Is your glass half empty or half full? How many times have you heard this question?
But how you answer this question about positive thinking may reflect your outlook on life, your attitude towards yourself, and whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic.
Some studies have shown that personality traits such as optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits.
Positive thinking essentially means that you approach difficult situations or circumstances in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst.
Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason.
If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly negative, your outlook on life is more likely pessimistic. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you’re likely an optimist; someone who practices positive thinking.
Some health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
- Lower rates of depression
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills during times of stress
It’s unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.
You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it does take time and practice. Here are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way:
- Identify areas to change: If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify areas of your life that you usually think negatively about, whether it’s work, your finances or a relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
- Check yourself: Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
- Be open to having a laugh: Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Look on the funny side in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
- Follow a healthy lifestyle: Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes a day, or whatever you can do. Exercise can positively affect your mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind & body and learn techniques to manage stress.
- Surround yourself with positive people: Make sure people in your life are positive; supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress levels and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
- Practice positive self-talk: Start by following one simple rule; don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you. Think about things you’re thankful for in your life.
If you would like any more advice or help on wellbeing, mental health and positive thinking, visit my blog here where you can find many blog posts on a range of different subjects.