By Peggy Sullivan

If you’ve had your fill of cold gray weather, the pandemic, and a challenging social and political landscape, it’s time to find a way to transform how you feel. How? Develop a positive mindset. I call it transformative positivity.

Not only is developing a positive mindset possible, but, according to some, it is a matter of life or death. Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers found that people with a family history of heart disease who had a positive outlook were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within five to 25 years, than individuals with a negative outlook. Researchers also suspect that people who are more positive may be better protected against the inflammatory damage of stress. They also say that hope and positivity help people make better health and life decisions and focus more on long-term goals, whereas negative emotions can weaken immune response. Put simply, negative thinking breeds negativity, leads to negative self-talk, and a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. Convince yourself that your life is awful, and it will surely be awful. Choosing the alternative is so much more preferable and productive.

This year, I am on a mission to spread transformative positivity through teaching people how to choose optimism over negativity, and to ask them to join me in a supportive community that fosters positive thinking. Think it can’t be done? Remember, like everything else, being positive, grateful, and learning to experience happiness is a choice that is strengthened with practice. Not only does it affect your professional health, but also it affects your personal life, your relationships, and your physical health. Don’t know where to start? Here are some tips:

What are your first waking thoughts? Starting your day with positive thinking is crucial. For example, instead of not wanting to face another day, think, “I am strong, I got this, no matter what life throws my way.”

What are you grateful for? Think about it. There has to be something — family, friends, a full refrigerator, your health, your pet, the aroma of fresh coffee. There’s always something. Think about keeping a gratefulness journal.

Remove negative thoughts. Most negative thoughts are based on fear of the future. Write them down to slow their momentum. You’ll soon realize they are a waste of precious energy.

Be here now. Focus on what is, rather than what ifs. You’ll be surprised at the simple things that give you pleasure — your cat purring, a sunny day, the scent of a candle.

The only way to achieve a positive outlook is to start now. Doing so will help you cultivate more meaningful relationships, better health, greater success, gratitude, and creative approaches to problem-solving.

Peggy Sullivan is a women’s leadership speaker, mindset expert, presenter, and founder of the non-profit organization, SheCAN! She is the author of the book Happiness is Your Responsibility, and the recipient of numerous awards. She was featured in Forbes Women, FOX, ABC radio, and more. Learn more and purchase her book at Follow Peggy on LinkedIn and Instagram.