The Power of Positive Thinking

Our thinking significantly affects our mental health. The thoughts we have, how we interpret events, and the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us all play crucial roles in shaping our mental and emotional well-being. Depending on a variety of variables, we tend to think more negatively or more positively and that has a direct correlation to how we view the world. Throughout this post we will explore some characteristics of positive and negative thinking and some tips to create more positive thinking. 

When it comes to negative thinking, there are multiple thinking patterns that impact our mental health. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, there is something called cognitive distortions. They are irrational or exaggerated thought patterns that negatively affect mental health. A few examples are all or nothing thinking, which is viewing situations in black and white terms, catastrophizing, which is expecting the worst in any situation, and overgeneralizations, which is drawing broad conclusions from a single event. These thinking patterns increase anxiety and depression and lead to an increase in stress. 

Negative self-talk will significantly impact our negative thinking. It involves critical and self-defeating thoughts, which is internal and can lead to low self-esteem, lack of confidence and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Examples could be “I’m not good enough,” I’ll always fail,” or “No one likes me.” When we get stuck in negative self talk we also tend to ruminate over these thoughts and stressful events related to them. This can intensify those feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness making it difficult to move past those negative experiences. 

How we perceive and interpret stressors can also influence our mental health. Viewing challenges as impossible to manage or feeling a lack of control can exacerbate stress and anxiety. Conversely, perceiving stress as a manageable part of life and an opportunity for growth can lead to better mental health outcomes. When we perceive any stress in our life as negative, we have a hard time finding positive things going on in our lives. We stop looking for good things to happen in our lives and when they do happen we don’t believe they are actually happening. 

People who have more positive thinking are able to have hope in the good things happening in their lives and tend to be more optimistic. They have the ability to see situations realistically and are able to acknowledge that both positive and negative outcomes are possible. However, instead of ruminating on the possible negative outcomes they focus on the positive outcomes, but are still prepared if a negative outcome occurs. They don’t let it ruin their experience and will focus on solutions and use it as an opportunity for growth. 

Those who practice positive thinking are able to practice self-compassion, or giving themselves grace. They treat themselves with an understanding that not everything is going to happen the way they want it to and are willing to take a step back and refocus. They are calm and confident in themselves and their approach to life and live with hopefulness. They believe there is something to learn in life and are grateful for those experiences. 

When we practice positive thinking, we create a better environment for our brain to focus on the good things happening. It reduces the risk of anxiety and depression and helps with stress management. When we are able to think in terms of solutions and not problems, we have more open minds to take in how we can do better and grow. Positive thinking also is associated with higher levels of self esteem. We are able to see ourselves in a positive light despite how we feel and are aware that some days are better than other days. It’s also been shown that positive thinking impacts our physical health as it creates an outlook that focuses on change and resilience. 

We’ve looked at negative thinking and positive thinking, but how do we get to a point of being positive? The first step is having self-compassion. Being aware of how life has it’s ups and downs and one unfortunate situation does not mean everything after that will be negative. We all make mistakes and have set backs but if we continue to tell ourselves it’s always going to be like this or nothing good ever happens to me, then we will continue to only see the negative. 

Practicing mindfulness will also help us be more positive in our thinking. Mindfulness involves being present and fully engaged in the current moment. It’s about having an awareness of how we are thinking and feeling and having this awareness can help manage stress and reduce anxiety. Through mindfulness, we are also practicing gratitude and regularly acknowledging the things you are grateful for. 

Another key tip is challenging those negative thoughts. When you notice yourself having a negative thought question if that thought is valid, meaning question whether it’s based on fact or feeling. Then replace it with a positive thought. If you notice yourself saying “I’m worthless” question if there is any validity to that and replace the thought with something uplifting. And this goes along with positive self talk. Replace the self criticism with encouraging and positive language. 

Cultivating a positive mindset greatly impacts mental health. Creating mental habits to enhance positive thinking will help to reduce stress as well as anxiety and depression. By challenging those negative thoughts and fostering positive thinking, we can build resilience and maintain a healthier and happier outlook on life. Remember, you are not your thoughts. Your thoughts do not define you. You can change your thinking and in doing so can change your outlook on life.