The Benefits of Positive Thinking for Body and Mind

 

“Wondrous is the strength of cheerfulness, and its power of endurance - the cheerful man will do more in the same time, will do it; better, will preserve it longer, than the sad or sullen.”   -Thomas Carlyle

The benefits of a positive attitude are talked about a lot, but today's research shows evidence that having a positive attitude has dramatic effects. By being a happy person, by focusing on the good rather than the bad, on the positive rather than the negative, on what we want rather than what we don’t want, we are able to transform ourselves, our lives and the lives of those around us. Thinking negatively can have an opposite effect, because pessimistic thoughts will bring the same results. Positive thinkers approach obstacles in life more productively and have an easier time overcoming them.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many health benefits of positive thinking, which include:

•Increased life span

•Lower rates of depression

•Lower levels of distress

•Greater resistance to the common cold

•Better psychological and physical well-being

•Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease

•Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Build A Positive Attitude.  Whether we need to improve our performance at work, create better relationships, or simply have more positive emotions, there are ways to start improving our mindset, performance, and circumstances. Positive thinking allows people to cope better during hardships and reduce the stress in their lives.  The Mayo Clinic advises that when thoughts cross your mind, evaluate them. Find ways to put positive spins on any negative thinking. If your mind is telling you a certain task is not going to work, tell yourself you can make it work using a different approach. Exercising at least three times a week can produce positive moods.  A healthy diet also keeps your body strong and your mind alert.

We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to analyze bad events so that we can learn from them and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this focus on negative events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well.  - Dr. Martin Seligman, founding father of Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is the branch of psychology that uses scientific understanding and effective intervention to aid in the achievement of a satisfactory life rather than merely treating mental illness. The goal of Positive Psychology is to help people change negative styles of thinking as a way to change how they feel. This approach has been very successful.  Changing how we think about other people, our future, and ourselves is partially responsible for this success. The thinking processes that impact our emotional states vary considerably from person to person. An ability to pull attention away from the chronic inner chatter of our thoughts can be quite advantageous to well-being.

Dr. Seligman offers a simple practice that promises to enhance your well-being and lower your depression — the “Gratitude Visit.” Though to the cynical eye the exercise might appear both old-fashioned and overly self-help, it is rooted in decades of Seligman’s acclaimed research and brings to practical life some of modern psychology’s most important findings.

Positive Thought Exercise:

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

Caveats

•If you don’t like the idea of writing these exercises out, consider having a planned discussion each day for a week about the exercise with someone in your life.

•Make sure you practice the exercise for a full week. Take notice of the impact it has.

For those of us able to quiet our inner culturally-conditioned cynic who judges and dismisses such practices, Seligman promises that we’ll be “less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”

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