Staying Sharp For Dummies
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You may already be convinced that a positive attitude can benefit your life, but how do you become a positive person if it doesn't come naturally? It's not as hard you think — being aware of your negativity is half the battle. Figuring out how to turn negativity around is the other half.

Although a little negativity is normal in daily life, constant negativity can make you stressed, anxious, depressed, or bitter. It can wear away your self-esteem and perpetuate a pattern of self-destructive behaviors. Some negative thoughts that can negate a positive attitude include the following:

  • Worrying about what other people think about you: Studies show that most of the time, other people aren't thinking about you at all, except to wonder what you think of them. Ironic, isn't it?
  • Preoccupation or obsession with stressors: Although thinking through problems can be beneficial, constantly brooding about stressors produces only one thing — more stress.
  • Dwelling on the past and things you can't change: You can learn lessons from the past, but constantly thinking about "what might've been" is unhealthy, unproductive, and weighs you down.
  • Self-criticism: Self-improvement is fine; putting yourself down isn't. After all, the world has enough people who feel the need to criticize, so why would you do that to yourself? Instead, be your own best cheerleader. You deserve the same respect and compassion from yourself that you give to others.

Turning yourself from a negative perspective to a positive attitude takes conscious effort and a lot of practice. The following suggestions can get you started:

  • Figure out how to recognize negative thoughts. Stop entertaining them. As soon as you notice them, push them out of your mind (and keep them out).
  • Replace the negative thoughts with positive ones by turning concerns on their head. Instead of thinking that you'll never be as productive at work as your friend, try to determine what it is that makes your friend productive. Positive attitude, the ability to say no when necessary, the ability to delegate? Which of those things can you modify in yourself to make yourself into a more productive person?
  • Put the negative thought into perspective. If you find yourself using terms like always and never to describe situations — as in, "I'll never be promoted" or "She always gets the best assignments" — you may need to adjust your perspective on life. Very few things are black and white, and honestly examining your feelings, or writing them down, may help you see where you've fallen into negative thought patterns. Feelings are just that — feelings. They're not facts, and very often your feelings don't match the facts in a given situation. If you can find the discrepancies, you can begin to adjust your thinking.

Bring out a mental stop sign whenever you find yourself drifting into negative thoughts. Replacing those negative thoughts with positive ones may be awkward at first, but within a few weeks, you may well find that negativity is no longer a habit. And like many bad habits, negativity breeds health risks. Make being positive your new habit for a longer, more enjoyable life.

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The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit society of geriatrics healthcare professionals dedicated to improving the health, independence, and quality of life of older people.

The Health in Aging Foundation is a national non-profit organization established in 1999 by AGS to bring the knowledge and expertise of geriatrics healthcare professionals to the public.

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