by Kate Walsh Soucheray, Ed.D., M.A.T., M.A., LMFT
In this unprecedented time, we must remember to hold fast to positive thinking that leads us and sustains us. Our thoughts are fundamental to our sense of well-being, and as we participate in the living presence of the Holy Spirit, we will be blessed and supported in our efforts to remain positive and hopeful.
According to psychologists at the Mayo Clinic, maintaining a positive attitude is one of the most important thing human beings can do during a turbulent time. It is when we lose our focus on a future filled with hope that we begin to experience more depression and anxiety, thereby contributing to dangerously high levels of fear and uncertainty.
Understand the Power of Thoughts
A few suggestions the Mayo Clinic offers are that we make sure that our self-talk is positive and uplifting. If we tolerate negative thinking during normal times, it will be exponentially more difficult to overcome negativity during stressful times. These psychologists suggest working to become a “glass is half full” kind of person. If you tend toward negative thinking, challenge those thoughts when you notice them and turn them into more positive thoughts.
Studies demonstrate that people who think more positively seem to manage stress more effectively because they don’t allow negative thinking to get a foothold, which can create higher levels of distress and reduce our immune responses to simple ailments, such as the common cold. Thinking more positively helps our bodies fight off infections, whereas negative thinking does not offer a protective shield when we are exposed to these illnesses, which can make it more difficult to remain positive when we feel physically compromised.
A few indications that negative thinking has taken over your approach to life include magnifying the difficult experiences in life, which happen to everyone, but seeing them as more all-encompassing and life-threatening. Other indicators that negativity has become your predominant way of thinking include personalizing, or making the bad situation all about you; catastrophizing, or seeing the absolute worst in the situation; and polarizing, or seeing things as all good or all bad, with nothing in the middle.
Start Changing Today
In order to develop a more positive approach to thinking, here actionable items:
- Be Grateful. Each evening when you are preparing for bed and saying your prayers, take time to be grateful for something good that happened during the day. Perhaps you want to buy a gratitude journal and focus on the good things that happen each day and write down one or two things that made you feel hopeful.
- Check Morning Thoughts. When you arise in the morning, be aware of your first thoughts, and if there is any negativity in them, do not get angry with yourself, but rather use those moments to readjust your thinking toward more positivity.
- See the Good in People. Determine that today you will work to see the good in each person you encounter. See that things happen that have nothing to do with you and work to not make things bigger and worse than they are.
- Read Positive Things. Surround yourself with positive news reports and technology feeds that lift you up rather than pull you down.
- Renew Your Faith. In light of all that happened in 2020, we must maintain our belief that God is in control and that we do not know His ways or His thoughts. He expects us to have faith in His goodness and His plan. This is a time for renewal of all we know of our faith and the sacraments. It is a time to return to these roots and to fortify our efforts to maintain our positive attitude and believe that things will get better and will work out for the best.