Every time you find yourself in a new situation, what are your first thoughts?
- Are you the kind of person that thinks, “Oh God, this is horrible!”
- Are you the kind of person that thinks, “Awesome, something new!”
There are basically two kinds of people: positive thinkers and negative thinkers. Did you know that negative thinkers tend to have more health problems than those who think positively? Not only can positive thinking make you healthier, but it can actually help you have a better life.
In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the impact of both positive and negative thinking. By the end, you’ll be convinced that having a cheerful attitude toward life is the key to living for many years to come!
The Impact of Negativity
Negativity is kind of like an addiction. Once you start thinking negative thoughts, it’s easy to continue filling your head with them. But, as you’ll see below, it’s the WORST thing you can do for your health!
Negativity and Depression
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology examined the thinking patterns of college students suffering from depression.
- Their first experiment found that negative thoughts always returned, even if students were able to repress them.
- Their second experiment found that using positive thoughts helped to distract from the negative thoughts more effectively.
The study discovered that negativity just makes depression worse, as the negative thoughts accompanying depression tend to lead to more. These thoughts can undermine your attempts to control depression!
Negativity and Cognitive Function
In an experiment published in 2006 in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, people were divided into two categories: worriers and non-worriers.
Both groups were given categorization tasks, and both groups performed equally when the items they were categorizing were clearly members of a single category. However, when the ambiguity of the items’ categories increased, the performance of those in the worrier group decreased.
A second study found that performance increased as negative thoughts increased. Both groups were told to either “relax” or “worry”, and were given the same tasks. Those in the “non-worrier” category performed as poorly as “worriers” after just 15 minutes of worrying. Those “relaxing” performed better than their worrying counterparts, even if they were initially in the “worrier” category.
What does this mean? Basically, negative thoughts and anxiety reduces your cognitive function!
Negativity and Pain
A study published way back in 1990 found that negative thoughts increased pain sensations.
185 people suffering from chronic pain, sickle cell anemia, and rheumatoid arthritis were studied to see how negative thoughts affected their pain, and vice versa.
Those who thought negatively and had a lot of negative self-talk reported not only more pain, but also greater psychological distress. Patients suffering from chronic pain tended to have more negative thoughts during the painful flare-ups than those suffering from the intermittent pain caused by arthritis and sickle-cell anemia.
As you can see, pain may bring on negative thoughts, but negative thinking will just make the pain worse!
Physical Symptoms of Negativity
According to the Mayo Clinic, negative thinking that leads to stress can wreak havoc on your body. When your worries and anxieties turn into stress, the following symptoms may set in:
- Muscle tension
- Muscle pain
- Chest pains
- Reduction in sex drive and libido
- Sleep problems and insomnia
- Digestive problems
- Mood changes
- Irritability and anger
- Depression or sadness
- Lack of focus and motivation
- Change in appetite (either over or undereating)
- Abuse of alcohol and/or drugs
- Social withdrawal
- Outbursts of anger
- Tobacco/nicotine use
As you can see, negative thinking and stress can really mess with your health, so it’s time to change your mindset and start thinking positive thoughts!
What is Positive Thinking?
When people hear the term “positive thinking”, most of them automatically think of someone who only can see the good in all the bad stuff that happens in life. That definitely isn’t the definition of positive thinking, and it’s certainly not realistic. No one will ever only see the world through rose-colored glasses!
Positive thinking isn’t the same as trying to gloss over the negative things in life or ignore your problems. Positive thinking IS approaching the challenges life throws at you with a positive attitude. Instead of getting negative and worrying about a challenge, positive thinking will help you approach that problem with the attitude of “how can I make the best of this situation?
When you find yourself in a situation, your mind tends to “explain” it to you. It gives you the explanation of why something has happened, and the way you explain it indicates whether you are a negative or positive person.
Let’s say you’ve just found yourself stuck at the office on a Saturday, doing extra paperwork:
- A negative person will grumble about their boss “having it out for them”, and how they “always get stuck with the bad job”.
- A positive person will just get the work done because it’s “something that has to be done, and I’m the one doing it”.
As you can see by the example, the positive person doesn’t enjoy the job any more, but he does realize that it’s not a bad thing. Positive thinking is very realistic, but it still finds a way to make the best of a bad situation.
Benefits of Positive Thinking
There are a surprising number of benefits offered by positive thinking, and you’d be amazed by how positivity can affect your health for the better!
Did you know that stress can reduce your body’s natural immunity to disease? Positive thinking helps to fight stress, thereby preventing it from messing with your immune system. In fact, positive thinking has actually been found to boost your body’s ability to fight off disease.
Improve Heart Health
Your heart is a surprisingly delicate organ considering all the hard work it does, and both stress and anxiety can mess with your heart function. However, positivity can lower your risk of heart disease, including stroke and heart attacks. People who think positively tend to exercise more, eat healthier, and live happier lives!
As you read above, stress can lead to all kinds of health problems. Not only are there health problems CAUSED by stress, but nearly every disease and disorder on the planet is made worse by anxiety and stress. Positive thinking can help manage stress, thereby preventing a wide range of health problems!
