By Stephanie Kirby
Updated May 09, 2019
Reviewer Avia James
When we face obstacles in life, the outcome is often dependent on how we choose to react to the situation. Learning to control your thoughts, and making sure your thoughts are positive and productive, can change your life for the better.
Some people simply accept that they are natural pessimists, but it does not have to be that way. Anyone can learn about the power of positive thinking and transform their thoughts to start focusing more on the positive side of life.
What Is Positive Thinking?
Positive thinking is simply a mindset in which you believe that good things will happen. It is an optimistic attitude and can inspire you to see the good in every situation, or at least see past negative things happening in the present to see a positive, long-term picture.
Thinking positively tends to make people feel happier and less stressed and anxious. By focusing on the good in a situation and believing that things will all work out in the end, a lot of the stress and worry of daily life dissipates (or, at the very least, is reduced).
Positive thinking does not mean that you have to completely ignore negative events in your life or the emotions that accompany them. It is normal to experience hardships and has an emotional response. Rather, positive thinking means that you believe that the hard times will not last forever, and trust that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even when going through a challenging period. This keeps the negativity from greatly impacting your life.
Positive thinking is also heavily rooted in self-talk or the way we narrate our own lives. When practicing positive thinking, your self-talk will take on a hopeful, optimistic view. For example, if you have a job interview that does not go well, negative thinking would tell you that there is no way you will get the job and the interview was a waste of time. Positive thinking would flip the narrative to remind you that even if you do not get the job, it was a good experience and you will be even more prepared for the next job interview.
As you can see, the way you frame the narrative in your mind can greatly influence your emotional response to an event. Positive thinking and positive self-talk can make even bad situations seem more manageable and lessen the emotional impact these events will have on you.
The Benefits Of Positive Thinking
Positive thinking changes the narrative that is constantly running through your mind. By actively working to make your self-talk positive, the way you view each situation throughout your day will shift to become more optimistic. You will likely feel less stressed, and more in control of your life because you believe that you can overcome any challenges thrown your way.
Another benefit of positive thinking is decreased levels of depression and general distress. Positive thinking allows you to see the best in every situation, so things that would normally cause you distress may seem like they are not as big of a deal. Similarly, it can help ease depression because it will inspire you to think about the big picture, and believe that everything will work out in the end.
That being said, depression is a serious condition, and positive thinking alone will not be enough to help most people manage their depression. If you are struggling with depression, definitely also work with a therapist and psychiatrist. A therapist can offer valuable insight into how to better manage your symptoms, while a psychiatrist can help determine if medical therapy is right for you.
Some sources even claim that positive thinking has physical health benefits, such as improved cardiovascular health and increased lifespan. There is no clear reason why this is the case, but it is likely because someone who practices positive thinking has overall lower levels of stress, which can negatively impact the body and health. It may also be that people with a positive outlook tend to live a healthier lifestyle, with less alcohol and drug use.
While the reasoning for why positive thinking benefits health are unclear, what is clear is that it is beneficial, especially for mental health.
Tips For Positive Thinking
Like any lifestyle change, positive thinking can be a hard habit to get into. Follow these tips to make your journey into positive thinking run smoothly.
Do Some Digging
In most cases, beginning a practice of positive thinking does not require an entire mental overhaul. Rather, certain situations or emotions cause you to think and feel negative. Identify the circumstances that cause you to think negatively, and write them down on a piece of paper, so you remember them. This list may include situations like your daily commute to work, a weekly meeting with a colleague, or going shopping for new jeans- anything that causes you to think negatively about the situation or yourself.
Start small by committing to changing your thoughts towards one of the things on the list, and make an effort to practice positive thinking during that situation. Once you feel you have a grasp of positive thinking in one area of your life, expand it into the other areas that you identified as needing improvement. You may find that the list changes over time, and that is okay. As long as you maintain an awareness of when you are positive thinking and when you are engaging in negative self-talk, you are on the right track.
Check In With Yourself
You will not magically be able to adopt positive thinking overnight fully. As you begin your efforts, there will certainly still be times when you find yourself thinking negatively. Do not beat yourself up over this. Rather, simply notice that it is happening, and think about the circumstances that brought about this negative thinking. Then, when in similar situations in the future, you should have an increased awareness of your emotions and put in extra effort to think positively.
These check-ins are also a great opportunity to practice positive self-talk. As stated above, you should not beat yourself up for not mastering positive thinking right away. Make an effort to be kind to yourself in all areas of your life, including your evaluations of your positive thinking efforts.
