“Happiness” has sparked a lot of public curiosity in recent years. Interestingly, the spark came from a formal discipline of psychology that studies happiness and mental well-being, called Positive Psychology. It deals with:
- positive emotions (like hope and optimism),
- positive experiences (like wins and successes), and
- positive institutions (like good marriages and great places of work).
All of those contribute to a positive thinking attitude, which ultimately aims to raise our happiness levels.
More importantly, positive thinking is about dealing with the hardships of life from a positive standpoint. It means, even if we are wading through a mire of distress, we can claim a little sunshine for ourselves.
What Is Positive Thinking?
Positive thinking involves experiencing positive feelings, having positive thoughts, and expecting positive outcomes. It is approaching life and its challenges with an optimistic, yet realistic, outlook.
Positive thinking means going about your daily life with a hopeful, helpful, authentic, and affirmative attitude. It is having a positive stance on your past, present, and future life.
It means seeing yourself and your abilities in a positive light, particularly when you’re bombarded with unjust criticism. It includes allowing yourself to feel the occasional moments of joy while going through prolonged periods of uncertainty and stress.
What Positive Thinking Is Not?
When people are weighed down by life, they do not want to hear, “Cheer up!”
Forcing them to express positivity at such times is nullifying their negative emotions. They don’t want to be told how they should feel; instead, they want to know if you care about how they feel. They want to see the look in your eyes that you understand them.
Positive thinking is not about focusing solely on the positive aspects of life while remaining oblivious to the negative things.
Positive thinking is not keeping a smile on our face and thinking positive no matter what. That is toxic positivity—trying to look and act happy while bottling up the negative feelings. That kind of positivity is unrealistic, and it disturbs one’s mental peace and self-esteem at some point.
10 Powerful Benefits of Positive Thinking
Positive thinking has a profound impact on our mental well-being, physical health, relationships, and work-life quality. Here are ten powerful benefits of positive thinking:
1. More productivity
Jessica Pryce-Jones, the author of Happiness at Work, found in her research with over 3,000 respondents in 79 countries, that happiness impacts productivity. In her study, the happier participants were 180% more energized at work, 108% more engaged, 50% more motivated, and 50% more productive.
The author concludes, “The science of happiness at work delivers return on investment and strategic outcomes when properly implemented.”
2. Greater resilience
The fact is, we always have some sound reasons to feel pessimistic about the future, and that’s how life goes. More so in these tough times of this Covid19 pandemic. But when we know it’s outside our control until a vaccine is in place, a negative mode of thinking will trigger only more misery and insomnia.
Therefore, despite the difficulties and uncertainties ahead, nurturing a positive outlook can make our present happier.
3. Better relationships
The energy you carry with you is contagious, whether positive or negative. A negative attitude not only prevents you from enjoying your life to the full, but it also has a sizable impact on people around you.
So, cultivating a positive attitude is one of the best things you could offer your family, organization, and community.
Since a positive mindset makes it easy to express thankfulness, feel kindness, and be more in love, your relationships grow into more fulfilling ones.
You, too, can form a habit of positivity by making slight adjustments to your daily life and mindset. It will make you, and all you interact with, happier.
Positive thinking people accept that things always do not turn out as they want them to, because mistakes are what normal humans make. They also stay optimistic about the future as they learn from those mistakes.
4. Lower stress and anxiety
A positive mindset can make out a silver line, even in the most louring clouds of anxiety. Cultivating a positive mindset arms people with a better ability to cope with stress. A positive attitude also increases life-satisfaction. It helps refresh our minds and relieve our stresses.
Positive thinking can reduce present stress and help one feel better about future situations. Research showed employees with a more positive mindset made more coping efforts when expecting a high workload.
Studies in both animals and people show stress promotes inflammation. Intense stress over-activates the immune system leading to a strong inflammatory response. Researchers suspect the more positive people are better protected against the inflammatory damage of stress.
5. Less sadness and depression
Depression affects over 100 million people worldwide.
The American Psychological Association recommends treatment with 10 psychotherapy sessions combined with antidepressant medication for optimal care of moderate to severe depression. Both therapeutic interventions come at a high price.
Positive activity interventions (PAIs) teach individuals ways to increase their positive thinking, positive affect, and positive behaviors. Common positive interventions include writing letters of gratitude, counting one’s blessings, practicing optimism, performing acts of kindness, meditating on positive feelings toward others, and using one’s signature strengths.
