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Improve your life with a new outlook: 10 benefits of positive thinking

April 12, 2022 - 14 min read

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What is positive thinking?

10 benefits of positive thinking

6 tips to start “thinking positive”

How to identify negative thinking

Examples of positive thinking

Switching mindsets

When you're feeling down, the last thing you want to hear is that glass half full metaphor. What's that supposed to do for you? 

It can seem like there are no positive thinking benefits in that moment. You're disappointed because you want the full glass. And you don't have it. Or, maybe you feel like your glass doesn't exist at all. It's broken, stolen, shattered, someone else's. 

Angry, frustrated, disappointed, sad, afraid — you need to spend some time with those negative feelings. The key is to acknowledge them, then move on.

When someone tells you to "cheer up" or "think positive," it can seem pretty tone-deaf. Relentless positivity without reality rarely helps. That's why toxic positivity has given positive thinking a bad rap

While it may not work any immediate miracles, positive thinking that acknowledges reality can benefit us all in the long run. Hope and growth are good for your health and wellness.

Some people are more optimistic than others, but that doesn't mean you can't learn to see the opportunities and silver linings in life.

 

What is positive thinking?

The first thing to know about positive thinking is that it doesn't mean that you ignore facts or logic or force yourself to have only positive emotions. That’s not realistic.

Positive thinking means that you approach negative news or stressful situations with a positive outlook. You’re able to look beyond the crisis or setback rather than being consumed by it.

You may have to acknowledge and process the negative aspects, but you understand that you will get through it. You know that bad news doesn’t mean the entire world is bad or that you will never experience goodness again. 

A positive thinker assumes best intentions from others and interprets actions more favorably rather than jumping to negative thoughts and assuming the worst. A positive thinker can visualize good outcomes

Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. The thoughts running through our heads never end. Some may be from clear facts and unbiased, but many have a positive or negative outlook. 

If you practice more negative self-talk and think about all the downsides, you're probably more of a pessimist. But that's not to say we can't change our behavior to adopt a more positive mindset. 

It takes some effort, but after you practice consciously adopting a more positive approach, your brain will form new ways of thinking. Some optimists work hard to combat their negative emotions, but negative thought patterns can be changed with mindfulness and self-compassion.

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10 benefits of positive thinking

Why is it important to have a positive mindset?

The power of positive thinking can impact your physical and mental health. The health benefits of positive thinking may surprise you, too.

Read over this list of 10 benefits that positive thinking can bring to your well-being, and think about how they could improve your life:

  1. Better stress management and coping skills during stressful moments 
  2. Lower risk of depression
  3. More resistant to the common cold and a stronger immune system
  4. Decreased risk of heart attacks and heart disease
  5. Lower blood pressure
  6. Better problem-solving
  7. Greater ability to adapt to change
  8. More creative thinking
  9. Consistent attitude with fewer mood swings
  10. Stronger leadership skills

Man-Playing-Chess-Game-With-Anonymous-Partner-At-Home-positive-thinking-benefits

We all want to reap the benefits of positive thinking, but sometimes we need help getting started. A BetterUp coach will help guide you towards practicing more positive self-talk. Start experiencing what it feels like to have a coach that's focused on your growth with BetterUp.

6 tips to start "thinking positive"

Having a positive attitude takes practice. If you struggle with positive thinking, know that you can't completely change how you practice self-talk overnight. It can be challenging for people with more pessimistic thoughts to change their habits of thought. 

It's important to understand that sometimes you'll slip back into thinking negative thoughts, but that's okay. What matters is that you're trying to empower yourself to have a more positive mindset by becoming aware of your automatic negative thoughts and reframing them to be more positive.

Becoming aware lets you question your negative automatic thoughts. Many coaches recommend some version of these questions to ask of your thoughts:

  • Is it true? Meaning: Is the sky falling, or is there another possible interpretation?
  • Is it helpful? Meaning: Does this interpretation help me get through this moment productively or inspire me to find new solutions?
  • Is it kind? Meaning: Does this thinking help me feel capable and able to reach out to others for help or support?

Here are six more tips to help you start thinking positively:

1. Remember to be grateful

You can be grateful for many things in your life, both big and small, like having your family close by or the rain holding off during your walk to work. Write down whatever you're grateful for and keep it in a gratitude journal. When you're feeling pessimistic or upset, reflect on what you're thankful for in your life to boost your mood.

