Day 19. Positivity
The Science Behind Positivity, Self-Talk, and Stress
There’s one person you talk to more than anyone else. It’s not your spouse, your children, or your coworkers. It’s you. The way you speak to yourself has a huge impact on how you feel, how you act, and what you accomplish. Keeping a positive attitude and being thoughtful about the types of messages you give to yourself is critical in helping you meet your goals.
When your attitude towards yourself and your goals is as it should be, an amazing thing happens - you start to feel less stressed! Stress has a number of detrimental effects on your health and wellbeing. Focusing on having a positive attitude helps you to manage stress, which will improve your health and help you reach your goals more quickly.
Why Positivity and Self-Talk Matters
When your self-talk is positive, you...
• Feel better about yourself
• Are reminded of the good things in your life
• Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses
• Are motivated to overcome obstacles
• Live a more enjoyable and fulfilling life
• Better manage stress
When your self-talk is negative, you...
• Feel worse about yourself
• Are constantly reminded of what your life lacks, which leads to unhappiness
•Focus on your weaknesses and forget about your strengths
•Overestimate the size of obstacles and stop attempting to overcome them
•Live a less happy, less productive, and less fulfilling life
•Have less control over your stress, which can lead to issues with sleeping, depression,
anxiety, and weight gain
The Science Behind Attitude and Self Talk
“Think positively.” “Be kind to yourself.” “Have a good attitude.” These kinds of ideas are certainly nice to hear, but they don’t have a place in science, do they? A 2011 study published by a psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina begs to differ. In this study, a group of adults were assigned a meditation practice designed to improve positivity and self talk. Compared to the control group, the meditation group responded with a greater purpose in life, more solid relationships, and even fewer symptoms of illness. These positive changes are associated with a more fulfilling life and fewer episodes of depression.1
In other words: this study shows that being kind to yourself leads to a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life. Maintaining a positive attitude is also extraordinarily beneficial in managing stress. Unchecked stress has an extremely negative impact on your health and wellbeing.
Stress is scientifically proven to have a negative effect on your body. Over time, these effects can wear away at your health. A 2008 paper outlines how and why stress causes physical symptoms, as well as what those symptoms are.2
According to the paper, when someone experiences a stressful event, the body releases a flood of chemicals. These chemicals cause your blood pressure to increase. They also cause some of your blood vessels to get smaller. If you are in a state of stress over and over again, these changes in your cardiovascular system can become permanent. Long term stress can lead to chronic high blood pressure, which in turn increases your risk of heart disease.
Stress is also proven to lead to weight gain. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Nutrition Research found that you are more likely to eat more when under stress, and to choose foods that are less healthy. 3 If you allow yourself to remain in a state of stress over the long term, those unhealthy food choices add up. The result? Weight gain and a higher risk of diabetes.
Make it Happen
Negative self-talk can start a downward spiral and add unneeded stress that takes your life from bad to worse. But there’s good news! You can control what you think. Negative thoughts can be replaced with positive ones. With practice, being kind and positive to yourself can feel as natural as being negative.
The Challenge: Over the next 21 days, commit to being mindful about the way you speak to yourself. Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Get started today and you may be surprised at how different your outlook is a few weeks from now.
1. Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resourc- es. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045–1062. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0013262
2. Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., & Siegel, S. D. (2005). STRESS AND HEALTH: Psychological, Be- havioral, and Biological Determinants. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 607–628. http://doi. org/10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144141
3. Kandiah, J., Yake, M., Jones, J., & Meyer, M. (2006). Stress influences appetite and comfort food pref- erences in college women. Nutrition Research Journal, 26(3), 118-123. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j. nutres.2005.11.010
Your Next Steps
1. Listen to Your Internal Conversation: There’s a conversation happening in your mind, whether you realize it or not. Take some time to really listen to the messages you’re sending yourself. Are your thoughts positive or negative? Do you react to life with an attitude that lifts you up or tears you down?
2. Try Meditation: Meditation can have a huge impact on how you view yourself and the world. According to the Mayo clinic, it’s also scientifically proven to reduce stress and have a positive impact on the body. Try taking a few minutes out to meditate every day. It’s fine to start small - even two or three minutes is enough to begin the habit. If you’re not sure where to start, look for guided meditations online.
3. Write Your Thoughts: Writing can be a powerful tool for shifting your thoughts from negative to positive. Keep a journal and write down a positive thought every day. Not only will this help train your mind to think about the positive, you’ll also have a record of good thoughts to look back on when you need to realign your attitude. Journaling also allows you to go back over time and identify consistent stressors in your life, a step that can help you reduce anxious feelings.
4. Let Go of Mistakes: We all make mistakes. What’s important is how we respond to them. Accept that you have made mistakes, accept that you will make more in the future, forgive yourself for missteps, and decide to learn from them and move on.
5. Be Grateful: Gratitude and positivity go hand in hand. It’s difficult to be negative when you’re thinking about all the good things you have in your life. Start each day by writing down three things you’re grateful for. When you feel yourself starting to slip into negative thinking, remind yourself of your list.
Thinking Long Term
Your 21 Day Challenge is a great time to really think about how you speak to yourself. It’ll also give you a chance to practice techniques to improve your thinking and lower your stress. To find long-term success, though, you’ll need to keep practicing what you learned. Here are a few tips to help keep the positivity going:
• Smile more: Smiling helps change your mood and relieve stress. When you start to notice your thoughts going into negative territory, stop yourself and smile.
• Seek out positive people: A person who can give you constructive but loving feedback can help you find your way out of your own negative thinking, so you can keep moving forward.
• Try something new: A change in routine can help create a change in mood. Take a new route to work. Try a different restaurant. Pick up a new hobby
• Reduce stressors in your life: Look for things that stress you out that you can change. For example, if your morning commute always leaves you keyed up, try a different route or leave at a different time to avoid traffic.
• Focus on Gratitude:. Start your day by writing a list of things you’re grateful for. Reminding yourself of the good things you do have can help you keep from stressing about what you lack.