Paper or plastic? Decaf or regular? Ride the elevator or take the stairs?
Attitude – we make choices of all magnitudes each day, yet we seldom think about “choosing” our attitude. Choosing to look at the glasses in life as half full, rather than half empty can have a great impact on brain function and health.
I have talked about brain chemicals in previous weeks, and the topic comes up again with “attitude”. Maintaining a positive mental attitude helps your brain boost the level of immune cells and endorphins. People of all ages are happier and healthier when their brains are producing the “feel good” chemicals – endorphins. The word “endorphin” means literally “the morphine within”. It serves as a tranquilizer as well as an analgesic (and all without a prescription). Choosing a positive attitude helps to promote cognitive functions, keeps you physically uplifted, and makes you a nicer person to be around.
There are countless anecdotes about people deciding to make the best of things, finding a silver lining, taking the high road and looking on the sunny side of life. We do have choices. Some people seem to have a negative attitude programmed into their way of looking at the world. They can always find something wrong with whatever situation they are in. Research has cited that people who registered negative emotions or psychological distress were more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than their more upbeat friends and colleagues. Negative thinking stimulates more negative thinking and patterns become established. Thinking a negative thought teaches your brain to get in touch with other negative thoughts. This is because the brain works by learned association. A negative (or positive) thought that is triggered will cause similar, associated thoughts to appear.
The good news is that your brain is “plastic” (a neurological term that means it can be reformed, molded, changed). You can retrain your brain by paying attention. At the first sign of a negative thought or response, immediately switch your thinking to something positive or at least neutral. You might take a minute right now, to think about creating a mantra. Keep this personal mantra in your back pocket and have it ready to replace a negative thought. Think about what you might choose – the name of a favorite person, or your pet, a snippet of a song that makes you smile, an absolutely silly thought – it doesn’t matter as long as this thought removes you from the negative place. It works!
Each morning when you awake you CHOOSE the kind of day you will have. You can choose to see your world as a friendly and life giving place, or you can choose to see all the cracks, creases and wrinkles that make life unpleasant and unfriendly. It is a brain friendly choice to think positive thoughts. There are many things we can’t change – our attitude toward life is one thing we can change. “I believe that 10% of life is what happens to us and 90% is how we choose to respond to it.” Charles Swindoll. Positive thoughts are brain friendly! Google “Attitude” by Charles Swindoll to read the whole article.