While walking around our local pond this morning, I passed an older couple near my age walking their dog. As I was passing (from a COVID-safe distance), the man said, “I appreciate your PMA!” I asked the man (whose name I later learned was Greg) what he meant by PMA. He stopped and told me it referred to a positive mental attitude. He’d observed that I was smiling. As an elder woman, I have learned that smiling is a simple, yet powerful act that frequently opens opportunities to connect with people. However, I don’t intentionally practice having a positive mental attitude to draw positivity in return. Perhaps there is some truth to the idea, but I cannot say it is what motivates me to express happiness.
What is PMA?The idea of cultivating a positive mental attitude was first introduced in Napoleon Hill’s 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich. Hill connected our thoughts with our minds and our ability to take action. He allegedly suggested that a “positive mental attitude…in every situation in one’s life attracts positive changes and increases achievement.” In 2006, Rhonda Byrne wrote the widely popular book, The Secret. The general idea behind this book was the belief that our thoughts (and mindset) will attract what we are focusing on. As an example, if our thoughts are focused on positive outcomes, then that is what we will draw to ourselves. Again, this author suggests that a positive mental attitude attracts positive things. I do tend to smile frequently—especially when I am enjoying a pleasant walk. I also work at maintaining a positive attitude—regardless of circumstances. I also think of myself as a pragmatist—I am upbeat and positive, but accept that no matter how much I may wish otherwise, life will continue to have challenges and difficulties that are common to all of us.
Smiling and Emotional ContagionNonetheless, I do understand that emotions can be contagious. Studies have suggested that our mirror neurons will mimic emotions around us. When someone smiles, we are often compelled to smile in return. Also, when we smile, we are jump-starting our own positive feelings. Smiling is a very simple way to feel good. During challenging times, it is easy to tell ourselves that we don’t feel like smiling—we’ve got nothing to smile about. I know that feeling. But that’s when I know how important it is to take a walk, listen to upbeat or inspirational music, or spend time with someone who is positive. Then, once we’ve recharged our own batteries, we can help recharge others.
Influence of the EldersWe are in the midst of some challenging times—COVID, political divisions, fires and smoke, the economy, and so forth. We have lived through numerous challenges in our lifetimes. We know it is possible to get through difficult times because we’ve done it plenty of times. A gentle smile coupled with a word of encouragement can be a very powerful way to influence others during periods of difficulty.