready to rock and roll through your life. And best of all? You’re probably passing that cheerfulness along to the people you come in contact with. Which in and of itself totally makes finding the recipe for your happiness worthwhile in my book.
If you’re not sure where to start, I’m going to recommend what my grandmother Betty always told me to do whenever I had some down time: breathe. Just breathe. Inhale. Exhale.
* I very vividly recall a passage from one of her books in which a girl with cancer was using positive imaging techniques that involved pretending the chemo was fighting the cancer the way a astro-fighters might attack an enemy. Which may or may not be why the idea of the power of positive thinking stuck with me.