Accentuate the Positive

March 17th, 2014

This is the first of an alphabetical look at strategies for successful aging.

I need to stress the importance of a positive attitude as we age. My grandmother always said, my attitude was up to me (read that as all of us). In her wisdom she said, “The way things look, depends on the way you look at things.” Think about it.

Every day we make choices about seeing the glass half full or half empty. We can think positive or negative thoughts for just about everything in life. When I was single, I traveled once with a woman who complained about everything. It is too hot (cold). The bed is too soft (hard). This place is too crowded (empty). No matter what we did or where we went, she found fault and spoiled the time for me (and possibly – although not necessarily, herself). Consider the “operative word” in the third sentence of this paragraph. I chose to not travel with her again. That happens. We learn to avoid people who look at the world in a negative way. Their negativity can rub off on us—we don’t want that—trust me.

A dear friend who had the wisdom gained from living many summers told me about the theory of “basement and balcony people.” Basement people are like the woman I traveled with once. They see everything through a negative lens. Not only do they make things miserable for themselves, but for those they encounter. Although, having taught this concept many times, some participants argue that basement people don’t necessarily see themselves in that light. It is after all, the way they’ve always done it. Balcony people, on the other hand, are those who pull you up—who cheer you on—who see the good side of things in life. These are the folks we gravitate to. These are the folks we like to be around. Balcony people seek and find the silver lining in just about every experience. No matter how awful something may seem at first, they are willing to look beyond the obvious and consider what good things may happen because of this event.

So, what does this have to do with successful aging? We know that smiling affects us in mind, body and spirit. In my classes, I invite participants to sing “You are my sunshine.” Inevitably, they are smiling as they sing. We sing chorus, verse and then I ask them to sing the chorus again with a frown. They find they cannot do it. A positive attitude affects every aspect of who you are. So the next time you are having a horrible, awful, rotten, miserable, nasty day (it happens) try singing, “You are my sunshine” with a smile and see how it changes your attitude even if only for a few minutes.

Attitudes activate the production chemicals in your body. These chemicals affect every nook and cranny. Positive attitudes produce chemicals called endorphins—feel good hormones. Since I am not a physician, I do not have the credentials to talk about the effects of these hormones. If you want to find out more, ask your doc or search endorphins. Obviously negative chemicals affect your body as well. Cortisol is the chemical result of negative/stress filled thoughts. You want as little of that as possible.

Try this—for one day, try smiling or saying hello to people you meet. When you smile at someone, you make yourself and the other person feel good. Spread the positive attitudes. A brief comment can also make someone’s day like "great hair,” “pretty dress,” or “cool jacket”. It works and costs you nothing. While mall walking one winter morning, I passed a woman with beautiful white hair. As I passed her, I simply said, “Beautiful hair.” Her face lit up with a smile. It took about two seconds. On my next go round, I passed her again, this time with (I assumed) her husband. I heard her say to him, “That’s the woman who said I have beautiful hair—she made my day.” It is easy. It works. Attitudes are contagious. Is your attitude worth sharing? Change your world and possibly the world of others by a simple, free, and beneficial sharing of a positive attitude.

Every smile—positive comment— “Hello,” or "Have a great day” can make a positive difference in your day and who knows how many others. Just do it!

Thinking ministry—smile at people in your church. Smile at those you know and give a smile to someone you don’t know—it will help visitors feel that this is a friendly church. Some will benefit from your smile and carry it with them all day. Others will wonder what you are smiling about.

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