What Is Positive Thinking?


Positive thinking, or an optimistic attitude, is the practice of focusing on the good in any given situation. It can have a big impact on your physical and mental health. That doesn’t mean you ignore reality or make light of problems. It simply means you approach the good and the bad in life with the expectation that things will go well.

The Benefits of Positive Thinking

Many studies have looked at the role of optimism and positive thinking in mental and physical health. It’s not always clear which comes first: the mindset or these benefits. But there is no downside to staying upbeat.

Some physical benefits may include:

The mental benefits may include:

  • More creativity
  • Greater problem-solving skill
  • Clearer thinking
  • Better mood
  • Better coping skills
  • Less depression

When people in one study were exposed to the flu and common cold, those with a positive outlook were less likely to get sick and reported fewer symptoms.

During another study, women who were more optimistic were less likely to die from cancerheart diseasestroke, respiratory disease, and infection.And in a study of people over the age of 50, those who had more positive thoughts about aging lived longer. They also had less stress-related inflammation, which shows one possible link between their thoughts and health.

People with a positive outlook may be more likely to live a healthy lifestyle since they have a more hopeful view of the future. But researchers took that into account, and the results still held.

What Pessimists Should Know

That all sounds great, right? But what if you’re naturally more pessimistic, meaning that you tend to expect the worst? No worries. It may help to see this positive thinking as a skill you can learn and benefit from, rather than a personality trait you either have or you don’t.

There’s research on this, too. In one experiment, adults who meditated daily on positive thoughts started feeling more upbeat emotions each day.

Other studies have shown that positive thinking helps people manage illness and eases depression, regardless of whether they are naturally optimistic or pessimistic.

First, Nix the Negative

Before you put positive thinking into practice, look for any negative thoughts that may be running through your mind. These include:

A bad filter. Do you overlook the good things about a situation and get wrapped up in the negatives? For example, you enjoy a fun dinner out with friends, but the restaurant gets your bill wrong at the end of the night. You leave feeling annoyed and frustrated, forgetting about the good time you had.

Taking the blame. Do you tend to take on the blame for something bad or disappointing that happens? For example, a friend declines an invitation from you, so you assume it’s because they don’t want to spend time with you.

Predicting disaster. This means you have one setback and then expect the worst to happen. For example, your car won’t start in the morning, so you think the rest of your day is destined to be doomed.

Black-and-white thinking. Do you see things as either good or bad, with no middle ground? In this mindset, if things aren’t perfect, they’re automatically bad.


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