Optimism, enthusiasm and a refusal to tolerate boredom are characteristics that are often associated with young people. There is no reason why this should be the case, however, and one of the best ways to remain psychologically young is to cultivate the art of positive thinking.
Foster a sense of optimism
Life brings many experiences: some positive and some negative. As people get older they may fall into the trap of focusing on negative experiences and unwittingly cultivating a sense of pessimism about the future. Pessimism can be further encouraged by media messages that value youth and denigrate aging.
Resolve to clear out your emotional baggage and foster a sense of optimism about the present and the future. Optimism has huge benefits for both psychological and physical health – it can even boost your immunity to illness. Make a list of the life experiences that have affected you positively and negatively. Compare the positive list with the negative list. Ask yourself if anything from the negative list can be discarded or turned into a positive situation. Congratulate yourself on your achievements in life and concentrate on the future rather than the past.
Optimism is cultivated by keeping busy and active. Take up activities that make you feel good about yourself such as yoga, walking or swimming. Learn something completely new. Make sure that you are always working towards new goals and challenges. Set up timetable in which to meet these goals. For example: “by the end of the year I will have converted one room of the house into a studio for painting, reading and music practice”.
Distance yourself from problems
If there are situations and problems in your life that you find inescapable, try to distance yourself from them. Take an overview: tell yourself that this is one episode in your life and it will not last indefinitely. If possible, try to see humor in difficult situations. Imagine that you are a stranger walking past the window of your own house. What would the stranger see? What would the stranger make of the events going on?
Ask yourself whether your current problems will still affect you in a year’s time or in five or ten years? If you can, let go of things that you cannot change and concentrate on the things that you can. Remember that, even if you cannot change a situation, you always have the option of changing the way that you think about it. Cultivate a sense of control.
Have a mental clear-out
One negative stereotype of aging is that our beliefs become more rigid and inflexible as we get older. Challenge this assumption by discarding old beliefs and values. A belief that you have held for years may no longer be useful to you, it may be outdated or experience may have taught you new lessons. Question your beliefs about everything from gender roles to politics. Also question your beliefs about yourself. If you find yourself thinking you are incapable of doing something, ask yourself why. Have a physical clear out as well as a mental and emotional one. If you make the symbolic gesture of throwing out clothes and other possessions that you have not used for years, this will reinforce your feelings of positivism and change.
Enjoy the simple things
Think positively about small things in life as well as big things. Derive pleasure from everyday activities such as cooking meals, bathing and reading a book or newspaper. Immerse yourself in whatever you are doing. Take the time to look at your surroundings. If you always travel by public transport, try making the effort to walk once in a while. Friendships are important in helping us to think positively. Friends provide support, companionship, humor and affection, as well as a valuable buffer against stress.
Lock up your problems
when you are confronted with a negative situation or a problem, try the following visualization technique. Imagine that you have a small wooden box with a lock and key. Visualize the people or situations that are upsetting you and then open the box and carefully place them inside. Lock the box and put the key in your pocket. Place the box in a dark drawer and tell yourself that it stays there until you are ready to take it out and unlock it. when you are ready to deal with it, then do so. In the meantime, if the problem becomes greater, visualize taking the box out of the drawer, giving it a shake, and then replacing it.