how a positive attitude can help you achieve your health and fitness goals

Posted by Fitium Team, 08/09/2012

Today we have a special guest post from the renowned Dr. Erin K Stair, from the Blooming Wellness practice in New York.
Dr. Erin helps her clients get healthier, fitter and happier through a pioneering approach integrating humor-holistic coaching.

Science has proven that positive thinking can effectively reduce our stress response, improve our immune system’s response and improve our overall physical health.  I don’t think anyone can deny that when we think positive thoughts or perform positivity-enhancing activities, we feel better about ourselves, our situations, are less depressed and take more goal-oriented actions.  Those goal-oriented actions include steps to become fitter and healthier overall.

Since we live in the age of heightened criticism and in a world where speaking negatively about our body images is rampant, it’s tough to maintain a positive attitude about maintaining our fitness goals.  “I’ll never be able to lose weight,”  “I’m too fat to go to the gym, because people will laugh at me,” “I’ll just smoke and starve myself to stay thin,” “I’ll always be out of shape,” etc. – those kinds of negative statements haunt 95% of our brains.

What’s even more concerning about negative self-talk is that science has proven negative emotion has a much stronger and lasting impact than positive emotion: People who have a high negative to positive emotion ratio tend to be more depressed, more unfit, unhealthier, more stressed and are slow, if ever, to meet their health and wellness goals.

Because of negative emotion’s impactful nature, it’s extremely important for us all to become “positivity warriors” and actively cultivate positive emotions in our lives. Once we start to do that, we’ll not only become healthier and happier people, but we’ll look and feel better too!

Below is a list of 10, easy things anyone can try to build more positive emotion into their lives, feel better, and increase the chances of success in reaching health and fitness goals.

Write down things you are grateful for

When we are depressed and overwhelmed with negativity we tend to forget all the wonderful things we are grateful for.  Yes, we can think about these things till the cows come home, but writing them down and seeing them in writing is a much more meaningful task. Also, after listing them on a sheet of paper, save it in a safe place, so when a “blue” moment creeps up on you, you can retrieve your list and quickly remind yourself of everything you have to be grateful for.

Call, Don’t Text

When we’re feeling blue, we tend to isolate ourselves and either avoid contacting or minimize contacting others.  A commonly utilized way to minimize contact in today’s digital world is choosing to text our friends and loved ones over calling them.  When you have a choice, work on calling them instead of texting.  Relying on texting as your chosen form of intimacy really is a barrier to intimacy. Talking to someone is a warmer interaction, is cathartic and therapeutic in itself, and hopefully the person on the other end of the phone can give you a better and more positive way of looking at your situation thereby making you feel better on the inside.

Utilize Humor on Your Social Websites

We live in the age of Twitter and Facebook, so don’t hesitate to use your social media pages as ways to spread humor and laughter.  Humor is a huge part of positive psychology and the act of laughing instantly produces endorphins, natural antidepressants, in our brains which subsequently make us feel better.  An easy way to use humor online is to do an internet search for funny pictures, jokes or sayings. Post them to your twitter feeds or on your Facebook walls. You’ll laugh, your friends and followers will laugh and as a bonus you’ll become more popular since people tend to flock to those who make them laugh.

Laugh or Smile Even When There is Nothing to Laugh or Smile About

The beauty behind Laughter Yoga, invented by Dr. Kataria, M.D., and a practice that combines both laughter and deep breathing exercises, is that we get the same benefits from laughter whether it is a genuine laugh or a forced laugh.  Those benefits include a boost in our brain’s endorphins.

So when you’re feeling glum and can’t find one thing to laugh about, make yourself laugh.  Usually fake laughter leads to genuine laughter, too.

The other thing you can do is smile.  Darwin wrote that the, “The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.” That means if you smile, you’ll intensify a feeling of joy, but if you frown, you’ll intensify one of sadness. So smile!

Interestingly enough, several studies were conducted on women who received botox and depression. Researchers noticed that they were less depressed, and it was not because they felt more attractive, because they didn’t.  They were less depressed, because botox inhibited their ability to frown.

Write Negatives into Positives

This is another writing exercise.  Get a sheet of paper and divide it into 2 columns. Label one column “NEGATIVE” and the other column “POSITIVE.”  Write down a negative thought in the NEGATIVE column. An example is, “I’m feeling really unattractive and lonely right now.”   Then, in the POSITIVE column, turn the negative thought into a positive one.  “I’m healthy, look great and grateful for the wonderful people I have met in my life.”

Tear Up a Negative Thought

If you’re obsessing about something that’s really bothering you or making you feel depressed, tear it up and get rid of it! Write it down on a piece of scrap paper and then tear it up. It’s a very decisive, cathartic action.  Afterward, make a promise to yourself that you will no longer obsess over the negative thought, and then, eventually, clean the scraps of paper off the floor!

Avoid Emotional Vampires

Emotional Vampires are those people who insist on being negative and suck the positivity right out of us.  When you’re feeling blue, the last thing you need to do is hang around Debbie or Donny Downers.  Negativity is contagious. It’s like a virus, and one you don’t need to catch when you’re already down in the dumps.


There’s so many opportunities out there to volunteer.  Help someone less fortunate than yourself and magically see how much better you feel about yourself and life in general.  Get outside yourself. That’s key.

Make a Positivity Music List

Make a list of songs in your I-Tunes library or a on a CD that consists of uplifting tunes that make you feel good. Label it your Positivity Song List, and listen to it when you’re feeling down. The power of music is endless.

Simply, Move

When we’re feeling negative, we often want to be alone, hide in our bed covers and remain stagnant.  Negativity is like a form of mental and physical paralysis. It’s almost the antithesis of moving.  That’s why we should make ourselves move. Schedule an activity if it helps, go for a walk, dance in your living room, whatever. Just move.  If the movement classifies as a form of exercise, even better, since exercise is a natural antidepressant with obvious health benefits.  But also, by moving, you are increasing your chances of coming across positive opportunities, still being mindful of the negative ones, that will ultimately boost your spirits and make you feel better about yourself, about accomplishing your goals and life in general.

Dr. Erin K Stair, M.D.

West Point graduate
New York University’s Global Health Leadership Program