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When a Problem is just an Opportunity

Added on October 4, 2010
If your glass is always half empty you may benefit from a dose of Positivity…

We all know people who see only the obstacles in life. And we also know others who face every challenge with an expectation of success. So why do some of us see the proverbial glass as half full while others see it as half empty? What makes some people see opportunities to learn and grow where others see only possible failure?

The answer is in the attitude. An attitude of positivity may not only change your perception, it will also provide many surprising health benefits. In fact published data suggests that:

  • to achieve good physical health our mental attitude may be as important as diet and exercise
  • the younger we can incorporate a positive attitude to life, the greater the long-term benefits

Although we are all born with a particular disposition, a positive attitude can be learned, and the science of Positive Psychology explores how we can use our strengths and virtues to function at our best, to build resilience, enhance self-esteem and improve our general sense of happiness and well-being.

And we are now learning that there are plenty of other, more tangible reasons to develop positivity:

  • Optimistic people are much less likely to die of heart attacks than pessimists
  • Children who learn how to be optimistic by age 10-12 experience half the rate of depression as they go through puberty
  • Happy teenagers go on to earn substantially more income fifteen years later than less happy teenagers (equating for income, grades, and other obvious factors)
  • University students with low scores for pessimism have half to one-eighth of the risk for developing depression relative to the rest of the student population

Positive emotions such as love, joy, gratitude, interest and hope change not only our mindset but our actual biochemistry! Conversely, negativity drags us down, creates mental blinkers, closes our mind to possibilities. It’s not that you shouldn’t feel any negative emotions; these are, after all, a normal part of human nature. However, the research Barbara Fredrickson (author of “Positivity”) has shown that the ratio of positive to negative emotions that we experience every day is important, and that the tipping point ratio for optimum human functioning is 3:1, ie 3 positive emotions for every 1 negative.

Now if you think you’ve been unfairly dealt a grumpy disposition, the good news is that specific exercises can produce increases in happiness and decreases in depression within six months.

  • You can enhance positivity in your life by creating a mindset that is open, appreciative, curious and kind
    Notice and be mindful of sources of natural beauty and human kindness around you
  • Embrace activities that bring you more joy, a greater sense of peace, such as dancing, hiking, spending more time with your partner, children or pets, thereby investing in things that bring you more positive emotions
  • Keep negativity in check by questioning counter-productive mental habits like jumping to conclusions or ruminating, rehashing the past or worrying about the future

About Judith Lissing

Judith Lissing is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Wellness Coach, with 15 years experience in teaching stress management and meditation. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Immunology and a Masters degree in Public Health, both from the University of NSW. She is also an Associate Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of NSW since 1999. Judith is trained in Wellness Coaching with Wellcoaches U.S. and holds a Diploma in Hypnotherapy. Prior to coaching professionally, Judith held a statewide management role with NSW Health working with all levels of staff across the health sector.

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