Thinking positive thoughts has become one of the important trends in the modern world. People associate it with happiness, success, and even some magical way of attracting desirable objects and situations.
But what are the real benefits of positive thinking from a purely scientific point of view? And in what ways does it affect our mind and improve our health? Read on to find out.
What Is Positive Thinking, and Why Is It So Important?
Positive thinking is an optimistic perception of any event, whether pleasant or not. Interestingly, another definition of “positive thinking” refers to hope and confidence.
Hopeful thinking is not the same as a blind belief in miracles. Being positive means looking for solutions to existing problems and believing in a favorable outcome, not just passive daydreaming.
Why is the habit of thinking positively good for you? The simple answer is that it improves the overall quality of your life. For instance, positive thoughts can increase your self-esteem, lower stress levels, and add energy to achieve life goals.
Essentially, this way of thinking helps to tune in to success, better health, and a good mood.
Health Benefits of Positive Thinking
As you know, mental and physical well-being are closely related, just like positivity and mental health. Thoughts impact emotions, affecting mental state and, indirectly, physical health.
Positive thinking effects on your physical health include the following:
1. Lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases
Positive thinking, together with weight management, exercising, and dieting, decrease the mortality rate from heart diseases by 14% (according to a 2019 meta-analysis of 15 studies with more than 200 thousand participants).
2. Faster recovery after surgery and severe injuries
Many studies support the importance of positive thinking in healing. For instance, a Sport Psychologist’s research has studied the impact of positive thinking on recovery rates among injured athletes.
The results showed that those with a positive attitude and mental imagery recovered “exceptionally fast” compared to others.
3. Chronic pain relief, such as back pain
The body of a person with a positive attitude intensively produces endorphins (“hormones of happiness”). These hormones act as natural painkillers.
4. Better immunity
The body of optimistic thinkers has more resources to protect itself from viral and bacterial infections. It can be explained by lower levels of stress hormones that usually suppress cell-mediated immunity.
So, when a person faces a disease, their immune response partly depends on their strength of positive thinking.
5 Advantages of Positive Thinking
Now, when we’ve looked at the benefits of positive thinking for your body, let’s learn what advantages an optimistic outlook has for your mind.
1. You’re Resilient to Depression
A depressed mood is almost always the result of negative thinking, such as polarized thoughts, emotional reasoning, or unrealistic self-criticism.
Positive thinking protects people from these destructive thoughts and low self-esteem and helps them see the world in bright light.
In fact, some cognitive behavioral therapy methods are based on replacing negative assumptions with positive ones.
For example, people suffering from depression often have false impressions of themselves and others. In this case, therapy focuses on understanding the patient’s wrong ideas and fixing them.
2. You Recover from Stress Faster
Stress is a protective reaction to adverse factors. But surprisingly as it sounds, it is helpful in small doses because the stress-induced release of adrenaline helps to activate mental activity and solve the current issues.
Once the problem is solved, the hormone levels return to normal. In people with a positive attitude, it happens faster than in pessimists.
As we already know, people with negative thinking won’t look for solutions because of constant self-criticism or blaming others. That’s why they will continue to experience stress and lose a lot of energy.
3. You Get Out of Your Comfort Zone More Freely
Personal growth and self-improvement are impossible without facing new challenges. And people with a positive attitude are not afraid to leave their comfort zone because they are confident that they will adapt to new conditions if they make an effort.
Changing circumstances is closely related to stress. But as we have seen, those with positive thinking experience it without difficulty.
At the same time, pessimists believe they will fail no matter how much effort they put in because they’re unlucky, and all the world is against them.
4. You’re More Motivated to Achieve Your Goals
Optimists believe in positive life prospects and that they can achieve almost anything. They have high self-esteem and confidence, which helps them develop motivation for success. It means less self-doubt and more persistence when facing difficulties.
On the other hand, a person with negative thinking has an extremely low motivation and tries to avoid opportunities believing that nothing will work out in their favor. So, they just float with the stream and get stuck with low-quality lives.
5. Your Mind Produces More Creative Thoughts
Positive thoughts improve mood and enhance brain productivity, which helps a person innovate. When your mind is free from negativity, it’s relaxed and can generate new ideas and make fresh connections between them.
Conversely, when your mind is preoccupied with negative thoughts, you can’t focus on the task at hand, let alone find a creative way of solving it.
Thus, if creativity is part of your job, getting into the habit of positive thinking is crucial for your success.
Focus on Positive Thinking
None of us can live a life without encountering a single obstacle along the way. And as soon as it happens, we get anxious about this problem, ignoring good things going on in the meantime.
So, what can you do? Here are a few tips to start learning to change the focus:
- Whenever you feel down, pause and take a few deep breaths. It will decrease the strain on your body and stop the release of stress hormones that interfere with the ability to think calmly.
- Look around and find a few things that bring you joy or make you laugh. You can even write them down in a notebook and add new items to the list throughout your day.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Meet with friends who wish you well and avoid toxic relationships.
- Change the things that frustrate you in your life. If you think poorly of yourself, your work, or your financial situation, it’s time to identify the reason and fix it.
The secret lies in consistency. Over time, you’ll learn to focus on positive thinking automatically.
Detect Negative Thinking
One 2020 study published in the Nature Communications Journal suggested that a person has about 6,000 thoughts per day. Other researchers believe this figure is close to 70,000. Either way, it’s enormous.
Obviously, paying attention to each of those thousands of thoughts is not realistic. But here’s what you can do: start listening to them as if they were audiobooks or songs.
Once you come across a repetitive negative thought, analyze it. Is it reasonable, or are you making things up? If it’s baseless, replace it with the opposite, a more pleasant one. And whenever this thought tries to come back, calmly repeat the routine.
It’s paramount not to fall into frustration because of recurring negative thinking. Remember that positive thoughts and feelings are interrelated. You can only feel happy if you think about good things and vice versa.
Change Your Mindset
Historically, our brain is hard-wired to recognize danger and possible harmful outcomes. That’s why we pay so much attention to the negative aspects of any event coming our way.
But these days, we rarely have to deal with life-threatening situations, so there is no point or benefit for you to continue thinking negatively. Instead, it’s time to switch to a positive pole and start seeing opportunities for future success where others see total failures.
There are tons of helpful exercises you can do to boost your optimism. For example, practice gratitude and positive self-talk, smile more often or meditate.
Another effective technique is to replace degrading thoughts with positive ones. Look at the examples below:
- “I’m too lazy/stupid to do this.” Change it to: “All I need is some free time and quietness to figure it out.”
- “I don’t have friends because I’m boring.” Instead, think more constructively, like “I need to find more communication channels and be open to people.”
Well, you got the idea. Don’t blame yourself or others, but rather look for ways to solve problems and improve your situation.
Positivity, like any other habit, takes an average of three weeks to a couple of months to develop. Therefore, the sooner you start training, the faster you will get used to a new lifestyle, enjoying improved mental and physical health.
About the Author
Natalie Maximets is a certified life transformation coach with expertise in cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma recovery, and mindfulness meditation. She’s also a published writer focusing on the most progressive and innovative solutions in the field of Psychology. You can find more of her works at OnlineDivorce.com.