Keeping the glass half full

Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

I like to think one of my best qualities is my ability (or at least my attempts) at keeping a positive outlook, no matter what the situation. Is it always easy? Of course not. But a recent research roundup has shown that staying positive may be helping me in more ways than I know.

If you need a little encouragement to stay positive next time something goes awry, look no further than this story from the New York Times. It's the first of two columns that will dive into how thinking positively can positively impact our health, and so far the research cited offers a pretty strong case for staying happy.

The column is chock full of anecdotes and research findings on how seeking out the good things in life and imaging the glass as half-full can not only raise people's' spirits, but their health and life expectancy as well.

Judith T. Moskowitz, PhD, one of the researchers cited in the story, has conducted studies on how positive thinking can impact patients recently diagnosed with H.I.V., type 2 diabetes or advanced breast cancer, as well as caregivers of people with dementia. Her studies centered around a set of eight skills that patients were encouraged to learn, and employ at least one per day.

Those skills are:

  • Recognizing a positive event every day
  • Logging that event in a journal or tell someone about it
  • Creating a daily gratitude journal
  • Writing down a personal strength, and how you've used it
  • Setting an attainable goal and document your progress
  • Writing down a minor stress in your life, and ways to look at it positively
  • Recognizing and carrying out small acts of kindness each day
  • Practicing mindfulness

Patients and caregivers involved in Moskowitz's studies reported feeling more in control in the face of their illnesses, and experienced less stress and fewer negative or depressive emotions as a result of practicing her “skills.”

“When I entered the study, I felt like my entire world was completely unraveling,” one patient told the NYT. “I realized that to show your real strength is to show your weakness. No pun intended, it made me more positive, more compassionate, and I'm now healthier than I've ever been.”

While the second NYT column has yet to be released, I have a feeling that it will reiterate many of the ideas and findings already out there: staying positive can do wonders for your health and wellness.

So try some of Moskowitz's ideas, and hang her list up or have it stored on your phone for times of stress. Make plans to watch a funny movie, or meet up with people who make you feel good. If this recent research is any indication, a little bit of positivity will help you stay that way for years to come.

Emily Mongan is Staff Writer at McKnight's. Follow her @emmongan.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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