The Downsides of Reveling in Hardships…
Instead of Celebrating and Enjoying Your Successes?
Clue #1: It Impacts Your Relationships + Life Expectancy!
Many Americans are facing overwhelming amounts of stress and emotional strain, yet no matter what your external situation it is always a choice as to how you deal with it on the inside.
Singing in the RAIN — Choosing a life of Gratitude (vs. Hardship), despite your life’s journey, challenges and circumstances, is a matter of living in the moment to choose to see the positive perspectives of every situation throughout each day. Repeated thoughts of worry, anxiety, and sadness, along with focusing on what’s wrong with your life, can lead to physical and mental heath problems plus potentially reduce your life expectancy – resulting in lost longevity of a shared joyful life!
For instance, a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that nearly half of the 1,791 adults polled admitted to an increase in their stress levels over the past year. Additionally, more than half reported feelings of fatigue and lying awake at night due to stress and 60 percent reported feeling irritable and angry.
For some, these negative feelings act as a sort of comfort, a fallback on which to place blame for why your life is not going in the direction you planned. You may, in fact, thrive on complaining, worrying, fearing and expecting that the worst will happen, as when you live in a world where “everything will go wrong if it can” it takes some of the pressure off you, as you believe that no matter what you do, life will be bleak.
However, reveling in the negative side of life is an “incorrect pleasure,” one that will only further bring you down — and may seriously harm your health.
Health Risks of Negative “Repetitive Thoughts”
Repetitive thoughts can have positive or negative consequences, depending on what those thoughts are, according to a review of research by Edward R. Watkins, University of Exeter, in the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin. If your repetitive thoughts are “unconstructive,” it can commonly lead to increased risks of:
- Physical health problems
Just what types of repetitive thoughts are “unconstructive”? Watkins detailed several thought processes that can be detrimental to your health, including:
- Depressive Rumination: Focusing on depressive symptoms, symptoms of distress and the circumstances surrounding them.
- Perseverative Cognition: Chronically activating one or more psychological stressors, which prolongs the psychological and physiological responses to daily stress.
- Counterfactual Thinking: Imagining better alternative “endings” to real-life situations, such as believing that a situation would have turned out better if you’d done something differently. When the counterfactual thinking is always better than what actually happened (“if only …”) it can lead to increased shame, guilt, anxiety, sadness and regret.
- Habitual Negative Self-Thinking: A mental habit of thinking negative things about yourself, often without a conscious intent to do so.
- Worry: Repetitive thoughts about imagined catastrophes, potential threats, uncertainties and risks, worry has been linked to interference with cognitive function, increased negative effect and disruptions to psychological processes.
Worry and Anxiety May Harm Your Brain and Body, Increase Dementia Risks
A study by researchers from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Chicago’s Rush University found that people who are prone to “psychological distress” — negative emotions like worry and anxiety — are more likely to develop memory problems than those who adopt a more carefree existence, according to an analysis of two studies on aging that together included over 1,200 people.
In fact, study participants who experienced negative emotions most often were 40 percent more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who experienced the least negativity.
Cognitive impairment involves mild memory or cognitive problems, and can be a stepping-stone to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A past study by the same researchers also indicated that people who are easily distressed are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who are not.
Further, researchers from the University of Connecticut Health Center have found a striking link between your nervous system and your immune system, revealing just how chronic stress may kill you.
The researchers found that the same part of your nervous system that is responsible for the fight-or-flight stress response (the sympathetic nervous system (SNS)) also controls regulatory T cells, which are used by your body to end an immune response once the threatening foreign invader has been destroyed.
Their research on mice revealed that the sympathetic nervous system can negatively impact your immune system, and also shed some light on why stress often exacerbates autoimmune disorders like lupus, arthritis and eczema.
Chronic stress is known to actually intensify inflammation, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), which makes you more vulnerable to inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis.
You may also not have known that stress can actually accelerate aging. According to a 2006 study presented at the 114th Annual Convention of the APA, people with chronic stress are more likely to suffer from age-related diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, major depression, mental decline, osteoporosis and metabolic syndrome.
What Can You Gain by Turning Your Thought Processes Around?
