It’s easy to brush off someone telling you to “lighten up” or “look on the bright side”, but there is real science behind the benefits being a positive thinker who sees the cup half full. A landmark study by Barbara L Fredickson suggests that positive thinkers are more likely to broaden their skills set and appreciate the bigger picture. For example, a pessimist will tend to focus on the immediate threat of the negative situation rather than take a step back to problem solve and learn a new approach. In turn, a positive outlook can lead to experience less stress and less of the negative physical health impacts associated with stress.
1) A stronger approach to stress
When faced with a stressful challenge, pessimists can instinctively feel they can’t change the situation and begin to assume even further “what if” first case scenarios. In contrast, optimists will focus on how they can resolve the problem and also look to see the silver lining that they maybe hadn’t considered previously. They are also more likely to put their resolution ideas into practice and have the confidence to seek support if it is needed.
2) Increased physical health and immunity
Research is showing more and more the intricate links to physical and mental well-being. It could partly be down to positive outlook driving more physical motivation; so for example, an optimist might plan to go for a morning run, wake up feeling shattered but will think “I’ll still get up and try to run as much as I can manage and try to do more another day”, whilst a pessimist might just assume it’s not worth even trying whilst they are tired. Additional research even suggests those who have negative emotions activated in their brain areas experienced a weaker immune response to a flu vaccine.
3) Improved general health
As well as benefiting your immunity and ability to cope with stress, positive thinking can even have an impact on your overall health. Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular issues, less depression and increased life expectancy are just a few of the health benefits associated with positive thinking, which is quite significant really!
4) Greater resilience
Linking to how positive thinkers manage stress, optimists also tend to have more resilience when faced with significant life changes or problems. A positive thinker is more likely to quickly find a solution and reflect on what they can learn, how they can grow from challenges and build even more coping skills for the future. A pessimist again, is less likely to ask for help and will potentially spend more time thinking on further problems that may arise from the challenge, rather than focusing on how to manage the situation itself. Having a well-rounded approach On the flip side of this, it is worth noting that positive thinkers are more likely to take on more than they can manage or overestimate their abilities, so a little balance is key. We have mentioned positive thinkers always being able to find a silver lining, but at times, optimists can struggle to stay focused on the reality of the situation. How to move forward and adjust your outlook There are steps with professionals people can take to adjust their mental outlook such as CBT therapy, hypnosis or neuro-linguistic programming which is a psychological approach which teaches people to analyse strategies used by successful individuals and using their techniques to reach a personal goal. As a starter there are simple techniques you can apply if you are more likely to instinctively respond to situations negatively. Remember, it’s normal for negative things to happen in life and they will always be relative to your current situation, but it doesn’t mean life will continue to throw constant negativity and challenge at you. Try stepping away from the situation and imagine it was happening to someone else and the advice you would give to them. This can help you take on the approach of a positive thinker and search for solutions and possible growth from this experience. Taking these small initial steps will all help to improve your overall outlook and approach and in time, develop some of the mental and physical health benefits to positive thinking.