Positive Thinking – What Is It, and How Does It Boost Your Mental Health?
Positive thinking, unlike in common folklore, is not about unicorns and fairies. As the darkness precedes the light, there’s a need to address the negatives before we can get to the positives.
We live in a world full of negativity. In the US, many people continue to be homeless and hungry. Tuition is very expensive. Sexual assault is rampant, and there’s a stigma against those who experience physical and mental disabilities. The list is not exhaustive, but it can go on.
In a world full of these terrible things, it’s typical to wonder how one can avoid depression, hopelessness or other mental health disorders. One of the most common misconceptions of positive thinking is that it avoids all the negatives. Thus it becomes unrealistic, and it’s unrealistic to pretend that problems don’t exist or to assume that a positive attitude can solve everything.
Demystifying Positive Thinking
A positive attitude can be an essential stepping stone to solving our problems. We all know intuitively that there are different ways of thinking about things. The same glass, the saying goes, can be seen as half-full or half-empty.
There’s a lot of research in social science that depending on how you describe the glass as half-full or half-empty, it changes how they feel about it. If you describe the glass as half-full, it’s known as the gain frame, as you’re focusing on what you have gained. However, if you describe it as half-empty, it’s a loss frame, and people don’t like it.
Based on a series of experiments conducted by researchers, it seems our view of the world is tilted towards the negative. It’s pretty easy to go from good to bad, but it’s far more difficult to shift from bad to good. A far greater effort is required for us to see the upside of things.
A positive attitude can be a driving force for change, but change is only possible with the belief that things can change and will get better. You can choose to have a happy day. What that means is that when you wake up in the morning, you have the ability to put a positive attitude and carry that energy wherever you go.
How Positive Thinking Impacts Mental Health?
Conversations in our mind are called self-talk. These internal dialogues can shape our beliefs and influence emotions and behavior. Repeated self-talk can eventually become what an individual considers to be facts, even at a subconscious level.
Positive self-talk reflects internal thoughts that provide you with assurance and motivation. You can use this conversation with yourself to guide your decisions and tackle every day challenges. Negative thinking may detract from or distort your thinking. For instance, in one of the types of negative thinking called personalizing, you may see yourself as the cause for everything bad.
Positive thinking has the following benefits:
Recent studies have revealed that the mind and body are capable of powerfully influencing each other. Your thoughts and attitude can have an especially strong impact in terms of building immunity.
Researchers discovered in a study that negative emotion-related brain activity reduced the immunological response to the flu vaccine. Researchers Segerstrom and Sephton discovered that those with a more positive outlook on a particular and significant aspect of their lives, such as how well they were performing in school, demonstrated a higher immunological response.
The term ‘resilience’ describes the ability to cope with problems. People who are resilient can handle a catastrophe or trauma with strength and resolution. They possess the ability to persevere and eventually conquer such difficulties rather than breaking down in the face of pressure.
Learning to be resilient can be greatly influenced by positive thinking, which may not come as a surprise. Optimists often consider how they can resolve a situation when it arises. They gather their resources and are willing to look for assistance rather than abandoning all hope.
Boosts ability to make better health decisions
Although the exact mechanism underlying the link between health and positive thinking is unknown, experts believe that those who are more optimistic may be better able to fend off the inflammatory effects of stress. Another explanation is that optimism and hope encourage people to prioritize long-term objectives and make better decisions regarding their health and way of life.
Not only at the individual level, but we can also work with our community to focus on the upside. We should be more aware that bad tends to linger in our minds.
One mean comment can stick with somebody for as long as a week, and it continues to propagate. Our mind may be built to look for negative information and to hold on to it, but we can also refrain from that if we put some effort into it and start to see that the glass may be a little more full than we initially thought. Positive thinking helps lessen self-criticism and enhance self-acceptance.