A Positive Mental Attitude to Cope With Stress

A positive mental attitude helps you to cope with stress. Adopting a positive way of thinking is a good protector against the effects of stress.

"The pessimist sees difficult in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.    

Winston Churchill

I was sitting down to dinner the other night when my friend's son, who knows I am a psychologist, told me a joke about a little boy who always had a positive mental attitude.

The little boy was always optimistic and upbeat, yet his older sister always seemed to look on the negative side of life.

One Christmas, just to be a pain, the sister decided to aggravate her little brother, and test his positive outlook by giving him a present of a box filled with horse manure.

She was sick and tired of her little brother's continual positive attitude and thought that this would fix him!

When Christmas day arrived, the little boy opened up the present and saw the horse manure inside and exclaimed YIPPPEEE ..."where’s the horse!"1

Ok Ok....so maybe you had to be sitting around the table to enjoy the joke as much as I did...but what a positive mental attitude!

Staying positive may sound easier than it actually is.

You only need to turn on the television or browse the internet see the latest negative news and sensationalized headlines.

However, staying positive is a decision that is ultimately is yours to make.

Benefits of a Positive Mental Attitude to Cope with Stress

Research shows that this positive mental attitude protects you from the effects of stress.

Unrealistic Positive Mental Attitude and Stress

People who adopt a positive mental attitude are not being like Pollyanna, with no hold on reality.

They are simply making a choice to see reality from a different perspective.

However, there is some evidence that people who are unrealistically positive do not have their expectations matched with reality and this can result in pessimism and poorer skills for coping with stress.

Persistent negative thoughts turn on the stress response and weaken the immune system.

This can result in a number of persistent signs of stress and eventually lead to stress related illnesses.

BUT positive emotions strengthen the immune system. It is these positive emotions that help you to cope with stress more effectively.

When adopting a positive mental attitude to cope with stress it is not enough to approach life optimistically.

You really need to believe in the effectiveness of your strategies for coping with stress and know that you can put them into place.

This belief in itself creates a self-reinforcing effect that builds your confidence to cope with stress.

Choose to be an optimist

Do you view a cup as half empty or half full?

Research shows that an optimist is more likely to blame their failures on external causes and have a "try it" attitude in the face of failure.

Evidence suggests that optimists are more likely to have a better quality of life, stronger relationships and be protected from the effects of stress on health. I talk more about the effects of stress on health in 'how does stress affect health?'

There are a number of things that you can do to become an optimist.

  1. Become aware of your self talk. What we say to ourselves determines our feelings and behavior.

    Cognitive therapy describes how your thoughts influence emotions.

  2. Use more productive self talk. There is growing evidence that our positive thoughts and emotions determine the quality of our health and happiness.

    Use these positive thinking tips to combat stress.

  3. Use positive language. Listen to what you say. Are you overusing words such as "should", "always", and "never".

    For example, think about using "I choose to" instead of "I should".

  4. Accept uncertainty. Life is full of unexpected events of which we have little control over...the obnoxious boss, the noisy roommate or the traffic to work.

    BUT we do have control over how we respond to these events.

    To make sense of some uncertainty and cope with stress you can:

    • Keep an open mind.
    • Learn how to find answers. This problem solving technique may be useful for you.
    • Recognize that some situations are out of your control
    • Embrace a mindset that is open to change. I find that mindfulness based stress reduction is great for opening the innate awareness and embracing the present moment.

    I like Reinhold Neibuhr’s Serenity Prayer

    "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference".

    To gain objective data on your main causes of stress and how you react to them, fill out a stress diary.

    Practice these tips for reducing stress and then ask yourself if there are better ways that you could react to the stress.

  5. Surround yourself with positive people. Positive thinking has a way of rubbing off onto others.

    Surround yourself with people who are truthful, supportive and have a positive influence on your life.

    Look for ways that you can also positively influence them. As the saying goes "birds of the same feather fly together".

Stress Buster Tip: Make a list of positive aspects of your life

What are some achievements that you are proud of? What do you like about yourself? If you play the guitar, have a detailed knowledge about birds – include them if they are positive. When you feel down, pull out this list out for a boost of positivity that is real to you.

Adopting a optimistic and problem solving approach to stress management promotes happiness, health and more success.

Employ positive affirmations

Stress Buster Tip: Use positive affirmations

Do you have a stress management activity that reduces your stress?

Why not write a number of positive affirmations that you can use on a piece of paper and put them in your wallet or purse.

Next time you feel stressed or sad, rather than trying to remember positive things (which can be difficult) pull out your affirmations and focus on the positive things that you have to say.

Positive affirmations can transform your negative self talk and promote self confidence, increase personal power and provide stress relief.

A positive affirmation reflects positive attitudes and positive thinking towards yourself or what you want – phrased in a way that you already have it.

Some positive affirmations associated with stress may include:

"I view stress as a challenge" or "a mistake gives me the opportunity for me to learn" or "I choose to think positively".

Stress management hypnosis is one way to sub-consciously build your resilience to stress.

Take charge: Set positive goals

Do you feel like you are heading in the wrong direction in your life?

Are you achieving what you want to achieve?

Some of today’s causes of stress occur when there is a conflict in values at work or in life direction.

If you feel that your life does not reflect your values, then goal setting for stress relief can help to take control of your situation and deal with this underlying tension.

Stress Buster Tip: Do something new each day

Set a goal to learn something new everyday.

Start a new book, pick up a hobby or increase your quality family time....

Learning new things that interest you or are in line with your values allows you to cultivate and expand upon the childlike curiosity that is within.

Practice positive visualizations and bring laughter into your life

Positive visualizations can alleviate the stress you feel every day.

Imagery can be a more active process than meditation, and can be great for people who have trouble turning off their thinking for stress relief.

This article is a quick guide to guided imagery for stress relief.

Is laughter the best medicine?

Laughter promotes your immune system and reduces stress hormones such as cortisol - not to mention the internal exercise that can have a calming effect on you.

If you have had a good laugh you will also know that it can release emotion and physical tension, reframe your situations, and distract you from feelings of stress.

Research shows that laughter therapy and laughing yoga are good ways to re-frame and release emotional and physical stress.

Search here for more tips on adopting a positive mental attitude

Tell Us What Promotes a Positive Mental Attitude for You

Do you have a great tip for adopting a positive mental attitude? Share it!

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