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Change your attitude, change your health

Everyone knows someone who seems relentlessly able to see the positive side in any situation – the people who make lemonade out of lemons. Not only do they seem generally happier than everyone else, they also seem healthier.  

 

There is a good chance they are healthier, according to David Meade, a licensed clinical counselor with King’s Daughters Employee Assistance Program. “We know there is a direct link between the mind and body and general health,” Meade says, “A positive attitude helps to promote good general overall health.”  

Not only does a positive attitude promote health, it allows people to persevere in times of adversity. “People with positive attitudes are better able to see other ways of doing things, to solve problems and develop options for success,” Meade says. Those with negative attitudes find it more difficult to see options.  

It takes a little work to develop and maintain a positive attitude, Meade says, but the results are definitely worthwhile. A step in the right direction, he says, is to exercise your brain: 

 

  • Read. It forces your brain to work, to remember, think and make connections.  
  • Work puzzles. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, brain teasers and word games all help keep your mind nimble and active.  
  • Turn the TV off. Watching TV does not exercise your brain. 

 

Another step to a positive outlook is not to be so hard on yourself. “To maintain a positive outlook, we need to change the things we say to ourselves – how we internally process our own shortcomings and failings,” Meade says.  

“For example, if a project you’re working on hasn’t made the progress you wanted, remind yourself that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ It’s not an excuse, but a way of thinking about what you are trying to achieve,” Meade says.  

Other phrases to try include:  

 

  • One day at a time. 
  • There but for the grace of God go I. 
  • What a great learning opportunity!  
  • At least I made a start! 
  • Whatever happens, I know I am up to the challenge! 

 

Social interaction – being a part of a community or group – is important to developing positive attitudes and health. The people who live the longest feel “they are a part of others, rather than apart from them.” Historically, people have made these connections at church, but there are other routes, including:  

 

  • Family  
  • Employment  
  • Civic organizations 
  • Fitness programs/Y 
  • Causes  
  • Special/common interest groups  

 

The emotionally healthy individual identifies their feelings without judging them as good or bad. They use non-chemical ways of reducing stress and tension and are very aware of their biorhythms.  

A few final hints for developing a positive outlook:  

 

  • Get enough sleep. Adults need seven to eight hours every night (and more for some).  
  • Learn how to manage stress using deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and other techniques.  
  • Exercise  
  • Listen and learn how to communicate effectively  
  • Meditate 
  • Be true to your values and beliefs  
  • Be thankful and express gratitude. Spend some time every day thinking about something for which you are truly grateful.  

 

“People are very interested in the connection between attitude and health,” Meade says, “but it’s not enough to know what to do, you have to be willing to get up, get involved and do them to achieve the benefits.”  

 

David Meade is a licensed professional clinical counselor with King’s Daughters Medical Center Employee Assistance Program, a part of its Occupational Medicine program. A certified Substance Abuse Professional, a National Board Certified Counselor, and a Master Addiction Counselor with 29 years of experience, he specializes in employee assistance programs, chemical dependency counseling, drug-free workplaces and stress management. 

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