Studies have found that positive thinking has helped victims of crises recover more quickly. Thinking positive thoughts helps you to be more resilient, enabling you to bounce back even from serious or traumatic experiences.
A study conducted at the University of London found that seniors who thought positively tend to age healthier. This means that they suffered from fewer physical and emotional health problems as they got older. They even had a longer life expectancy than their negative counterparts!
In one study published in Science Direct, positive thinking was proven to help people tolerate pain. Considering that stress and negativity causes pain sensations to be stronger, it’s easy to see how positive thinking can help reduce the pain–but it also helps you to take your mind off the pain, and thus tolerate it better.
Makes You Healthier
In numerous studies published online, researchers have found that people practicing positive thinking tend to be healthier thanks to the fact that they take care of themselves. They do more exercise, eat better, enjoy their hobbies and recreational activities more, are more socially connected, sleep better, and life better lives.
High blood pressure is one of the many things that can cause heart disorders, the #1 cause of death in the world today. Positive thinking has been proven to lower blood pressure, thereby preventing the risk of hypertension and other heart problems. Anxiety has been directly linked to heart problems, so positivity is the key to a healthy heart!
Other Benefits of Positive Thinking
The benefits listed above are all physical health benefits, but there are many more emotional benefits of thinking positively:
- Deal with problems better. If you have a positive outlook on the problems you face, they’ll be easier to manage and overcome.
- Enjoy your life more. After all, if everything in your life can be taken with a grain of positivity, you’ll find that life is so much more enjoyable!
- Develop positive habits. Being positive keeps you away from harmful things like smoking, overdrinking, taking drugs, and overeating.
- Boost your self-esteem. Once you get in the habit of thinking positively about external situations, you will soon get in the habit of being positive about yourself.
- Form healthy, positive relationships. Being positive will cause you to look for the good in others, which will help you to form positive, productive relationships with them.
The truth is that positive thinking is one of the best things you can do for not just your physical health, but your emotional health as well!
How to Change Negative Thoughts to Positive Thoughts
Are you the kind of person who has a problem with chronic negativity? Are all of your internal thoughts put-downs and negative? Is your self-talk filled with the word “can’t”? If so, it’s time to change your negativity to positivity, for your health’s sake!
It’s not going to be easy to change the way you think, but it can be done! Here are some ways you can change your habits from negative thinking to thinking positive thoughts:
It may sound trite, but did you know that smiling has been scientifically proven to improve your mood and thought patterns? The muscles in your forehead are directly linked to your brain’s emotional center, and creasing them into a frown can make you moody and depressed. Smiling, on the other hand, sends positive, happy thoughts to your mind. Get in the habit of smiling more, and you’ll be happier all around!
Do Yoga or Meditate
What makes Yoga such a great activity is that it helps you to bring your focus inward and listen to your self-talk. Meditation does the same thing, and both of these activities will help you to hear yourself and the way you think. If you hear a lot of negativity, make a conscious effort to replace those thoughts with positive ones
Consciously Replace Your Thoughts
Whenever you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, make a conscious effort to replace it with a positive one. In fact, you can make it a habit that every time you think something negative about a person, situation, or challenge, you HAVE to think two or three positive ones. Within no time, it will become a habit!
Take Control of Your Life
Instead of complaining when you find yourself in negative situations, take control and don’t allow it to happen. Make a conscious choice of whether or not you will do something, and stop being a victim in your own life. Start thinking about your choices.
Be Around Positive Thinkers
Take a look at the people you call friends. Are they positive people always looking for the good in life, or do their attitudes trend toward the negative? Instead of hanging around people that will accompany you in your misery, find people that will help to pull you out of it. The more positivity you have in your life, the brighter the world around you will become.
Solve Someone Else’s Problems
Are you stressed or worried about a situation in which you find yourself? Take your eyes off yourself and start helping someone else deal with their problems. You may realize that your life isn’t as bad as you thought, and things are pretty darn great for you!
Science has proven that singing helps to fight depression and boosts your mood, so belt out your favorite Show Tunes now! The more you sing, the happier you’ll become. It’s a great de-stressing activity, plus it’s a whole lot of fun!
Just like you should surround yourself with positive people, you should also read positivity-reinforcing books, quotes, and materials. Find podcasts that inspire you, or listen to the TED talks. Find quotes on positivity and paste them around your house. The more positivity you surround yourself with, the better!
Make a list
Worried or stress about something, or have negative thoughts plaguing your mind? Instead of giving in to the worries, list the things that you have to be positive or grateful about. Make it a habit to form a list 5 to 10 items long every time your stress mounts.
The truth is that positive thinking is going to improve your life in EVERY SINGLE WAY, so it’s time to start replacing your old negative thoughts with new positive ones. Find ways to consciously catch yourself when you think negatively, and make it a habit to think positively in every situation.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: It gets better as you go!
It’s tough to get started thinking positively, and it will take you a while to form the habit of replacing old thoughts with new ones. However, if you begin the struggle to change your mindset, your efforts will soon start to snowball. Within no time, you’ll be a positive person all the way to your core!