I’m sorry. I love alliterations.
The theory on the benefits of positive thinking has been labeled as “pop” psychology or new-age hokum. I would consider myself a cautious optimist; I’ll smile when I’m having a good day but wonder if I’m tempting fate (Fate: “Did you see her smile? That’s it. Make her break a nail.”) The thing is, the belief that a positive mindset can benefit mental and physical health may not be as flaky a theory as some may think. In fact, our research at Queendom reveals that optimists may have several health advantages over their more negative counterparts.
Aside from the decades of research by renowned positive psychology theorist, Dr. Martin Seligman, the power of positive thinking has seen a massive shift in recent years thanks to proponents like Oprah, Will Smith, and Jim Carrey. Positive thinking, at least in their cases, has been the chain that linked ability with success. As Dr. Seligman put it, “A composer can have all the talent of Mozart and a passionate drive to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing.” So what about on health? Here’s what our research indicated:
Analyzing the mindset and health status of over 6,000 people, our stats reveal that optimists tend to have an advantage over pessimists in terms of their health. They are better-equipped to deal with stress (score of 75 vs. 51 on a scale from 0 to 100) and are more confident about their ability to cope with hardship (64 vs. 42). Optimists rated their level of health better than pessimists, while the latter were more likely to have been diagnosed with depression. Our comparison of optimists’ vs. pessimists’ mindset also reveals that:
- 99% of optimists strive to find something positive in even the most difficult situations (vs. 7% of pessimists).
- 97% of optimists said that they refuse to give up, no matter how difficult things get in their life (vs. 25% of pessimists).
- When they’re feeling down, 98% of optimists will strive to focus on the good things in their life (vs. 6% of pessimists).
- When faced with a difficult problem, 98% of optimists stated that they try to look at it from different angles in order to come up with a solution (vs. 25% of pessimists).
- When life gets too hectic, 95% of optimists said that they know how to calm themselves down and relax (vs. 18% of pessimists).
- 83% of pessimists keep their problems to themselves, rather than seeking help from others (vs. 21% of optimists).
Essentially, a positive mindset seems to act like a buffer that shields optimists from the impact of stress on the mind and body. Does this mean that if you’re optimistic, you’ll never be sad, stressed or become ill? Maybe not. But your mindset can impact your ability to cope with these health issues by shifting your perspective to something more positive, boosting your resilience, and helping you find support. So it’s not a matter of denying a problem, but rather, accepting that it is there and believing that you will be able to get through it. There is power in belief, and optimists, it seems, have managed to harness this power.
So how do you shift from a negative to positive mindset? Well, you start slowly. But here are some tips:
- Let it out. A study on life satisfaction and negative life events revealed that people who wrote out what was bothering them or who talked things out with someone showed an improvement in mental health and life satisfaction. So when something is bothering you, don’t keep it locked up inside. A problem can often feel less intense when we can share the burden, so to speak. Release all your negative feelings and thoughts in a journal. Or talk to a trusted friend, a spiritual leader, a therapist, or join an online community that focuses on helping others get through personal and emotional difficulties. There is always help out there.
- Keep the positive moments in your mind. While it can be difficult to think positively when you feel like your world is crumbling, strive to direct your attention, even if it’s only for a few moments at a time, to a positive memory. It could be a relaxing vacation you had, a playful day with your pet, a romantic evening – whatever moment makes you smile. By focusing more on positive memories and emotions, you can pivot away from the negative. And with a more optimistic attitude, you may be able to look at an issue that’s bothering you in a different light.
- Develop an attitude of gratitude. It seems to be human nature to focus on the negative – just turn on the TV to the latest news reports. Rather than focusing on all that is going wrong in your life, why not focus on what’s going right? So you don’t have a great deal of money in your bank account or your ideal partner. Ask yourself what do you have? Two eyes to read this. A heart that beats. A sunset. Friends. Really dig deep and find all the things that you appreciate, no matter how minor they may seem. You will soon realize how fortunate and abundant your life really is.
- Live without regrets. The past is done. The future is yet to be determined. Keeping your mind and energy locked on regrets from the past or fear of what may come will leave you feeling powerless. You have control over THIS moment right now. You have the power to decide whether you will spend it worrying and fretting or spend it actually living.
- Read inspirational books. There’s nothing more inspiring than reading about people who went through the same hardships as you, and managed to come out on top. It gives you hope and a reason to keep trying. Check out Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning,” Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life,” Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha,” Barbara Delinksky’s “Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors,” and Nelson Mandela’s “Long walk to Freedom,” just to name a few.