It's not easy to be around people who are downers. But if you're the type who sees the bad in everything, you might be hurting more than just your social life. Several studies have revealed that those who think positive actually live better and longer than those whose glass is perpetually half empty. Changing the way you think can reduce stress, boost your immune system, lower your risk of coronary artery disease, help you breathe easier if you suffer from lung problems, and overall feel better and healthier.

Even if you've been a grumbler or a worrier from day one, take heart. Positive thinking is something that can be learned. You simply need to challenge your negative self-talk with rational thoughts, which will translate into a positive attitude. Sound impossible? It's not. Here's how to get started:

  • Several times a day, stop and focus on your thoughts. Are they negative? Perhaps you're guilty of filtering, or weeding out all of the positive aspects of a situation and focusing on the negatives. Maybe your boss gave you a generally good performance review but mentioned one thing you could be doing better. Do you go home and obsess about that one thing without reminding yourself that your boss praised you? Instead of telling yourself you're a terrible employee, tell yourself you're a valuable addition to the team, and you'll be even better once you master that new procedure
  • Be wary of personalizing situations. If a friend cancels plans with you, don't assume it's because of something you did. Remind yourself there are many reasons she may have cancelled, including illness or a work deadline
  • Are you a catastrophizer? Do you refrain from inviting over people you'd like to get to know because you fear the worst, such as serving them a dish that's inedible or somehow making a fool of yourself? Instead of creating imaginary disasters for yourself, tell yourself you'll have a lovely evening with new friends, even if something is slightly over- or undercooked.

Here are other common negative thoughts and their corresponding positive ones:

  • I can't do this—I've never done it before. Turn it into: This is a chance to try something new.
  • I have absolutely no time for this. Turn it into: How can I rearrange my schedule to allow for this?
  • No one ever calls or writes to me. Turn it into: I'll make contact with an old friend today.

Optimism isn't something that will come overnight. But with practice and determination, you can turn around those pessimistic musings and embrace a more joyous, healthier life.