Positive mental attitude – is it all it’s cracked up to be? Can it really make a difference?
Simple answer – YES!
I always remember when I was younger and something went wrong, being told to stay positive, chin up or look on the bright side and of course when something’s knocked you down that’s normally the last thing you want to hear. So does it help at all? Or does someone saying get up and try again help? If you take it personally and grumble under your breath, probably not.
Now bear with me because I’m going to use some science and two big words I normally struggle to spell but it’s worth it to understand a little more about how we work.
Within our brains we have neurotransmitters and these are basically messengers sending signals from one place to another. The next big word is catecholamines. Catecholamines are stress hormones/neurotransmitters (hormones being ‘messengers’ around the rest of the body) that are related to stress. So before I get any deeper I want to make sure we know what we are talking about when I say stress. Coming home from the office stressed out, having an argument with your partner or even paying bills, this is what most people associate with stress. However I’m talking about it in a much broader sense. An injury, a workout down the gym or lack of sleep – all these things have the same affect on your body, they release catecholamines.
Now if I had started with this next sentence, more of you would have read it with a lot more scepticism. Not only can your physical body affect your mind, but your mind can affect your physical body and catecholamine’s can play a huge roll! Stress hormones help to burn fat and build muscle, they also raise blood pressure, increase your heart rate and increase blood flow preparing the body for danger (have you ever had an accident sat down and you can’t stop your hand from shaking and somebody’s mentioned an ‘adrenalin rush’?). So what’s bad about all this? Sounds pretty good? Yes, in small measures they can be good but it’s when there’s too much that we get issues. They can cause even more lack of sleep, dramatic weight gain or even weight loss in some people, as well as many other issues, each leading onto more issues of their own. So if that’s what stress hormones can do, how about stress neurotransmitters? Needless to say it’s a downward spiral and in today’s world I would be surprised if you didn’t know somebody that is or was on anti depressants.
Not wanting to dwell on the negative, this is talking about positive thinking after all! Neurotransmitters’ control virtually all of the body’s functions so it’s a good idea to make sure their not running off the leash. Thoughts have been proven to affect neurotransmitters. Not just that daydream of throwing your computer out of the office window but every thought that goes through your head! Resilient people actually resist illnesses, cope with adversity, and recover quicker because they are able to maintain a positive attitude and manage their stress effectively. By managing our attitudes and stress levels, we actually control neurochemical transmissions in the body. The power of a healthy attitude therefore cannot be underestimated in the body-mind connection.
Feeling stressed out and positive thinking isn’t doing the trick? Take 15 minutes and go for a casual stroll. Make sure it’s a casual pace; remember walking too fast can put stress on the body but a casual walk will lower cortisol levels (a stress hormone) and if it’s a sunny day the light will have a positive effect on your neurotransmitters too along with a dose of vitamin D.