Positive thinking helps with stress management and can even improve your well-being, zest for life, and health. Here’s how.
Is your glass half empty or half full? How you answer this age-old question about positive thinking can reflect your outlook on life, your attitude towards yourself, whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic, and it can even affect your health.
Indeed, some studies show that personality traits such as optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with numerous health benefits. If you tend to be pessimistic, don’t despair, you can learn about positive thinking.
Understand positive thinking and the right way to talk about yourself
Positive thinking doesn’t mean you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations. Positive thinking simply means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best will come, not the worst.
Positive thinking often starts with knowing how to talk to yourself. Talking to yourself refers to the endless stream of unspoken thoughts racing through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Part of your inner conversation comes from logic and reason. Other intimate thoughts may result from misconceptions you create due to lack of information.
If the thoughts going through your head are mostly negative, your outlook on life is more likely to be pessimistic. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you are probably an optimist and someone who practices positive thinking.
The health benefits of positive thinking
Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. The health benefits that positive thinking can provide include:
- Increased service life
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower distress levels
- Greater resistance to colds
- Improved psychological and physical well-being
- Improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Better coping skills during difficulties and times of stress
It is unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook allows you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful effects of stress on your body’s health.
It is also believed that positive and optimistic people tend to live a healthier lifestyle, they do more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and do not smoke or drink excessive alcohol.
Identify negative thinking
You don’t know if your intimate thoughts are positive or negative? Here are some common forms of negative thinking:
You amplify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all the positive aspects. For example, you had a great day at work. You completed your tasks ahead of time and were praised for doing a quick and thorough job. That night, you just focus on your plan to do even more tasks and forget about the compliments you received.
When something bad happens, you automatically blame yourself. For example, you hear that a night out with friends is canceled, and you assume the change in plans is because no one wanted to be around you.
You automatically anticipate the worst. You missed your morning coffee and you automatically think the rest of your day will be a disaster.
You only see things as good or bad. There is no middle ground. You feel like you have to be perfect or you are a total failure.
Focus on positive thinking
You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it takes time and practice—you’re creating a new habit, after all.
Here are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way:
Identify areas to change.
If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify the areas of your life that you usually think negatively about, whether it’s work, your daily commute, or a relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
Periodically throughout the day, stop and assess what you are thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mostly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
Be open to humor.
Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially in difficult times. Look for humor in everyday events. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
Follow a healthy lifestyle.
Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes most days of the week. You can also break it down into 10-minute chunks of time during the day. Exercise can positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. And learn techniques to manage stress.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people, you can count on them to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people can increase your stress levels and make you doubt your ability to handle stress in a healthy way.
Practice positive self-talk.
Start by following a simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you. Think about things you are grateful for in your life.
Here are some examples of negative thoughts and how you can apply a reversal to them. Positive thought :
- Practice positive thinking
- From a negative thought to a positive thought
- I’ve never done it before = It’s an opportunity to learn something new.
- It’s too complicated = I’ll approach it from a different angle.
- I don’t have the resources = Necessity is the mother of invention.
- I’m too lazy to make it happen = I haven’t been able to fit it into my schedule, but I can reconsider some priorities.
- There is no way it will work = I can try to make it work.
- It’s too drastic a change = Let’s take a risk.
Nobody bothers to communicate with me = I’ll see if I can open the communication channels.
Practice positive thinking every day
If you tend to have a negative outlook, don’t expect to become optimistic overnight. But with practice, eventually your thinking will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you.
When your mindset is generally optimistic, you are better able to handle daily stress in a more constructive way. This ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of positive thinking.