Most of us can remember a coach, parent, friend, or mentor telling us that we need to keep a “positive attitude”, especially in times when it's not easy. While this can be some of the most agitating advice in the moment it is actually quite important to strive for a positive mental attitude, not only so that you feel better emotionally but also physically.
Why is positivity so important? There is actually a direct connection between the emotions we experience and the physiological response of our body. Basically, allowing ourselves to stay in a state of anger, stress, or anxiety is going to greatly increase cortisol, a stress hormone, in our body. When we have chronically high levels of cortisol this will strain all of our body’s systems and can lead to serious health complications. However, when we are able to settle into a state of gratitude or thankfulness it can help switch our body from a sympathetic response (fight state), to a parasympathetic (resting) state, to allow our body to function better. A Harvard Health Publishing article states from their research that:
“Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships”.
So how do we implement more gratitude into our lives? It actually can be pretty simple to start taking small steps towards an awareness of thankfulness. Schedule time each day, either first thing when you wake up or at the end of your day, to mentally go through a few things that you are thankful to have or experience. It may help to do this practice with someone else, or to write down your thoughts as you process. If you want to take it one step further, choose a few people in your life to thank personally or write a note to. Let them know how thankful you are to have them in your life or for something they’ve done. While having a routine of thankfulness is always important, it is especially vital to assume this practice of gratitude when you feel yourself getting stressed or anxious. Practice tuning into those emotions and when you feel anxiousness arising have a routine ready of reciting some of the things you’re thankful for so that your body can respond positively. Our brain is an incredibly powerful organ and when you start to take steps to use it to your benefit you can experience amazing change in your life. If interested, read more from Harvard here.