Active Minds: Positive thinking combats high stress levels

LEAH RUDGE, Contributing writer

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This November, Active Minds is celebrating self-care month. As the semester comes to an end and stress levels increase, everyone could use a positive little pick me up to get them to winter break. In fact, researchers have found that positive thinking is linked to an increased life span, lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, greater resistance to the common cold and overall better psychological and physical well-being.

One theory about the connection between positivity and health is that positive thinking leads to better coping skills when dealing with stress. With better coping skills, we are able to decrease the negative effects of stress to our health, such as headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, problems sleeping, decreased immune function, irritability, memory problems, loss of concentration, constant worrying and more.

Active Minds is dedicating this month to ways you can take care of your mind and body. Thinking positively is one way to decrease stress and increase positive mental health. One of the ways Active Minds is spreading positive vibes, which you may have noticed if you frequent McKinley’s coffee station, is by sharing some of our favorite positive quotes.

Here are some more tips on how to increase the positivity in your life:

1. Focusing on the present: Instead of worrying about that mistake you made yesterday, focus on the good things that are happening in your life now. Be optimistic about the future.

2. Surround yourself with positivity: Whether this means having supportive people in your life or hoarding our coffee cup sleeves. When we make our lives about the good stuff, there is not only less room to dwell on the bad, but we can also retrain our brains to make more positive connections.

3. Be grateful for the smallest things: Even on the most terrible, no good, very bad days, there is always at least one good thing that happened. Find that good thing and be thankful that you have it, because someone else is probably worse off than you.

4. Smile: We all know the phrase “fake it till you make it,” but did you know that studies show that smiling, whether or not it is genuine, releases “happy chemicals” like endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin in your brain, actually making you more happy?

5. Treat yourself: This should be self-explanatory, but here’s an example. Failed a test? Go get loaded nachos from McKinley’s. This doesn’t mean you should drown your feelings in your nacho cheese forever, but it can help you put yourself in a better frame of mind so you can get back on track and do better next time.

6. Exercise: Work off those treats you just treated yourself to and hit the gym. Research shows that regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. It will also tire you out and improve your sleep habits, which is often disrupted by stress. Also focusing on your favorite exercise jams or how many reps you are doing takes your mind off all of the negative things you could be thinking about otherwise. You can also try yoga, a great form of exercise that has a direct focus on being present and meditating.

These tips are not the panacea for conquering mental health issues. Anxiety and other mental illnesses are serious diagnoses and shouldn’t be treated lightly. If the negative thoughts or stresses are too overwhelming, you can always reach out to a friend, professor, or counselor. However, these simple tips can help everyone at least a little bit.

As one of the quotes on our coffee sleeves says, “Put your positive pants on this month.”

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