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Hail to Positive Thinking Day
Sept. 13 was Positive Thinking Day. If you missed it, you certainly are not alone. I did, as well. This day, dedicated to concentrating on all things positive in one's life, was established in 2003, thanks to the efforts of Kirsten Harrell, a psychologist who credits the effectiveness of positive thinking for helping her deal with chronic pain. Her story is not an unusual one. After being told by doctors that conventional modern medicine had little assistance to provide for her condition — except more surgery — she decided to turn to alternative healing systems. In this quest, she discovered the power of the mind-body connection and the effect that one's attitude can have on health.
"These discoveries awakened a passion and a calling to help others live more positively and tap into their fullest potential for health, happiness and success," Harrell says on her website.
In a world so immersed in negativity and cynicism, finding a day to commemorate the many rewards that can be found in thinking positively certainly seems in order. That it received so little attention only further supports this need.
So for all of us who missed it, I am recommending a do-over — that we all find the time to dedicate a day (or more) to exploring and contemplating the positive.
We could do worse than to start by taking some advice from the godfather of positive thinking, Norman Vincent Peale. The author of 46 books, in 1952 he wrote the international best-seller "The Power of Positive Thinking." He was the 1984 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, bestowed by Ronald Reagan for his contributions to theology. Among Peale's words of advice:
"The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised."
Without belaboring the point, let me add my own testimonial to the power of positive thinking and the effects it has had on my own life.
I have always viewed life's journey as presenting us with two paths — a positive one and a negative one. On the positive path, you don't wait for things to happen; you make them happen by setting goals and working hard to achieve them, no matter how long it takes.
Follow the negative path and you are overcome by feelings that you can never accomplish anything and that nothing good will come your way. I have always despised the word "can't." When it is allowed to become the operative word in your mind, it results in self-fulfilling failure. The person who says "I can" has already started on a path toward success.
Yet we live in a world where we are surrounded by negative attitudes, words and thoughts. There will always be someone there before us to tell us we can't achieve something we want. These naysayers will tell you that you're not big enough or strong enough, your skin is not the right color, your religion is wrong, you're not qualified or you're overqualified.
The challenge is to learn to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. As challenging as it might seem, it is possible. According to the Mayo Clinic, one way is to start by following one simple rule: Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to someone else. Throughout the day, stop and evaluate what you're thinking. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about yourself.
Be fortified by the proven fact that being happy and optimistic can prolong your life, help you manage stress, lower your risk of death from cardiovascular disease and even help protect you from the common cold, according to the Mayo Clinic. A commitment to positive thinking can be the first step in putting us on this path — and it doesn't cost you a thing.
One way to start in this process of positive thinking is by becoming aware of your automatic go-to reactions to comments. Once you become aware of your tendencies, you can start changing your behavior where needed.
Look at the following word: opportunitynowhere.
What do you see? Do you see "opportunity now here" or "opportunity nowhere"?
According to Dr. Joffrey Suprina, national dean for Argosy University's College of Behavioral Sciences and the author of the above test, it's important to not beat yourself up if you find that you tend toward negative thoughts. "Positive thinkers don't only see the positive," he noted. "They realize that the negative exists but that we can choose where to focus."
"It's a little-known fact that we don't always have to believe what our minds are telling us," Bobbi Emel, a California-based psychotherapist, told CNN. "We become fused with our own inner workings to the extent that they inform how we feel and act."
The point Emel was making is that by observing your negative thoughts instead of judging, believing or acting on them, you are more easily empowered to let them go. Learning to focus and redirect ourselves on the positive is what gives us true grit to face our problems and to stick with what it is we really want to achieve. It is what gives life its gusto.
I was 36 when I decided to transition from being a martial arts teacher to being an actor. To some people, I was a has-been before I started. Had I accepted their judgments, I would never have made that first film. And based on my reviews, I would never have made another. But I knew that with enough time, determination and hard work — along with a faith in God and a positive mental attitude — I would succeed. That has been my story. I am continuing to write it — with the support of my loving wife, Gena, and two blessed growing children.
I encourage you to think positively as you write your story.
Write to Chuck Norris (email@example.com) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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