Everyone cringes when they see articles titled things like, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” It seems cheesy and false to say that simply thinking good thoughts can actually change your life, and people who insist on always seeing the silver lining can be slightly annoying, especially when you’re feeling down in the dumps. But time and time again, research has proved that positive thinking can make you happier, and now it is starting to show that it not only allows you to see more possibilities in your life, but also builds skills that will help you attain more long term happiness. Negative feelings tend to shut you down. They close off your ability to see the other options and feelings in the world around you. Happy thoughts do just the opposite, they allow you to see more opportunities. They also enhance your ability to build skills that you can use later in life. Many times people equate happiness with achieving a certain goal. While goals do provide happiness, it is temporary, as once attained, you set a new goal to chase after. However, when you think positively, you are constantly seeing new opportunities that lead to you broadening and building your skill set. These skills will allow positive thinkers to more easily achieve their next goal, and the next, constantly pulling in more happiness.
So how do you do it? Researchers recommend engaging in activities that make you feel joy, contentment, and love. You can spend time doing things you like, with people you care about. Additionally, meditation, writing about positive experiences, and setting aside time to play, explore and experiment (just like you would schedule a dentist appointment) all lead to an increased ability to think positively.
If you haven’t already noticed, looking on the bright side (or at least making crappy situations seem a little less crappy) is kind of my thing. So, imagine how happy I was when I read this article on the Huffington Post that was dedicated to describing how this state of mind – seeing the glass as half full— is good for your health. It discusses recent findings published in The Journal of Personality which indicate that most people tend to view their future through rose-colored glasses across national boundaries and high vs. low income nations. Read: the ability to take a positive stance isn’t limited to those who live in the lap of luxury. And it’s not limited by your age, education, gender or total income either. The results showed that hopefulness that tomorrow will be better than today extended through all of these groups as a universally attainable belief, which is great news because studies show that optimism is associated with overall well-being, good physical condition, and has 6 definite impacts on health. In general, optimists have:
- Healthier Hearts: Psychological well-being (or being happier as a person) decreases risk of cardiovascular problems
- Better Cholesterol: More good cholesterol, lower levels of bad cholesterol are found people who expect more good to come their way than bad
- Enhanced Stress Management: Looking for the silver lining in bad situations makes optimists overall more able to manage stressful situations, and recover physically more quickly
- Stronger Immunity: Staying positive during cold season may make it easier to fight off those germs
- Lower Stroke Risk: Possibly attributed to the idea that people who are positive in nature take more steps to maintain their physical health
- Superior Emotional Regulation: Optimists seem more able to bounce back more easily from emotional trauma, and take upsetting feelings in stride
While you can’t control what happens to you in life, you can control the attitude you adopt after that bad hair day, break up, or cavity at the dentist ruins your day. And now, it looks like you can affect how your whole body functions as a result, some pretty good motivation to try out some positive thinking now and again, no?