The power of positive thinking does not only manifest itself through reduced stress levels and improved health. It is also a way of living, which allows you to see a brighter side of life. Cultivating the mental and emotional attitude of thinking positively helps you to see through difficult times. Furthermore, it enables you to have faith in the emergence of something positive out of negative situations in your life.
A person that is inclined to think positive expects positive results. The anticipation of success, happiness and good fortune is what keeps optimists going. Also, positive thinkers are more likely to overcome obstacles and difficulties, as these people are fueled by their deep conviction that they can succeed. It allows them to see opportunities and chances where others see problems and difficulties.
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
To critics, the concept of positive thinking sounds rather odd. They would argue that it’s an uncritical attempt to discard the negative aspects of life. Therefore, critics often advise people to “get real” and to stop living in a fantasy world. However, being a positive thinker does not necessarily have to imply that you live in a delusional dream world.
If you are able to combine a positive approach to life with a healthy dose of realism and criticism, the power of positive thinking can truly manifest itself. In fact, this is the only way you can truly harness the power of a positive attitude (more on this later). Only fantasizing about fortunate outcomes and the smooth accomplishment of your goals will not help you. Quite the contrary, it will hinder you from the pursuit of your dreams.
The Power of Positive Thinking
This article will show you how you can harness the power of positive thinking in the most effective way. Let’s start with some scientific explanations why being an optimist and positive thinker can be beneficial.
The Science of Positive Thinking
In the past, critics could easily dismiss the potential benefits of thinking positively. The topic simply lacked scientific investigation. For this reason, it was difficult to say whether or not the concept had any credence to it. There might have been a couple of well-known testimonials, but none of them could be scientifically verified all too easily. All in all, it was difficult to say if thinking positively had a beneficial impact upon an individual’s life or not.
Nowadays, however, one scientific paper after another is beginning to uncover that there might be more to positive thinking than many assumed.
In general, scientists agree that optimism is clearly associated with psychological health. It has been shown in many studies to decrease anxiety levels and is closely connected with lower levels of depression. A much smaller amount of research investigated the beneficial impact on physical well-being. Interestingly enough, positive thinking is connected to the well-being of your body. For instance, it has been shown that positivity can decrease your risk of developing heart disease.
Interestingly, positive thinkers do also cope more effectively with stress. What is also worth mentioning is that scientists discovered optimism can increase one’s toughness and persistence. In fact, thinking positively had such a beneficial impact on a person’s strength that the U. S. military implemented a resilience building program created by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. The key message of this program is that the development of mental toughness is the direct result of thinking like an optimist.
People who don’t give up have a habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, local and changeable.
Let’s move on to the next point: Why is positive thinking beneficial?
Why Is Optimism so Effective?
Researchers agree that optimists do better than most pessimists. The reason for this is simple. Positive thinkers tend to focus not so much on the problem itself. Instead, they focus their attention on finding possible solutions instead. Optimists are therefore more likely to be problem solvers. They try to improve the situation they find themselves in. Even more importantly, optimists find it easier to accept that a given situation cannot be changed and find it easier to move on.
Pessimists, at the same time, spend a lot more time simply dwelling on the problem and the negative feelings associated with it. They have the tendency to ignore, avoid or even deny the problems they are confronted with.
How to Increase Positive Thinking (According to Science)
The following will present some effective steps designed to help you develop a more positive perspective on life. These tips can help turning pessimists into some pretty optimistic people.
1. Observe your own “explanatory style”
According to self perception theory, the human brain continuously observes a person’s behavior, trying to make sense of each action. For this reason, we continuously try to explain and rationalize what happened in life. Researchers call this “explanatory style.”
Your explanatory style can make or break your success at being more optimistic. For this reason, it’s crucial to closely observe the way you explain events to yourself. There are three fundamental aspects to this self-explanation of events: time, universality, and self-centeredness.
Pessimists, on one hand, perceive negative events in their life as long-lasting (time), universally applicable (universality) and self-inflicted (self-centeredness). An example of this could be if a person explains a given failure in the following way:
I always fail in all areas of life (universality), this will not change (time) and it’s entirely my own fault (self-centeredness).
