By Susan Bianchi, MS Health & Wellness Coach
Yes, it sounds too simple, but the act of smiling creates a positive boost for your nervous system. Neurological changes in the brain occurring through the facial expression of a smile boost your attitude, release endorphins and serotonin, lower stress and positively impact your immune system. Forced, fake smiles don’t have quite the same effect, so make sure it is a genuine smile through your face and eyes. The added benefit of smiling is that it is contagious and a free gift to someone else. Smiling at your co-worker, the sales clerk, your server or just saying hello with a smile to a passerby can create a boost for everyone involved. Instead of helping a YouTube video go viral, make your smile go viral.
It is a proven fact that those who begin their day focusing on gratitude tend to be happier and more content in their daily lives. Being grateful reconnects and reminds us of life’s gifts and all the magical things we so often take for granted. Writing gratitudes in a journal is a powerful tool to start the day in an inspired light. Keep it simple by listing three to five different things each day. Expanding your awareness of the countless gifts will be a surefire way to uplift your attitude and warm your heart.
Taking a break from the daily barrage of tragedies, disasters and crimes pervasive in most news outlets can be a positive boost for your outlook. National, world and even local news stories tend to focus on the negative events happening, creating a “doom and gloom” mindset. You may think this has no effect; however, the daily consumption of this type of news can impact your subconscious and contribute to a more pessimistic, skewed view of the world. Skipping the mainstream news can help change perspective and allow for a more optimistic view.
If you are a news junkie or would like an infusion of positive hopeful news, websites like dailygood.org, huffingtonpost.com/good-news or zenhabits.net are positive resources to get you inspired.
Random acts of kindness are a simple yet profound way to boost your outlook as well as those around you. Doing good for others has both psychological and physiological rewards. Those who perform kind acts are happier, feel better about themselves and are more optimistic about life. Interestingly, not only do kindhearted acts uplift the giver and the recipient, studies have shown that just witnessing altruistic acts can have a similarly positive impact on a passerby.
There is also a chemical reaction that goes beyond the emotional warmth you feel when doing something nice for others. Acts of kindness cause the release of the health-boosting hormone oxytocin, which releases nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps lower blood pressure, boosts the immune system, increases circulation and improves oxygen flow to the brain.
Doing simple acts of kindness is one way to give yourself a boost inside and out and boost those around you.
In the words of renowned life coach Tony Robbins, “emotion is change in motion.” A surefire way to keep a positive attitude is to get up and move. Changing our emotional state means changing our physical state. Exercise and movement release the “feel good” endorphins in the brain, giving you an emotional boost. Regular exercise has consistently been shown to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve mood and help build self-confidence.
Remember that improving your emotional state doesn’t have to wait until the “workout.” Getting up and walking away from your work area, waving your arms around in a powerful gesture or dancing around for 15 to 20 seconds can do wonders for improving your state. Be creative and have fun.
Messy drawers, a crowded closet or the nagging pile of papers on the desk can all contribute to feeling overwhelmed, stressed and fatigued. Unused clothes, shoes, old files and “stuff” create an enervating weight to your life, emotionally weighing you down. By clearing out the clutter, you can eliminate the weight and get an instant lift in your attitude. Addressing clutter can seem daunting, so start small and keep it simple. Pick one drawer at a time to tackle or use a 15- to 30-minute time limit to keep it manageable, fun and productive. When you are finished, pause and acknowledge what you have accomplished. You can get an extra lift knowing that some discarded items you have given away can have a second life and be appreciated by others in need.
What we focus on is what we attract into our lives, so why not take advantage of the third of the day spent sleeping? Get a head start on your day by setting a positive affirmation the night before as you fall asleep. Setting clear affirming intentions on how you will feel when you awake allows your subconscious to focus and helps create that reality. “I awake energized and excited for my day regardless of how long I sleep” or “I awake inspired and joyful” can help set the stage for a positive productive day. Find the intention that is meaningful for you. Remember to keep the phrase positive and in the present tense. Also be sure to omit the phrase “hope to” so there are no seeds of doubt for your subconscious.
Jim Rohn, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, says “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Social connections are an essential component in emotional health and well-being. Who you surround yourself with can greatly influence your outlook both positively and negatively. Take a quick assessment on which relationships have the most positive impact as well as which are most draining. Look to limit the amount of time or interaction with those that are more negative. Some of these relationships may be unavoidable—like family and co-workers—so be mindful to balance out with the more uplifting influences.
Doing the same routine repeatedly can create a mental and emotional rut. By mixing things up and looking for opportunities to try something new, you can add some zest to your daily life. Look for opportunities to try something new. Step out of your routine and try a class in tai chi or pottery, order a chai tea instead of your usual coffee or even take a different road to work. By adding variety and creating new experiences and connections, you will stimulate your brain and energize your spirit.
It may be tempting to grab the afternoon sweet treat or comfort carb for an energy boost, but don’t succumb. The influx of sugar will create a temporary lift and spike blood sugar levels which will be quickly followed by a crash. That crash results in feeling more fatigued and lethargic, driving you towards caffeine or another cycle of sugar. Sugar also increases the inflammatory response, increasing aches and pains in the body. Keeping a positive outlook when achy and fatigued is a challenge you can avoid. Be extra diligent in eating clean, nutrient-dense (vegetable-rich) meals that will help to keep your energy levels balanced and your outlook bright.
Employing any one or all of these ideas is sure to keep you on a positive track and will more than likely have a positive spillover effect on those around you.