Talk To An Online Therapist
A therapist or counselor can be a useful person to talk to when trying to get into positive thinking. They can help you move past any negative perceptions you have about yourself that have been holding you back from positive thinking. They are also someone you can talk to when you find yourself unable to engage in positive thinking and can help show you the positive side of the situation to shift your perspective.
An online format is especially fitting for therapy for positive thinking because of its flexibility. You can reach out to your therapist during the times you find yourself thinking negatively and work on changing your mindset right away, rather than having to wait until your weekly appointment slot to talk about your mindset with your therapist.
Exercise is extremely beneficial for both mental and physical health. One of how exercise affects mental health is through the release of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that are released during aerobic exercise promote relaxation and happiness. They are what is responsible for the "runner's high," that many people feel after a workout.
In addition to the endorphin, boost exercise can give you; it also helps reduce anxiety, which makes positive thinking much easier. Focusing on the good in a situation is much simpler when you are in a calm state of mind than when you are stressed or anxious. Getting into a regular exercise routine can also boost your confidence and overall make you feel happier, and is a great compliment to positive thinking.
Laugh At Yourself
No matter how much energy you devote towards positive thinking, bad things are still going to happen sometimes. There may be no way to control certain situations, but what you can control is how you handle them. In addition to positive thinking, make an effort to find the humor in situations. If you can laugh at yourself, life becomes a lot less stressful. Looking for humor, in addition to general optimism, is a great way to go about positive thinking.
Look For The Lesson
Along the same lines as the previous point, no one is perfect. There will be times in life when you mess up. It is normal to have a negative reaction in these moments- most people do. But, try to think positively in these moments and look for a lesson in your failures. If you missed an important deadline at work, think about what you are going to do in the future to prevent this from happening. By looking for the lesson in every mistake, and thus using your mistakes as learning experiences to improve yourself, you are putting a positive frame on a negative experience.
Mindfulness comes up a lot in regards to mental health and general wellness. Mindfulness practices like meditation or journaling have many benefits, one of them being that they teach us not to attach too strong of emotions to our thoughts, and can help us think about our lives and problems from a different perspective.
When it comes to positive thinking, two mindfulness techniques are especially useful: positive affirmations, and living in the present. Repeating positive affirmations to yourself in the morning can put you in a positive frame of mind for the whole day. Start your morning by looking at yourself in the mirror and saying something uplifting, like "today will be a great day."
It can be that simple, or something more personalized if there is a specific affirmation that you find is fitting for your life. You can also write your affirmations down in a journal if you do not feel comfortable saying them out loud. Either way, starting your day with a positive affirmation sets the tone to continue thinking all day positively.
Focusing on the present moment can also help with positive thinking because, in the present moment, there is usually nothing to worry about. If you find yourself caught up in negative thoughts about something that happened in the past, bring yourself to the present moment, and remind yourself that everything is okay. You can do the same practice for anxieties about the future. Bringing your attention back to the present moment gives you fewer opportunities to dwell on negative experiences in the past or those that could potentially arise in the future.
Surround Yourself With Positive People
Have you ever had a friend or coworker with whom all you did was complain? Whether it be about an assignment or your commute, or how your hair looks that day, any complaining puts you in a negative frame of mind. If you have people like this in your life, try to change the tone of your conversations to focus on positive things.
Even better, try to spend most of your time with people who practice positive thinking and make you feel good to be around. Spending time with positive people can help you start thinking more positively, too. Of course, we cannot control the minds of our friends, so if you do not have positive influences in your life, strive to be the positive influence on your friends and family. If complaints are dominating the conversation, take the initiative to flip the narrative to one of positivity.
Positive thinking is powerful on its own, but its benefits are even greater when the positivity expands from your mind into your conversations and relationships.
Practice Self Care
Many people are so busy with work, school, relationships, and other obligations that they rarely take time for themselves. But, when we get caught up in all of these things and forget to care for ourselves, it can be very easy to develop a negative or pessimistic mindset. Taking some time for yourself and your hobbies can give you some much needed time to recharge your batteries, so it is easier to maintain a positive outlook on life.
The Power Of Positive Thinking
Negative self-talk and thinking can be a hard pattern to break. But, that does not mean it is impossible. Positive thinking is an extremely worthwhile endeavor and can change your daily life as well as your health in the long run. Use these tips to tap into the power of positive thinking and see what it can do for you.