An optimist, on the other hand, uses quite a different explanatory style for bad events. Positive people perceive things as temporary (time), not universal [caused by a specific reason](universality) and not their own fault (self-centeredness).
Interestingly enough, this explanatory style also works in the opposite direction. When something good happens, pessimists tend to perceive these events as random, short-lived and not at all of their own doing. Optimists, however, consider positive situations as long-lasting and the logical result of their actions.
As a result, pessimists are heavily influenced by setbacks and challenges. These occurrences increase a pessimist’s likelihood to give up. Consequently, if you quit much sooner than others, you’re less likely to succeed.
Try to consider failure not as something terribly bad that will last a long time. Instead, think of it as a temporary setback that simply challenges you to try even harder.
One field experiment that is particularly interesting for our subject was conducted by scientists at the University of North Carolina. The results of the study highlighted that those who meditate regularly experience more positive emotions than others who do not meditate. Furthermore, the study pointed out that there are interesting benefits associated with the positive emotions experienced through meditation. Results showed that experiencing positive emotions was associated with an increase in one’s mindfulness, a sense of having a purpose and decreased illness symptoms. In turn, these benefits resulted in an increase of life satisfaction and a significant reduction of depressive symptoms.
3. Count your blessings
If you continuously ponder over that what you do not have, dissatisfaction and frustration will arise. Practicing gratitude, on the other hand, can help you to prevent these negative emotions. In fact, scientists discovered that having a grateful outlook on life was closely associated with being more optimistic about the future.
The practice of gratefulness allows you to discover—step-by-step—how beautiful your life is. It allows you to take note of the fortunate aspects of your life. But it does also help you to learn to appreciate the little things in life.
If you want to think more positively, take yourself some time each day to count your blessings. Appreciate what you were given. Be thankful for it and realize that nothing is for granted. Shift your attention from that which you do not have, to everything that lends beauty and joy to your life.
You could combine the practice of being grateful with the following effective strategy to think more positively:
4. Write about positive experiences
Scientists discovered that one could drastically increase one’s mood levels and physical health by continuously writing about intensely positive experiences. The study highlighted that the mood of the participants was already heightened after the time span of three days. This means that if you want to increase positive thinking, you could make it a habit to write about positive experiences each day.
You could also combine this approach by writing not only about positive experiences, but also about those things that you are grateful for.
How to Boost the Power of Positive Thinking
Scientific studies have shown that a hybrid approach is more effective when it comes to positive thinking. This approach combines the beneficial aspects of thinking positively with a healthy dose of realism. This is called “mental contrasting,” and it has been proven to produce exceptionally powerful results in experiments. In order to make use of these benefits, it is necessary to follow a two-step procedure. The first step requires you to imagine a certain wish coming true. In the second step you will have to think about the possible difficulties and obstacles that stand in-between you and your goal.
If you follow this approach with reasonable wishes that are attainable, you will be able to harness more of the power of positive thinking. In fact, studies have shown that those participants who focused on reasonable wishes accomplished better results and were more energized than the control group who fantasized or imagined only the difficulties.
The Danger of Positive Thinking
The above named study results leads us to the possible dangers of thinking too positively. The same study showed that participants who dwelt on wishes that were not reasonably attainable became unmotivated and disengaged from the pursuit of their wishes.
Mental contrasting can help in this situation. It allows us to continue the pursuit of a dream as we were quite aware of the difficulties we could encounter. Furthermore, mental contrasting helps to go after wishes more easily once we realize that a given wish cannot be realized.
That’s it. I hope you enjoyed this piece on the power of positive thinking.
Let’s end this article with a couple of quotes about thinking positively.
The Power of Positive Thinking Quotes
Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.
The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.
Norman Vincent Peale
You cannot tailor-make the situations in life but you can tailor-make the attitudes to fit those situations.
Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.
Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity.
Being miserable is a habit; being happy is a habit; and the choice is yours.
With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
How do you utilize the power of positive thinking?
Hi Steve, great article.
Positive thinking is one of the most important keys to achieving great success in life.
However, it is easier said that done. Sometimes when things happen, I just feel like can’t cope with it, I guess it is due to my thinking pattern.
Thanks for reminding that I need to count my blessings more. And always keep an eye on my self-thought. 🙂
Thanks Shawn, I’m happy you think similar about positive thinking.