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A Positive Attitude is a Healthy Choice

©Glow Images: models for illustrative purposes only

“I am only grouchy and moody on days that end in Y.”

My family and I were walking the sidewalks of the Big Apple eons ago when without warning…pow! A woman smacked right into me, startling us both. Before I could get out an apology, she blurted out, “Watch where you’re walking, child!” I stopped myself before the words could form, “Geez, what a grouch!”

She was a character and decades later I vividly remember her cantankerous demeanor. Her abrupt remark hurt more than the accidental collision.

As I’ve aged I’ve tried to become an adult who is upbeat, no matter how difficult the day. But, there are those times when it seems I, like many of us, just can’t control my disposition.

What kind of mood are you in today? Your response has health implications. Maintaining a positive attitude influences longevity and boosts brain power in older adults.

One study of 660 Ohioans over 50 found people with more positive attitudes about aging lived an average 7.5 years longer than those with more negative outlooks. That’s significant. In fact according to the researchers a positive mood about aging has greater impact on longevity than any one of the following:

Lowered blood pressure

Lowered cholesterol

Exercise

Weight loss

Not smoking

As reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, authors of the study offer two conclusions. One “is that negative self-perceptions can diminish life expectancy.” The other “is that positive self-perception can prolong life expectancy.”

A good attitude does not stop there. Another study supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation and appearing in the journal Cognition and Emotion, connects the power of positive mood with aiding older people in decision making and working memory. And this is important since maintaining their independence – the most important thing to most elderly – is heavily dependent on being able to remember what they need to do and to make sound decisions.

According to Ellen Peters, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at The Ohio State University, “Given the current concern about cognitive declines in the aged, our findings are important for showing how simple methods to improve mood can help improve cognitive functioning and decision performance in older adults, just like they do in younger people.”

You have to consider, with research results like these, the degree of influence one wields over his/her own health and wellness. Thoughts, emotions, outlook are all shown to impact physical and mental health. And control over these factors lies within each of us.

Keeping thoughts and emotions in check and maintaining a bright outlook has long been the purview of religiosity, faith, and spirituality. Turning to God has been a natural inclination for generations of believers when dealing with life’s trials, not only for coping purposes, but also for healing these issues. The concept/principle underneath “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee” – i.e. calm thought focused on the divine results in good – is health enhancing whether it comes from the Bible or some other sacred text.

January is Mental Wellness Month. Promoters of the observance suggest several strategies in helping to preserve mental balance and reduce stress. First on the list is “Develop a positive attitude.” Second: “Avoid negative self-talk”.

What we think and how we act are things we can monitor and adjust. When the daily grind or clashes with others puts us out of sorts we can stop rehearsing the negative impulses and concentrate on the good in our lives. It’s better than being a grouch any day of the week.

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Steve Salt is a syndicated health blogger and a Christian Science teacher and practitioner. This post was originally published on the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Follow him on twitter @saltseasoned.

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