Layous and Lyubomirsky, after a review of the relevant literature on the effectiveness of various types of PAIs, suggest PAIs might relieve depression. Sin and Lyubomirsky’s meta-analysis of 51 PAIs with both depressed and non-depressed participants revealed they are effective for enhancing well-being and improving depressive symptoms.
6. More kindness and helpfulness
Positivity enhances the feeling of gratitude and helpfulness. It makes you feel grateful for the many blessings in your life.
We can build a positive mindset around a sense of savoring, a stance of optimism, and an attitude of gratitude. These are proven mechanisms in positive psychology to boost our psychological well-being.
Focusing your attention on things happening around you, not giving up your dreams in the face of adversities, and being grateful for the good things in your life, are three of the best activities you can do to build a strong positive mindset.
7. Reduced risk of heart diseases
In the UK, researchers looked at the psychological traits of 8,000+ people and found those who were high on optimism and felt a better sense of wellbeing had a 30% lower risk of developing heart disease.
In the US Health and Retirement study on people with known stable heart disease, researchers found that the positive psychological traits seemed to lower the risk of having a heart attack significantly. These traits included optimism (38% lower risk), a positive outlook (32%), and having a purpose in life (27%).
8. Stronger connection to humanity
People who are more positive do not jump to judge other people, avoid angry interchanges, and do not respond thusly to other people’s outbursts.
Research suggests those who are more connected to nature seem to experience more positive emotions, vitality, and life satisfaction, as compared to those less connected to nature.
9. Better health and wellbeing
Studies show embracing a positive mindset increases positive feelings and mood, whereas adopting a negative mindset increases negative emotions and decreases happiness.
This study, involving 537 students (seventh-grade to ninth-grade) at a large middle school in Israel, evaluated a positive psychology school-based intervention to enhance mental health.
Over the 2-year study period, the researchers spotted a remarkable decrease in distress, anxiety, and depression symptoms in the participants. In addition, the students gained self-esteem, self-efficacy, and optimism, and reduced interpersonal sensitivity symptoms.
Positive thinking also increases self-esteem and self-reliance.
10. Higher overall immunity
A mind that is positive, optimistic, and worry-free can contribute to a more resilient immune system. With a positive attitude, you can protect yourself from several illnesses.
Why Is Positive Thinking Important
Positive thinking is important because it has wholesome effects on the brain and the body. Positive thinking opens our minds to a wider range of options and actions. It leads us to actively practice hope and optimism, challenge a pessimistic outlook, and manage stress effectively.
Psychologists have studied the impact of positive thinking extensively and found there are many perks of practicing it. A higher level of happiness and life satisfaction is one of them.
Barbara Fredrickson, one of the first researchers in positive psychology, dug up some interesting findings on positive thinking during her research.
Fredrickson’s study had five separate groups of participants. Her research team showed the first and the second groups video clips that elicited positive emotions, like joy and contentment. The third group served as a control group, and they were not shown any videos. The last two groups watched clips that provoked negative emotions, like fear and anger.
Then they asked all the participants to imagine themselves in situations similar to those in the video clips. Finally, they began their inquiry. They noticed those in the first two groups gave significantly more solutions than those in the last two groups.
This led the researchers to conclude that the participants who were made to have positive emotions saw more possibilities for their lives.
This was the evidence that positive emotions broaden people’s attention and thinking. And this enables them to draw on higher-level connections, use a wider range of ideas and behaviors, and build meaningful mental resources.
Induced positive emotions can increase people’s openness to new experiences (Kahn & Isen, 1993), broaden their reservoir of desired actions (Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005), and their ability to recognize individuals of another race (Johnson & Fredrickson, 2005) more accurately.
In simple words, Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory says frequent positive emotions expand our outlooks in ways that, little by little, reshape who we are. An attitude of positive thinking and having positive emotions open us to new possibilities and sets us on a trajectory of personal growth.
We remind you once again that positive thinking does not imply looking away from bad or stressful situations, but seeing the bright side when into one of them.
The good thing is we can learn to adopt positive thinking with little effort. Once these exercises form into a habit, your ability to maintain an attitude of positive thinking will increase manifold.
Some proven ways to cultivate a positive thinking mindset are writing a gratitude journal, being mindfully present, savoring the good things in one’s life, focusing on the flow of the process, engaging in positive self-talk, and being generous.
A mindset of positivity doesn’t mean one keeps their head buried in the sand to save themselves from facing difficult and unpleasant situations in life.
Positive psychology says a positive mindset is a key characteristic of happier people.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.
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