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Mary Alice Noel, RN, Senior Health Strategy Consultant

Building a Positive Mindset

The secret power of stress

Our bodies thrive with a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, so what should be on the menu for the well-being of our minds to survive and thrive through life's ups and downs? Essentially, what flows through the mind sculpts the brain. And you can choose to use your mind to improve the health of your brain! Ingenious, right?

Building a Positive Mindset

Science is showing that there are specific prescriptions for healthy mind health:

  • Deep breathing – practicing deep breathing stimulates brain growth, lowers stress levels and blood pressure, reduces anxiety and pain, improves sleep, and cleanses the lungs.
    Box breathing is a popular practice that uses a 4x4 method -- Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, and rest for 4. Easily used throughout your day!
  • Positive affirmations – using affirmations fires up neural pathways to change habits, beliefs, and thought patterns and can rewire your brain to produce positive automatic thoughts. The benefit of a daily affirmation practice is that the more you repeat something, the stronger the positive connection grows.
    • “If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done” – Thomas Jefferson
    • “It's not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz
    • “I am strong, I am capable, I am enough.” – Anonymous

Raw Coping Power

An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it's going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming!

Our attitude and the coping skills we've built through living, help us frame life challenges and can make an important difference in how we respond to or cope with stress. Building the right tools for our toolbelt is key to moving through the stages of Raw Coping Power – Coping, Resilience, and Thriving – to build solid coping skills that we can depend on when we're under fire. The first step is to believe we each have the innate capacity to cope with stress as well as the ability to learn and grow our raw coping power.

  • Identify the Potential: Understanding and embracing the idea that challenges often help us develop skills, talents, and gifts. They are an opportunity for growth.
  • Evaluate: Pause, reflect, and process information about the situation. Remove yourself emotionally to allow yourself to think through the challenge. Our ability to evaluate is strengthened when we practice a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, social connections, good sleep habits, and healthy eating.
  • Cope: Think through how you could react – which reaction will move you forward, which will hold you back? Look at past reactions, did they work for you? If not, be willing to try a new coping style. Your goal is to choose a healthy coping behavior.
  • Resilience: Can you bounce back from the stress and identify what you learned because of it?

Our end goal is to Thrive! Mindfully practicing the steps above helps lead us to optimal well-being in all aspects of our lives: physical, emotional, social, intellectual, occupational, and spiritual.

The Importance of Goal Setting

Writing things down makes them real and sends a signal to your brain that you're serious about making them happen. It brings clarity about the steps you need to take to move forward by creating a vision in your mind of how you want to be in the future. When goals are written down you are more likely to intellectually engage and emotionally connect with the goal result. In fact, 42% of participants are more likely to achieve their goals just by writing them down. Remember to celebrate along the way!

Thriving and Resilience Workbook

One great step is to evaluate and identify areas of stress in your life by completing the Thriving and Resilience Workbook developed by the Organizational Wellness & Learning Systems. This workbook guides you through five steps related to transforming stress, with the ultimate goal of setting goals for yourself and a positive affirmation.

  1. Stress Area – What area of your life has stress?
  2. Your Response – How can you respond better?
  3. Goal – What goal, intention, or affirmation will work?
  4. A Step – What specific step can you commit to?
  5. Infuse – Infuse your affirmation with relaxation.

Remember these wise words from the Buddha: “The mind is everything. What you think, you become.”

Mary Alice Noel leads the Medica Well-Being Academy, an educational program offered to employers with an interest in beginning a well-being program or seeking to enhance their existing well-being program. This content was adapted from a recent session of the Academy.