Looking Back with Thanks and Ahead with Hope

Jan 02, 2022

You're likely reading a lot this week about practicing gratitude, as well as creating hopeful plans for the future–and I will get to that in a minute.  But first I’d like to explain why these practices can make such a difference.

It’s all about the effect that a positive mindset and attitude can have on behaviour:

“These positive attitudes are usually manifested in a person's behaviour; people with a good attitude are active and productive and do what they can to improve the mood of those around them. In much the same way, a person who displays negative attitudes (such as discontentment, boredom, etc.), will behave accordingly.”

From: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-management/chapter/drivers-of-behavior/

You might have heard the advice that whatever happens to you in life, you get to choose how to respond.  There is no question that we are living in difficult times, the most challenging many of us have ever known.  But ask yourself if there are not also some positive experiences in your life.  Perhaps you have more time to be with yourself, to learn new skills or spend more time with family.  Are you able to focus on these instead of all that has gone wrong or been lost?

Are you able to make having a positive mindset a habit, so that you approach difficult situations looking for the bright side, not expecting the worst?  So even when something does go wrong, even when trauma or tragedy occurs, we can employ this optimistic mindset, not to pretend nothing is wrong, but to recover more quickly from it.  This is the mindset of someone who chooses to be Resilient: someone who will bounce back from adversity.

In fact studies show that a positive mindset can have a beneficial effect on both physical and mental well-being.  And the good news is, this positive mindset habit can be learned, even if you’ve been “practicing” a negative one for many years.

How can we create a positive mindset?

The first step is awareness of your attitudes and in particular your Self-Talk.  That’s that endless stream of thoughts that run through your head.  I sometimes refer to mine as the gremlin sitting on my shoulder, casting self-doubt on everything I try to do.  These thoughts may appear to be logical and true, but have you ever stopped to assess where they come from?  If they are supportive?  If they really come from your inner wisdom?  Or if you are just repeating what others have told you?  And if that is the case, how can you turn self-criticism into self-acceptance?

3 Steps to turn negative self-talk and attitudes around:

(note - there are many more, but try starting here)

  1. Put a positive spin on a negative belief.  Example: instead of “I can’t do this” followed by giving up, reframe that statement to something like this instead: “I’m going to look for a simple first step to start to learn how to do this!”  This will take some time, so look for small differences in what you are able to accomplish and how this makes you feel.
  2. Practice gratitude:  At the end of each day, or year, take some time to remember and give thanks to the positive experiences (people, places, things) in your life.  Write them down and notice how your feelings, your mood may be just a little bit better than before.
  3. Look ahead with the belief that good things will happen:  Even if things look bleak and dreary, like the weather we’ve been having in my part of the country this week, if you practice optimism, you can look ahead with hope to a brighter future.  Start by looking forward to activities that clear your head and make you happy, such as a daily walk or yoga practice, a coffee or online connection with friends and family, or a delicious home-cooked meal.  These will support your mental well-being and you can use this boost to begin to look ahead and plan for future activities, both those where you can control the outcome and those that may be a little more random.  With practice, you’ll be able to take on larger activities and believe in their positive outcome.

So what am I grateful for?

When I look back over what I’ve written this past year when doing a gratitude practice, I notice that I often start with friends and family, those I’ve been able to connect with either in person during socially distanced activities like skiing, golf and hiking; as well as online–and no matter how we feel about our reliance on technology, it has been a sanity-saver for many of us these past couple of years.  I’m also very grateful to live in a community of like-minded people where I can get outside in nature, where I feel relatively safe, and to have the health to be able to do so. 

And I so appreciate the experiences and education that have allowed me to thrive and be safe in this “new normal”, everything from the importance of daily habits like sleep and exercise, to the joy that I get from planning and preparing delicious, healthy real food, so that I don't really miss eating out, and I know that I am caring for myself and my health in this important way.

I am also most grateful for the opportunity to share this way of living, seeking better health and resilience, with all of you who choose each week to open up and read what I’m writing about.  And to those who have joined me on adventures in your kitchens and on your mats.  Thank-you for allowing me to share this time with you.  Lots more ahead here as well!

And what do I look ahead to with hope?

I am for the most part an optimist, knowing that if my mood does take a downward turn on occasion, I will usually recover soon and by practicing self-compassion and self-care.  And while we are looking right now at another winter of unknown circumstances, I am hopeful that things will get better, and yes, that I will even get to have my winter ski trip for the first time in 2 years.  

And I will continue to research and write about aspects of health that are concerning to us all as we age.  This includes how we can change our daily lives and practices to “turn back the clock” as I do believe that we don’t need to give in to the current expectation of steady decline.  But it will take knowledge and understanding, it will take commitment to changing our habits and practices, it will take that optimistic belief that it is possible!

Are you with me?  I sure hope so!

Stay tuned for a new program to put some of these ideas into practice–so that you will be able to change your health and your future for the better!

And that is my wish to you all for a Happy New Year!

Read more here:

What is positive mindset: https://positivepsychology.com/positive-mindset/

Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950

 

For more info on this and other natural health topics:

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