Many of us (including me) have to struggle to maintain a physical fitness schedule, but how often do we consider ways to keep our mental fitness healthy and well-exercised? Focusing on positive thinking is a mental exercise we can all take advantage of as part of our daily routine.
I’d like to welcome back Dr. Carla-Krystin (ck) Andrade as a guest blogger on mental fitness. Dr. Andrade is a volunteer Scouter in the Pacific Skyline Council/Discovery District and a member of the BSA Emotional Fitness Task Force. She teaches youth in Scouting and the community how to master the art of positive thinking.
Think Positive, Boost Your Self-Esteem, and Stress Less
“I think I can, I think I can!” Many of us know that saying from The Little Engine that Could. Without realizing it, the Little Blue Engine had mastered one of the secrets of high self-esteem and low stress level – positive thinking.
Here’s how it works. We’ve all feel stressed from time-to-time. Each of us experiences this in our own way: headaches, shoulder tension, stomach pains, anger, anxiety, frustration, etc.
Yet, what we have in common is an overworked stress response or ‘fight or flight’ response that leads to us to experience these signs of stress. If we look closely at what triggers this stress response, we find that the culprit is our thoughts.
Drs. Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman, psychologists who specialize in stress management, explain it simply: when we evaluate a situation and decide that its demands are greater than our coping skills, our negative thoughts trigger the stress response. In other words, if the Little Blue Engine had focused on “I’m just a little engine, I’ve never even been over a mountain before” it would have experienced a stress response.
In addition, this negative self-talk would put a dent in the Little Blue Engine’s self-esteem. Instead, “I think I can,” positive self-talk, boosted the engine’s self-esteem, warded off the stress response, and helped the little train to get over the mountain.
Here are a few practical, positive steps you can begin using for yourself and the youth in your units.
1. Look out for negative thinking.
The next time that you feel stressed, pause and check what you are saying to yourself. Is it self-defeating? Are you focusing on your weaknesses? Are you predicting failure? This is negative self-talk. Help youth in your units by listening to what they say and identifying their negative self-talk.
2. Replace negative self-talk with positive thinking.
Say something positive and encouraging to yourself and push that negative self-talk out of your mind. Remind yourself about the skills that you have. Find something positive in the situation. Or just say, “I know I can!”
3. Create opportunities for success.
Practice success and positive self-talk by breaking difficult tasks into smaller, more achievable steps. Tell yourself that you can successfully complete the task. And reward yourself when you meet the challenge.
Yours in Scouting
Dr. Carla-Krystin “ck” Andrade
We appreciate Dr. Andrade’s counsel and the terrific work she does with our Scouts. I’d like others to contribute their thoughts on how they manage and encourage positive thinking among the young people they work with every day. I’m sure following these tips will be a big help!