The power of the mind isn’t just a popular saying. Our minds are powerful and can influence many facets of our lives positively and negatively.
Being born a positive thinker may be true to an extent, but this doesn't define the power of the mind. While it is one of our personality traits, positivity is also acquired from the environment around us and can be a learned skill. So, if you’re a glass-half-empty kind of person, read on to find out how you can have more of a glass-half-full outlook on life.
Exactly, What is Positive Thinking?
Positive thinking is when a person can cope with stressful or negative situations and look past them rather than be consumed by them. A positive person processes the adverse situation in a way that empowers them to keep going, knowing they will get through it and experience better times in the future.
Positive Thinking for Health Benefits
Research has identified several health benefits of positive thinking, including:
- Reduced levels of depression
- Reduced levels of pain
- Stronger immune system
- Reduced risk of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stroke infections
- Reduced risk of death from infections and respiratory conditions
- Heightened resistance to illnesses
- Better able to cope with stressful times
- Possible longer lifespan
Research has shown that people with a positive outlook on life are one-third less likely to have a heart attack or cardiovascular event within 5 to 25 years compared to those with a more negative mindset. Even people with a family history of coronary artery disease were 13% less likely to have a heart attack when having a positive attitude, which could mean greater protection against inflammatory damage caused by stress.
A positive outlook on life and individual circumstances can even improve the outcome of people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, tumours, or stroke. Despite the seriousness and critical events, appreciating life enhances personal strength during recovery. This means people are less likely to suffer from depression, which is very common after experiencing traumatic events and can benefit from a more rapid recovery.
One study found that higher rates of optimism equated to a longer life span and a greater chance of living past the age of 85.
Characteristics of Positive Thinkers
There are certain characteristics commonly found in people who are positive thinkers and others commonly found in people who tend to have a more negative outlook on life.
Positive thinkers are more likely to look after themselves with a healthy diet and smart lifestyle decisions, such as getting enough sleep, which is essential for mental and physical health. The decisions made today regarding daily physical activity and a balanced diet are known to pay dividends in future, and unnecessary risks in terms of health aren't part of the equation.
Positive people know how to laugh. Laughter can improve mental health by improving mood, relieving anger and tension, and adding joy to life. Laughter can have physical health benefits such as improved blood pressure, reduced pain, and relaxed muscles.
Open to Change
Positive thinkers embrace change - they are open, willing to adapt, and avoid fighting change. Rather than worrying about the impact of changes, they are likely to adjust old habits for new ones. Creating new healthy habits can improve mental and physical health.
Positive People Around
It is said that 'you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with'. And while the influence can extend beyond these, we are indeed influenced by the people around us. Surrounding yourself with friends, family, and colleagues who have a more positive mindset makes it easier for someone to have a positive outlook on life. Hence most positive people don’t like spending too much time with consistently negative people - it drains their positivity and makes them feel negative too.
We all have a voice in our head that matters. If this inner voice is contributing with constant "you can’t do this" messages, chances are your actions will reflect these. Positive self-talk has the potential to be a powerful tool for personal and professional growth, with implications for mental and physical well-being.
How to Be More Positive
While people inherit and acquire much of their disposition from their parents and the surroundings they grew up in, it is possible to improve your outlook on life.
It’s thought that smiling and laughing (even if it’s a fake smile or laugh) can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure during a stressful situation. It might be the antics of a toddler at the supermarket or a dog playing with other dogs at the park, but whatever it is, give it a go!
If you don’t already know, find out what you find funny and then seek it out. It might be your favourite comedian on YouTube or memes and videos you love. Enjoy a laugh with others and bond while sharing the joy.
Improve your Resilience
Handling stressful and difficult conditions tests your resilience. The good thing is you can improve your capacity to recover from challenging situations by addressing your emotions and working through emotional pain and suffering with gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning, and forgiveness. Building resilience takes time, strength, and help from people around you, so having strong relationships with friends and family can provide massive support.
Change the Way You Think
When you’re in a situation that you know you can’t change, become aware there is no point in getting angry or frustrated. Acceptance doesn't mean invalidating how you feel about the situation, but it does help to create a plan to move forward. Try to find a way to view the positive.
Destructive and negative thoughts of self-criticism, distrust, and self-denial undermine positive feelings and confidence in a person. To turn negative thoughts around, become conscious of your inner voice - the tone, words, and intentions. This is the first big step. With time, you'll be able to identify these situations quicker and will learn to take control of the voice by deciding not to listen.
Living in the moment with what you are doing, touching, smelling, etc., helps significantly to improve your outlook on life. When we're constantly in our head, either thinking about the past or present, stress and abrupt changes in the mood are more likely to arise. Paying attention to the present means you’re more likely to notice the positive things happening around you instead of getting distracted by regrets about the past or worries about the future.
Practise Positive Self-Talk
Becoming aware of negative thoughts, challenging them with positive affirmations, and consistently using these affirmations to shift your mindset is a good place to start. Remember that practising positive self-talk is an ongoing process, and it may take time to change deeply ingrained thought patterns. Be patient with yourself and continue to work on nurturing a more positive and self-affirming inner dialogue. Seek professional support if necessary.
Healthy Eating and Sleeping Habits
Respect your body by attending to how you fuel it. A balanced diet for your body to get all the nutrients it needs is crucial for it to function at its best and can positively impact your mental health. Eating more plant foods and less ultra-processed foods can help fuel your brain. Replace sugary drinks, cakes and cookies, and fried and fast food with fruits, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and oily fish.
Moreover, it's hard to have a positive attitude when being sleep-deprived. Getting a good night’s slumber increases your chances of waking up feeling ready to enjoy the positive moments the new day will bring.
Doing good deeds for other people makes you feel good. You could help by being a companion at the local nursing home, preparing meals at a food bank, or serving customers at the charity store. Meeting other like-minded volunteers will help you build your positivity.
Find What Brings You Joy
Everyone should practice an activity they enjoy. It may be a hobby such as painting or baking, or exercising such as walking or swimming, which gives you the added benefit of improving your physical health. For some, it can also be spending time in nature, focusing on a stunning landscape or watching the wildlife.
Turning negative thoughts and feelings into positive ones can do wonders for your health and possibly even get you a longer life. Start today with our Healthy Lifestyle services, which are available with most of our Extras cover policies.