By consciously “re-channeling” your thoughts toward the positive, you’ll have an easier time reaching your goals and gaining feelings of true accomplishment, a joyous life’s journey of fulfillment and overall happiness! Photo credit: Courtesy of Tom Cruise/Sun-Times
It is far more fulfilling and truly enjoyable plus healthy to look on the bright side than it is to focus on negativity, plus your health and mental well-being can greatly benefit.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh analyzed data from more than 100,000 women and found those who were optimistic were:
- 14 percent less likely to die from any cause than pessimists
- 30 percent less likely to die from heart disease after eight years of follow-up
- Less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes or smoke cigarettes
Further, women who were very mistrustful of others, a trait researchers called “cynically hostile,” were 16 percent more likely to die during the study period, and 23 percent more likely to die from cancer, than women who were not.
If you need even MORE reasons to start focusing on the sunny side of life, past research from Yale University found that those who are optimistic in middle age can expect to add at least 7.5 years to their life — even after adjusting for age, gender, physical health and socioeconomic status.
And research from The Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania has found people who are happy:
- Do better at work, school and sports
- Are less depressed
- Have fewer physical health problems
- Have better relationships
How to Become an Optimist, Even if You’re Currently a Worrier, Complainer or Over-Analyzer
Many people who have had great challenges in their lives fall into a state of complaining or negativity, and sadly never rise out of them due to feeling a need for or even a pleasure from them.
Possibly you yourself can recall times you have gotten so deeply focused on an argument or fighting with a friend or spouse that you no longer could see the truth. It’s easy to become more focused on proving that you were right instead of seeking the truth or willing to be objective to see and understand the truth.
But the truth is, YOU control how you view a situation and whether you perceive it negatively or positively. You also have the ability to let go of your past challenges, arguments and resentments so they no longer have control over your thought processes and your life.
An excellent starting point is simply if negative thoughts enter your mind, do not give them any attention.
Instead, focus on the many good things in your life and be grateful for what you have, especially the things you may take for granted, like food, shelter, your health and people who love you, and whom you love in return.
If you have a negative encounter with someone in your life, Dr. Peter Reznik, staff member of the Schachter Center for Complementary Medicine and a faculty member of the American Institute of Mental Imagery, recommends:
“After having an encounter with this person, whether planned or unexpected, find a quiet place to do this short mental exercise: Close your eyes. Imagine a beam of white light coming out of your chest. As it extends about two feet beyond your body, see it curving to your right till it makes a complete circle around you.
See the person in the distance. Breathe out gently and see your circle of light expanding in all directions until it embraces the person, and as it does, see the person lifting his/her eyes at you and smiling. Then open your eyes. Do this exercise for one week.”
Practicing daily affirmations after you wake up, before bed or anytime during the day can also help your thoughts to focus only on the bright side. When you feel stressed out, affirmations can also help you to relax. And remember, dwelling over the past (either good or bad times), worrying about the future or even waiting until tomorrow to “get your life together” causes you unnecessary stress and hardship. Focus instead on the present moment and what’s happening here and now.
Photo Courtesy of Tom Cruise/Sun-Times
The more you focus your thoughts on the positive, the more you will attract good into your life.
Regular exercise is also a key way to stay mentally healthy. Exercise programs can create harmony in your body, mind and self, helping you reach higher levels of self-fulfillment and well-being.
Finally, turn adversity into opportunity. A failure or a hard time is only a bad thing if you let it be. Realize that successful people fail, and have likely failed many times to get where they are. So when you do fail or fall onto hard times, embrace it. Turn the failure or challenge into a positive by figuring out what went wrong, then applying what you learned to your next endeavor or challenge.
Use the Law of Attraction to Your Advantage
In the film “The Secret,” author Bob Proctor says, “Disease cannot live in a body that’s in a healthy emotional state.”
Likewise, if your mental state is optimistic, you will naturally attract more of the same into your life, according to the Law of Attraction. This posits that if you focus on positive things you’ll attract good into your life. But the opposite also holds true: if you worry constantly and think negatively, you may attract more of that into your life.
“The secret is the Law of Attraction. Everything that’s coming into your life you are attracting into your life. And it’s attracted to you by virtue of the images you’re holding in your mind,” Proctor says.
The idea is simple and very general: whatever it is that you focus on, think about and occupy your thoughts with will appear in your life. Humans, in this way, are like magnets, attracting into their lives whatever it is their emotions, beliefs and thoughts focus on.
So as you go through your days, make it a point to notice what your thoughts are focusing on … and realize that you’ll be happier and likely healthier, too, if you keep your mind in a primarily positive place.
“Grab your coat, and get your hat,
Leave your worry on the doorstep,
Just direct your feet
To the sunny side of the street.”
American Psychological Association Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 134, No. 2, 163-206
Neurology; vol 68: pp 2085-2092