Chin up! Keep soldiering on! Search for the silver lining…
Everyone’s told to stay positive or to look on the bright side at one point or another. These phrases are usually intended to encourage and uplift you when you’re feeling low, challenged, or frustrated with life.
Unfortunately, they may also seem insincere and unachievable.
Staying positive might not sound like a cure-all solution, but there’s scientific evidence it can improve your mindset and your life. Positivity can reshape and retrain your moods, thoughts and actions. It replaces self-deprecating or negative behaviours with the authentic belief that you can defeat your own negativity through gratitude and positive thinking.
Scientific research has also proven the benefits of avoiding negative self-talk and fostering more positive thinking patterns. It can benefit your health, your mental wellbeing, and even your ability to reach your personal goals.
Here’s what you need to know.
Why Positive Thinking Trumps Negativity
We mentioned that science has long discussed the benefits of thinking positively during times of stress and crisis, so let’s start there.
A 2013 study by the University of Western Australia took this further, comparing two forms of negative thought—rumination and worry—in participants suffering from co-morbid diagnoses, anxiety and depression.
The study discovered that participants with more than one diagnosis were more likely to display repetitive patterns of negative thinking. The researchers concluded we should address ruminating and worrying to combat negative thoughts and encourage positivity.
Another article published by the American Psychological Association in 2006 focused on the mind-body connection and how the mind can affect your health. The article highlighted the fact that psychological stress can negatively affect your immune response. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive impact can have an equal but positive effect, lowering your risk of depression, disease, colds and more.
The Science of Happiness
Researchers at Stanford University also took an interest in the power of positive thinking in 2018. They examined how positivity towards mathematics can improve grades and comprehension in young students. They discovered a link between positive attitude and increased usage of the brain areas associated with learning and memorising.
Simply put: Positive thinking can improve your ability to retain information and may even make you smarter.
Another later study found that cancer survivors who regularly used self-affirmations and reinforced their strengths and values had lower risk of cognitive impairment, and were happier and more hopeful on average. The same study found an association between optimism and improved health in cancer survivors, too.
It’s difficult to feel genuinely happy when you’re fighting off stress and anxiety. A Mayo Clinic article has revealed that negative self-talk can increase your stress levels, while positive thinking can lower them. Being kinder and more supportive towards yourself thus minimises stress and allows you to be happy more often.
The researchers also noted that when you think positively, your perceptions of stress are less intimidating. This allows you to use healthier, more constructive methods like healthy eating, exercise and fun activities for coping with stress.
Gratitude and Attitude
According to researchers in Positive Psychology, gratitude and happiness are strongly and directly linked. Gratitude encourages people to experience more positive emotions, to be more present and aware during good experiences, to improve their health, to bravely face challenges, and to develop strong relationships. These factors can help you achieve lasting happiness.
There are three primary ways in which people can express gratitude.
- Being grateful for their past, their positive childhood memories and the good parts of their upbringing.
- Being grateful, taking time to be in the moment and appreciating things exactly as they are.
- Being grateful for things to come, which requires hopefulness and optimism in equal measure.
How to Think More Positively
Are you a fan of always looking on the bright side? Do you gravitate towards negative emotions when things don’t go as you planned?
Regardless of how you usually handle challenges, you can gradually and consistently replace negative habits with positive ones.
Here are some approaches you can try to encourage gratitude and positive thinking every day:
Mindfulness and meditation.
These two practices allow you to become consciously aware of your own thoughts, and therefore able to correct yourself when they turn negative. You can practise mindfulness by meditating, breathing, spending time in nature, or participating in activities that you genuinely enjoy.
The rubber band method.
Wear a hair tie or a rubber band around your wrist and lightly snap it whenever you find yourself having a negative thought. You can even replace that thought with an affirmation or mantra, like “I respect myself and others” or “I choose peace and love today”. This is a great way to break the habit of constantly seeking negativity in situations.
Be grateful every day.
Many studies found that patients battling depression and anxiety reported notable improvements when they wrote letters of gratitude to people in their lives. Try writing three things you’re grateful for every day to make it a habit.
Seek positive people.
Misery loves company, and so do positive people. Surround yourself with respectful, uplifting folks who appreciate you for who you are and you will find it easier to be happy.
Ditch the clutter.
Just like decluttering your home has benefits, so too does decluttering your mind. Let go of the past, stop holding grudges, and don’t dwell on what may have been, but isn’t.
Search for silver linings.
If you’re always seeking negativity in what you read, listen to, or interact with, consider diverting your attention towards more positive topics and interests.
Unlocking The Happiness Factor
If you’re in pursuit of happiness, positive thinking and gratitude could be the keys to achieving the state of mind you desire. Set realistic expectations for yourself when trying to break through patterns of negativity.
Use these suggestions day by day to slowly refocus your attention on positive things and your health, mindset, thoughts and behaviours will soon follow suit.
You won’t want to turn back once you’ve had a taste of genuine positivity and zest for life!