Pathway to Better Physical & Mental
Thoughts and feelings. Although we don't
yet completely understand the connections between
thinking and the body, we do know that positive or
healthy thinking can: help improve mood,
self-esteem, and sense of well-being; decrease
depression, anxiety, and hostility; lessen pain and
other bodily symptoms; speed recovery from surgery;
enhance immune function; and extend longevity. We
also know that to a great extent, our emotions are
determined by how we
think about events. This "self-talk",
whether positive or negative, is so powerful that
it determines not just our emotions, but the
condition of our physical and mental health as
Positive Thinking: Nature or Nurture? The
good news is that to a large extent our "self-talk"
patterns are learned, and can be unlearned; they
are not genetically predetermined, and therefore
are not completely out of our control. Changing the
way we think is one of the most powerful things we
can do to improve our health.
Negativity and Rose Colored Glasses. None
of us perceives the world in a completely accurate
way. Data is filtered and distorted. We tell
ourselves irrational and inaccurate stories, and
then behave as if our stories were true. Both
negative and positive thinkers distort reality,
albeit in different directions, but it seems that
the positive distortions of healthy thinkers are
most often beneficial. Optimism leads to
hopefulness, not helplessness. Negativism greatly
limits the potential for creative action.
Assessing Your Distortions. You may find
the following checklist useful in helping you look
objectively at the direction of your thinking. You
do have editorial privilege on your stories. When
you find that you're operating from a distorted
pessimistic story or thought, use the checklist to
find out why, and then revise your story to reflect
a more positive outlook.
Have I correctly identified what's really
bothering me? It may be difficult to pin
down the real source. Who have you been with
lately? Is there some specific event or person
that might have triggered the negative
Am I thinking in all or nothing terms?
Beware of the globals like totally, completely,
always, never...they're almost "always" wrong.
Avoid black and white thinking.
Am I assuming every situation is the
same? You can choose to respond differently
in every situation. Don't get locked in to a
future state that's based on the past.
Am I assuming the worst? Stop
catastrophic thinking and "awfulizing". Small
events become disasters, and crises become
unmanageable. Maintain perspective.
Am I making an unfair or
unrealistic comparison? So what if you are not
Michael Jordan on the basketball court? Rather
than compare your present performance to some
unobtainable ideal, try comparing it to your
recent past performance; competing against
yourself will provide measurable gains.
Do I have the evidence to
support my conclusion? You may find yourself
leaping to conclusions, or assuming you can read
other people's minds (even we can't do that).
Stick to what you know.
Are my worries worth worrying about?
Make sure you have a good reason to worry. If you
think you do, try writing the problem, and then
writing solutions. Paper and pencil have a way of
helping clear the fog.
Am I blaming myself for something beyond my
control? Quit blaming, and start accepting
responsibility, but only for those things that
you can really control. Things like the weather,
the stock market, and your professor's choice of
tie don't qualify.
Am I expecting perfection? If so, you
will have to learn to love disappointment; give
it a rest. Why hold yourself or others to
impossible standards? Try rewriting the story
about your mistake as one about an opportunity to
learn and grow.
What difference will this make next week, in
a year, or in ten years? Our mistakes do not
become historical markers. Most people tend to
remember the good things and let the other stuff
go. They'll forget your stuff too. Try not to
take or make things more serious than they really