Men's Health Mental Health Mental Health One Change at a Time

One Change at a Time: A Positive Mindset

One thing I never cease to be amazed at in this line of work is the power of a positive mindset when it comes to health and, at times, even survival. I have seen, more times than I can count, a person with a terminal condition survive until a special day like an anniversary, birthday, or holiday has passed, or until a loved one arrives at their bedside. I have seen, more times than I can count, people overcome incredible challenges with their health and remain productive. That particular challenge I have seen not just in my work but first-hand. Four and a half years ago, my husband was in an accident that essentially blinded him. Ten surgeries and some sophisticated vision correction technology later, he finally returned to full vision just over a month ago. Less than six months ago, we weren’t sure he would ever have his vision back. Despite his unfortunate situation, he kept teaching, kept volunteering, and kept being a great husband, dad, and grandpa. My husband has had a positive mindset for as long as I have known him. And in my experience, the people who carry on despite incredible challenges have a similar mindset. I truly believe a positive mindset is like every habit we’ve formed; it has to be a way of living every day. The great thing about a positive mindset habit is that it will pay off in health benefits, even when it’s not a crisis. As we start the New Year, please consider adding a positive mindset to the changes you make to create better health.

There are several benefits to a positive mindset. People who have a positive mindset deal more effectively with stress because they tend to focus on solutions rather than problems. There is a growing body of research that shows that a positive mindset improves resistance to illness, and as we discussed, it improves resilience in the face of health crises. People with a positive mindset generally live longer, have lower rates of depression, have lower levels of distress and pain, and have a reduced rate of death from stroke, cancer, respiratory conditions, and infections. People with a positive mindset are more focused and less prone to distractions when working on a task. People with a positive mindset also tend to have higher self-esteem. Polls of highly successful people also show that success and a positive mindset are highly linked. Research also links happiness and a positive mindset. There really is power in positive thinking.

Changing from a negative to a positive mindset takes time and practice because you have to break the habit of negativity. I’d like to share a few steps to help you develop a positive mindset.

  • First, think about areas to change. Is there something you usually think negatively about? Think about things like your daily commute, life changes, or a relationship. Start by working on one of those and looking for a way to be more positive. For me, lately, I am dreading our traffic, and it’s becoming increasingly challenging to think positively about it. My positive solution when it comes to traffic is to remind myself that my brother in Houston commutes half the distance I do, and it takes him twice as long on a good day as it takes me on a bad day. I also remind myself that this congestion means we are growing and thriving as a community, which is a very good thing for our local economy.
  • Second, check yourself. Several times a day, evaluate your thoughts. If they are negative, try to find a way to look at the situation more positively. Substitute the negative thought with something positive instead.
  • Third, be open to humor. Seek humor in everyday situations. Laughing at life is a good skill for remaining positive.
  • Fourth, follow a healthy lifestyle. Exercise is a mood booster and stress reducer, while a healthy diet fuels your mind and body and reduces health risks. A good sleep routine also has a myriad of health benefits. All of these contribute in one way or another to making it easier to be positive.
  • Fifth, surround yourself with positive people. It is much easier to be positive when you are supported by positive thinking.
  • Sixth, practice positive self-talk. Don’t say things to yourself or about yourself that you wouldn’t be comfortable saying to someone else. When you start thinking negatively about yourself, evaluate what you are thinking about and remind yourself about the positives.
  • Seventh, practice gratitude. It is hard to be negative when you regularly remind yourself of the things you have to be thankful for in life. Negative thinking is a very easy trap to fall into, and remaining positive takes deliberate effort, but it is something that is achievable for everyone.

I hope you have a wonderful and blessed New Year. Whether you are a resolution-setting person or not, please remember this year to work towards a positive mindset. It’s a change that can make a huge impact on not just your physical health but on your mental health and happiness as well.

Carol Cates

By: Carol A. Cates, MSN, MBA, RN
Chief Nursing Officer
Odessa Regional Medical Center


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