“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on those things.”
Positive thinking impacts how we view ourselves, how we treat the people around us, and how we handle adversity. People who think positively are better able to manage stress and are better able to assess situations from multiple perspectives before taking action. Learning to think positively (and you can learn how) leads to using positive language, which allows for a positive and supportive work culture.
Positive thinking and optimism are some great ideas when you give them a little thought. (You prefer positive rather than negative people, right?) Easy to dismiss though, “positive thinking” is also a soft term. Out in the world, it seldom carries the same power as words like “grit” or “drive.”
That being said, research is revealing that positive thinking is about more than just being happy or displaying an upbeat attitude. A growing body of research indicates that positive thoughts essentially create real value in your life, helping you build skills that last.
Here are six health impacts from positive thinking:
- Increased Lifespan. Researchers found that positive thinking postmenopausal women have decreased rates of death and were less likely to be diabetic or suffer from hypertension than their negative counterparts. The optimists were 30 percent less likely to die from heart disease than the pessimists. The negative-thinking women were 23 percent more likely to die from cancer than the general population.
- Lower Rates of Depression. Negative thinking is a big factor in depression. Improving the way you think by changing to a positive mental mood combats depression.\
- Strengthens Immunity. Research shows that positive minded people fight off common colds and other ailments more quickly than the general population. Researchers analyzed people during a task that brought on negative emotions and discovered that they caused greater electrical activity in the part of the brain that weakens the immune response.
- Coping with Disease. People with positive attitudes recover faster from surgery and handle serious diseases better.
- Overcoming Stress and Hardships. Positive thinking allows people to cope better with difficulties and reduce stress.
- Confidence and Coping Skills. Individuals with high levels of confidence feel good about themselves and think positively. They feel a sense of belonging and protection. They respect themselves and appreciate others.
Building Those Positivity Muscles
So the natural question is, “How do I live so that I can enjoy a positive attitude?” There is no formal place where people are taught to think about their thoughts or to challenge their everyday notions. Teaching yourself to control and direct your thoughts in a positive way is one of the most effective ways to feel better. Here are some tips that I use in my coaching practice to help my clients think positively.
- Accept That Your Thoughts Are Real. Face it, you have a thought, your brain releases chemicals, an electrical transmission goes across your brain, and you become aware of what you are thinking. Those thoughts have a real impact on how you feel and behave.
- Notice How Negative Thoughts Affect Your Body. Think about the last time you were angry. How did that feel? Every time you have a negative thought, your brain releases chemicals that make your body feel bad. A negative thought is like pollution in your mind. Just as pollution in a river affects everyone who drinks from it, so do negative thoughts pollute your mind and body
- Notice How Positive Thoughts Affect Your Body. Your body reacts to good thoughts, too. Think about the last time you had a good thought, a kind or hopeful thought. Your brain releases chemicals that make your body feel good. How did you feel then?
- Notice How Your Body Reacts to Every Thought You Have. Reactions take place immediately. Every thought you have elicits a physical response. When you lie, your hands get cold, heart beats faster, blood pressure goes up, breathing rate increases, and hands begin to perspire. When you tell the truth, your hands become warmer, heart rate slows, breathing slows and grows deeper, muscles relax, and hands become dryer.
- Your First Thought Isn’t Necessarily the Truth. Thoughts are automatic, and sometimes they can lie to you. If you don’t challenge your thoughts, you just believe them as though they actually are true.
- Talk Back to Your Thoughts. You can learn to train your thoughts to be positive and hopeful, or you can let them be negative and upsetting. It’s all up to you. One way to learn how to change your thoughts is to notice them when they are negative and talk back to them. When you think a negative thought without challenging it your mind believes it and your body reacts. When you correct negative thoughts, you take away their power.
- Crush the Negative Thoughts. Think of negative thoughts as pests at a picnic. One negative thought, like a little bug doesn’t cause much of a problem. Two or three can become an irritation, but ten or twenty can cause you to pick up and leave. It’s important to check them out and crush them from time to time before your mind is infested.
Practicing Positive Thinking Every Day
If you tend to have a negative outlook, don’t expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually your self talk will contain less criticism and more acceptance.
When you take back control over your own life instead of leaving your life up to your negative thoughts, you will begin to see positive outcomes.
Frank Hopkins is a certified Professional Coach (CPC). Frank is and certified by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). He is a certified Master Practitioner (ELI-MP) of the iPEC proprietary assessment tool. The tool, the Energy Leadership Index offers seminars on Energy Leadership. He maintains memberships in the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Institute of Coaching (ICPA).