Senior Living Blog

Can You Change Your Life By Changing Your Thoughts?

November 20, 2018

illustration of a group of people facing one way with one person facing the opposite way

This is the time of year when most Americans take some time to give thanks for the positive things in their lives. What would happen if we practiced gratitude more frequently? If we woke up each morning and gave thanks for the opportunity to experience a brand new day?

Norman Vincent Peale, author of the book The Power of Positive Thinking, once said, “Change your thoughts and you can change your world.” Can we really alter our future by changing the way we think?

A study from Yale University showed that negative beliefs about aging may be linked to brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease – specifically, people who had more negative thoughts about aging had a significantly greater number of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, two conditions associated with Alzheimer’s. On the flip side, another study from Yale demonstrated that positive attitudes about aging could extend one’s life by 7-1/2 years – a greater lifespan gain than low cholesterol, low blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, or even from not smoking.

Repetitive thoughts – such as ““Old age comes with pain and suffering” – form neural pathways in the brain. The more you think them, the more ingrained they become in your psyche and your unconscious mind will continue playing these thoughts over and over until they become true.

Studies have shown that you can “rewire” your brain by actively thinking positive thoughts and focusing your attention on the good things in your life. Positive thinking doesn’t mean you are constantly happy or that you ignore life’s unpleasantness – it simply means you approach life’s challenges in a more positive and productive way. For instance, if you receive a diagnosis of a potentially life-threatening disease, instead of reacting with fear, take a step back and allow yourself to be grateful for everything you still have and seek out support from people who can help you deal with your current state of being, both physically and emotionally.

Here are some ways you can help “reprogram” your brain into thinking more positively.

Be conscious of your thoughts
Your thoughts are very powerful. The first step to reprogram your brain is to be conscious of them. If you find yourself thinking “Life is hard,” notice what you’re thinking and choose another thought to replace it. You may choose to shift your thoughts to “Life is hard and I continue to experience joy every day” or “Life is a blast and the challenges I face simply make me stronger.” If you change your thoughts, you can form new pathways in the brain which may, in turn, change your experience of life.

Practice gratitude
We all have something to be thankful for. Your job is simply to discover those things and give thanks for them. Once you start focusing on the good things in your life, you’ll start attracting more and more things to be thankful for. It’s always good to begin your day with gratitude. When you get up in the morning, acknowledge the beauty of the day and all you have to be grateful for. When you start your day with gratitude, you’ve wired your brain to notice the good in your life.

Surround yourself with people and things that support a positive attitude
People can take on other people’s energy without even being aware of it. If you find yourself feeling negative, find some positive people to hang out with. Read a book with a positive message or listen to music that inspires you.

Categories: Healthy Aging