Keep On the Sunny Side

by Kathy Ferguson, RN

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

“Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life;
It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way,
If we keep on the sunny side of life.” Ada Blenkhorn (lyrics) and J. Howard Entwisle (music), 1899

It seems like there is news every day about frightening events that are happening in our world. These run the gamut from natural disasters to crime to hatred between countries, individuals, and families. Sometimes I just want to turn off the TV news, ignore the newspaper, and stay in bed with a blanket pulled over my head. The above verse from Philippians tells us what we should fix our thoughts on and those sound like positive thoughts to me. Or we can refer to the lyrics from the 1899 song above, Keep on the Sunny Side. Having a positive attitude can help us through stressful times and it is also good for our health. Positive thinking just means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst.

There is definitely a link between being positive and health. What is happening in the brain has an effect on what happens in the body.  Some studies show that optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of our health and well-being. Other research has found that a positive attitude improves outcomes and life satisfaction for those with traumatic brain injury, stroke, and brain tumors. Positivity also may support immunity, improve heart health, fight stress, strengthen coping mechanisms, lessen depression, improve pain tolerance, and prevent hypertension.

What can I do to enhance positivity in my life?

  • Smile more
    • A University of Kansas study found that smiling—even fake smiling—reduces heart rate and blood pressure during stressful situations. That is good for your heart!
  • Practice reframing
    • Reframing is “telling yourself a different story” about events. For example, instead of stressing about the traffic (I am thinking about trying to get out of the Apache Mall parking lot on the weekend before Christmas), feel grateful that you can afford a car and get to spend extra time listening to music or talking to someone in the car with you.
  • Use positive self-talk
    • Self-talk is the unspoken thoughts that run through our heads.
    • If your self-talk is mostly negative, your outlook is likely more pessimistic. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you respond to things as an optimist.
    • Have you ever thought something like, “How could I be so stupid?” Consider this instead: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else.
  • Surround yourself with positive thinkers
    • The more positivity you have in your life, the more your mood is improved.
  • Humor—take the time to laugh
    • Watch a TV show, read a blog, listen to a comedian, read a book that makes you laugh.
    • Just have some fun!

Does being a positive, optimistic person mean that bad things won’t happen to you? There is no getting around it, bad things will happen to all of us. For example, there may be a time that you will be disappointed or hurt by the actions of others. When this occurs, the negative thinker may assume that the world is out to get them or that all people will eventually let them down. On the other hand, the positive thinker will look at the situation realistically, search for ways that they can improve the situation, and try to learn from their experiences.

Make 2018 the year of positive thinking! Keep on the sunny side of life and improve your health in the process.

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