2. Get plenty of sleep 

Are you getting enough sleep each night, or at least trying to? Being well-rested sets you up for a better day. It helps us recharge and get our tasks done. Dwelling on how tired you are won't help your attitude, either. Your self-talk will be filled with wanting to get your day over with impatient thoughts, so try developing a good nightly routine that prioritizes your sleep schedule.

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3. Accept situations as they are

If you're in a negative situation, there's no sense in being in denial and pretending it never happened. For example, if your brother has taken the car and you have to walk to an appointment, reframe the situation: this gives you the chance to get some exercise and fresh air.

Understand your locus of control. Accept what you can't change and do your best to think of the positives instead.

4. Identify areas you need to work on

Is there one particular situation or environment that makes you incredibly pessimistic? If you can identify areas that throw off your positive outlook on things, you can start to work on strategies that'll help. It can be something like your commute to work that gives you negative thoughts.

Try to have fun with the challenge. Next time, create a fun playlist of music to put on when you head to work. Avoid people or places that really drain your energy, and try spending more time with positive people.

5. Remember to laugh

Trying your best to find humor in your daily life helps you look on the bright side. It also helps you to manage your stress levels and reduce your heart rate, potentially improving your physical health.

If you can't laugh, then at least smile. Laughing along with yourself can help you accept any mistakes and calm yourself down. If you need to, watch a funny video or phone a friend that can make you laugh.

6. Keep it real

While we love positive thinking benefits, you have to remember to be reasonable and logical with your mindset. Only considering positive thoughts blocks out any thoughts about how you'd react or prepare for something negative. 

Plus, disappointment will hit you harder when things don't turn out as you hoped. You can’t avoid encountering some bad days and negative outcomes in life, so a realistic positive attitude is best.

How to identify negative thinking

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Negative thinking can creep up on us in a few different ways. If you're used to practicing negative self-talk, you may not even realize when you're doing it. It becomes automatic and actually creates cognitive bias in how we view the world.

Here are two examples of when negative thinking can happen:

Filtering out the positive thoughts

You may only see the downside when facing a difficult situation. You might automatically filter out all positive aspects and only focus on the bad things. When we forget about positive affirmations, we forget that we're capable and have some control in our lives.

We also forget to look for humor in a situation. Positive thoughts may be attached to the situation, but you can't see them because you're too focused on the negative ones. Humor is a great way to bring the positives to the front.

Polarizing our thoughts and reactions

Negative thinking can happen when you polarize everything that happens to you right away. Things can only be good or bad with nothing in between. When we're experiencing anything from new changes or something from our usual routine, they're perceived as positive or negative.

Either things work out just as you wanted, or everything is a failure and a waste of time. This isn't reality. Life is shades of gray and most outcomes have a mix of highs and lows. Both are opportunities for learning how to improve the next round.

Examples of positive thinking

Positive thinking helps you change your attitude towards whatever situation or environment you're in. 

Read these two examples of positive thinking and imagine how a change in attitude and perspective could impact the experience:

1. Trying something new

Your coworker just called in sick, but their work still has to be completed to meet the deadline. You've never done their job before, and you're worried you'll fail and ruin the entire project. Rather than spiraling into thinking the worst, you see this as an opportunity.

Your team needs you, and you get to learn new skills, work with new people, and experience the tasks that your coworker handles. You might nail it, or you might just get by, and either is ok.

Colleagues-working-together-in-a-meeting-room-positive-thinking-benefits

2. Getting out of your comfort zone

You're invited to a friend’s party. A few of your mutual friends were supposed to go, but they canceled at the last minute. You show up to the party and only know the host, making you feel awkward and bored.

Rather than feeling like a socially-awkward loser or feeling resentful toward your friends who canceled, you accept that you don't know many people here and feel grateful for seeing your friend on their birthday. You focus on your friend's special moment and do your best to meet new people.

Remember: You grow when you are uncomfortable.

Switching mindsets

Why wait when it comes to learning how to reap positive thinking benefits? Start experiencing what it's like to fill your life with positive self-talk. You’ll learn to leave behind your self-sabotaging negativity, be your best self, and meet your goals unhindered.

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Published April 12, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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