Life is sweet at home

How Seniors Can Maintain a Positive Attitude

Cultivate the bright-side for better health. Photo by Larry Flynn.

Life is tough and getting worse, right? With every tick of the clock we spot new wrinkles, thinner hair and more age spots. And every night on the news tornadoes, tsunamis and lost tots take main stage. Nostradamus was right – the world is coming to an end!

Hey friends, stop the negative thinking and negative self talk right now, ya here?

During October, Positive Attitude Month, let’s try to set aside the moaning and groaning. Instead, let’s substitute a healthy, happy attitude.

Positive Attitude = Happy & Healthy

Happy, happy sounds charming, but what if you are a born pessimist?

Author Elisabeth Scott, M.S., explains that although we come with a certain “set point” for some traits such as openness, agreeableness, extroversion, conscientiousness and neuroticism, we have a lot of “wiggle room.” That is, we can actively alter our perceptions and cultivate different attitudes and behavior.

But why even try to move out of our comfortable dark place filled with despair and depression?

“Optimism or a positive attitude,” says Scott, “Can bring you greater health, happier relationships and more luck in life, compared with what you would find in life with a perpetually grouchy disposition.”

Positive Thinkers are Not Pollyannas

Experts suggest that positive people don’t hide their heads in the sand, they simply choose to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (Hamlet) in more positive ways than their negative brethren.

An article by the Mayo Clinic staff suggests that the positive thinking that comes with optimism is a key to managing stress effectively, which is linked to many health

Dancing for fun and fitness. Photo by Touchstone Health.


Health Benefits to Seniors of Positive Thinking:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  •  Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

While the article admits science doesn’t know exactly how or why people with positive thinking experience these health benefits, the authors offered one explanation:

One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. It’s also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess.

How Can Seniors Change Negative Thoughts to Positive Thoughts

In her book “When It’s You Against Them: Keeping a Positive Attitude Despite it All”, Kathy A. Eubanks offers strategies for improving attitude and, as a result, improving health, leadership ability, relationships and life.

She says it is possible to wake up each morning and look forward to the day, “Having a positive attitude not only allows us to enjoy life more, it can improve our health and relationships with others.”

7 Tips to Help Seniors Stay Positive:

1. Decide to have a positive attitude. We are responsible for our own happiness.

2. Surround yourself with positive people. Their attitude is contagious.

3. Use positive affirmations. Instead of “I hate getting up.” say, “I am grateful for a new day.”

4. Be very selective of the music and news you listen to. GARBAGE IN = GARBAGE OUT!

5. Help other people. Service gets us out of our own misery & positively impacts our world.

6. Get in touch with your spiritual source. Faith fuels hope, hope fuels a positive attitude.

7. Don’t stop; never give up. Do not give in to the negativity around us.

How Can Seniors Use ACT to Change Behavior?

Older cowgirl relishes the day! Photo courtesy Rennett Stowe

Okay, so I’m trying to dump the old, negative, self-sabatoging stories that swirl through my head. But how do I make the leap from more happy thoughts to the kinds of positive behaviors that move me closer to a healthier life?

Psychotherapist Ellen N. Resnick suggests we use a three-step plan to accept what is happening right now and to change the things we can. Sounding like a modern version of the “Serenity Prayer” often ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi, Risnick says ACT!

That is, Accept the here and now, Choose what you want to change and Take Action (ACT). Instead of stuffing the negative feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness, you need to put those feelings out in front in the daylight.

“So ‘this is too hard’ becomes ‘Yes, it feels hard to get to the gym today, but I know that once I start pedaling I’m likely to feel better, and that’s important to me,’” says Resnik. “ACCEPT your feelings, and CHOOSE to ACT in accordance with your values (feeling better inside and out).

Seniors Use Awareness to Circumvent Negative Behavior

She admits that negative thoughts and emotions will always rear their ugly heads. But instead of falling prey to their effects, choose a healthy response.

So, if you are trying to drop some pounds, acknowledge you are “dying” for that chocolate chip cookie (or the entire bag). Observe the feelings and cravings without giving into them.

Reframe your thinking from feeling miserable about the lack of cookies. In contrast, choose a different behavior such as taking a brisk walk or calling a friend that will move you closer to the prize of weight loss, improved self confidence and overall health.

Seniors Use Positive Thinking in All Areas of Life

Why not take what we are learning during Positive Attitude Month and use it in every part of our lives?

As for me, I’m going to practice more positive self talk and use positive affirmations throughout the day to acknowledge that even when things get tough I am making forward motion. Also, maybe I’ll start journaling again to look at my feelings and goals.

In addition, I will continue to surround myself with positive people with positive energy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to hang out with people who bring me down or offer little positive insight.

Please let us know how you put the kibosh on negative self talk? How has positive thinking helped you grab the brass ring of health and happiness?