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January 06, 2015

How Thinking Positively Can Improve Your Happiness As You Age

When you’re going through a difficult time, bubbly encouragements of, “think positive!” are often the last thing you want to hear. However, in addition to being well intentioned, there might also be a scientific reason to take the advice of thinking positively to heart. 

Because our brains are actually wired to focus more on negative experiences than positive ones, a cycle of negative thoughts can be especially difficult to break. While it might require a little more effort to encourage your brain to think happy thoughts, it’s a practice well worth the effort. 

In fact, thinking positively can do more than simply improve your happiness as you age—it can also improve your health. A study published in Psychological Science found that older adults who were able to shift their focus from negative aging stereotypes to positive associations (for example, associating the word “senior” with “wise”) scored better on physical assessment tests. 

But is a positive attitude as you age as simple as “mind over matter”? We’re afraid the answer is a bit too complicated to say definitively. However, we do feel comfortable drawing this one conclusion: though it’s certainly more easily said than done, being happy sure beats the alternative. 

If you’re ready to rewire your brain for positivity, here are a few steps you can take. 

5 Tips for Older Adults to Embrace Positive Thinking 

1. Surround Yourself With Positive People

Positivity can be just as infectious as negativity. Spend time with people whose good attitudes have the potential to lift you up.

2. Practice Active Positive Thinking 

You might find that thinking positively doesn’t come as natural to you as you would like. In that case, make an effort to reframe potentially negative situations in a positive light. For example, if your son and his family can’t make it in for the holidays this year, maybe this is your chance to visit them in Florida or take that cruise you’ve been wanting to book. 

3. Focus on Gratitude

Being thankful for what you do have is a great way to take the focus off of negative thoughts. Try participating in daily affirmations of gratitude to remember the positive aspects of your life. 

4. Give Back 

Though volunteering is a charitable act, it can also have the positive side effect of making you feel good about yourself for giving back to the community. Find a way to volunteer that helps improve your positive outlook. 

5. Make an Effort to Do What Makes You Happy

It might sound like a simple concept, but all-too-often we either forget or don’t make the effort to actually do the behaviors and practices that improve our happiness. For instance, if you know going to exercise class makes you a happier person, schedule it on your calendar as a non-negotiable activity. 

So, next time you’re considering what small changes you can make for your health and happiness, take a moment to believe in the power of positive thinking. 

Want more tips on how a healthy brain can help you lead a better life? Click here to download our free eBook: “Keeping Your Brain Healthy As You Get Older.”

Keeping Your Brain Healthy eBook


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