Recently, my friend Jim started complaining again about his boss and his job. "If you tried to have a positive attitude for a change," I suggested, "you'd be happier and feel better about life." "Oh, that's a bunch of bull," Jim replied.
Recently, my friend Jim started complaining again about his boss and his job. “If you tried to have a positive attitude for a change,” I suggested, “you’d be happier and feel better about life.”
“Oh, that’s a bunch of bull,” Jim replied. “Simply thinking happy thoughts doesn’t change reality.”
“Oh yes it does,” I said. “I remember 20 years ago when the teenaged son of a close friend contracted a rare form of adult leukemia. While undergoing treatment, the boy visualized vast armies of defenders with swords and shields battling the invading cancer cells. These battles played out in his mind daily for months. Today that boy is a man leading a happy, productive life.”
“Happy thoughts don’t cure cancer,” Jim countered.
“Perhaps not, but feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t help. Did you know that researchers at the University of Texas studied 1,500 elderly people over a seven-year period? They found participants with a positive outlook on life were significantly less likely to become frail. The exact reason isn’t known, but researchers speculated that positive attitudes directly affect health by altering the chemical balance of the body.”
“The power of the mind is astounding. Negative, stressful thoughts can cause heart palpitations, stomach upsets, headaches, and more. On the other hand, positive thoughts can make us happier and help us heal. Interested in hearing about it?” I asked.
He was, and here’s what I told him.
First of all, you need to become aware of when your negative inner voice starts talking. Carry a notebook, and write down those negative thoughts every time you become aware of them. You’ll be surprised at how often they occur.
As you become more aware of each negative thought, take the next step and turn the negative thoughts into positive ones. Pretend you’re on the high school debating team and come up with reasons to support the positive side of each issue. So when your inner voice says, “You can’t do that, it’s too difficult,” you can respond with, “Jean can do that. I’m at least as smart as she is. Perhaps I can break the task up into small steps. Maybe I can ask Jean for some help. You know, I bet I can do it.”
When reviewing your notebook, you may find that your inner voice keeps reminding you of past failures. There are two things to consider when you find yourself dwelling on the past. First, you cannot change what’s past, but you can learn from your mistakes and do better the next time. Second, if you’re having trouble letting go of some past event, remember this: You have always done your best based on your abilities at that time, and you cannot ask more of yourself than that. Write in your notebook the things you have learned from those past mistakes.
When used correctly, affirmations can be especially uplifting. The key to using affirmations effectively is to immerse yourself in them all day, every day. Here are a few to get you started:
How to use them? Write them down on index cards and carry them with you. Read them when you first wake up. Find a quiet place and repeat each one several times. Make them more effective by thinking of what they mean within the context of your own life. Display them in your office. Tape them to your bathroom mirror. Take time out during the day to say them aloud. Have someone with a soothing voice record them for you, and listen to them each night before bed. Listen to them while you are exercising.
Affirmations build the mind like strength-training builds the muscles. Mental exercise is like physical exercise. You must train daily or you will lose everything you’ve gained. So do these mind exercises every single day.
Now it’s time for you to take some action. Make these exercises a top priority for the next 30 days. You’ll be so pleased with the results it may just become a permanent part of your daily life. Jim is working at it and feeling better already.