Having an optimistic outlook is a good thing, right? Sure it is!
Not many would argue against the advantages of having an optimistic perspective. Positive thinking helps you become a happier, healthier, more fulfilled individual, and holds benefits not just for you, but for all those you interact with!
The power of positive thinking is quite tangible, very real, and available for you to utilize at any time you choose.
But what of the scientific merit behind the proposed benefits of optimism?
The exciting and revolutionary field of positive psychology indicates that interest in this area of study has begun to grow. Positive psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable people to thrive. It operates on the general principle that people want to lead meaningful lives.
So, what has this important new scientific field uncovered about the benefits of positive thinking?
Here are five well-studied and documented ways that optimism and positive thinking has been found to change your life for the better!w
1. Positive Thinking Helps You Live Longer
Sound far-fetched? Too good to be true? Well, as it turns out — it is true!
A Harvard study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health studied participants from 2004 – 2012. They found that the subjects who practiced positive thinking drastically reduced their risk of developing a wide array of medical conditions.
Here is what they observed in positive thinking subjects:
● Decreased risk of cancer
● Decreased risk of heart disease
● Decreased risk of stroke
● Decreased risk of respiratory disease
● Decreased risk of upper-respiratory infection
Those conducting the study found a direct correlation between optimism and reduced risk of mortality. This means that positive thinking truly can help us live longer, healthier lives!
This is due to what’s been called the mind-body connection. This is the inherent link that connects the processes of the brain to the physiological processes of the body.
2. Positive Thinking Banishes Anxiety
Are you someone that’s prone to anxiety? We all experience this uncomfortable state, most especially when undergoing great amounts of stress.
Chronic anxiety is marked by a collection of unpleasant side effects, including:
● Heart palpitations
● Chest pain
● Chronic pain
Anxiety disorders are marked by excessive activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala.
An overstimulated amygdala contributes to the experience of anxiety. Anxiety overstimulates the amygdala. It becomes a vicious cycle that, if left unchecked, can feed into itself to create a toxic merry-go-round of triggered anxiousness and fearfulness.
But a 2015 study in Sweden found that patients who underwent cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that incorporated the use of positive thinking techniques were actually able to change the shape of their amygdalas. These changes helped make the amygdala less reactive and combated feelings of stress and anxiety.
3. Positive Thinking Increases Your Pain Tolerance
Pain is an inevitable part of life. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to circumnavigate some of that discomfort, all thanks to a little optimistic thinking?
In a paper released by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, evidence surfaced that demonstrated the effects of positive thinking on the experience of pain.
It turns out that optimism has a lot to do with how we experience both the intensity and the duration of physiological pain.
A better adjustment to chronic pain was recorded by researchers studying the power of positive thinking on a collection of patients. Because the experience of pain is both sensory and cognitive, positive thinking can help mitigate the sway of pain on both our bodies and our brains.
Yet another example of the mind-body connection at work!
4. Positive Thinking Helps Battle Insomnia
We’ve all been there. Lying awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, watching the minutes tick by, and no amount of counted sheep seems to help you drift any closer to dreamland.
Well, clinical studies have now demonstrated that cognitive behavioral therapy can be beneficial in banishing insomnia!
CBT recruits the power of positive thinking to challenge negative thoughts and scripts. As we lie awake, in the grips of unrelenting sleeplessness, we often find ourselves tossing and turning as anxious thoughts fill our minds:
I’m going to be a wreck tomorrow.
I’m never going to fall asleep.
What’s wrong with me?
Why am I still awake?
I should have been asleep hours ago.
And as these cyclical thoughts spiral outside the realm of our control, we’re only enabling the experience of insomnia to take further hold in our conscious minds.
Cognitive behavioral therapy seeks to identify and challenge the negative scripts that run on autopilot through our minds, and uses positive thinking and affirmations to counteract the negative thoughts.
The next time you’re having difficulty falling asleep, try identifying the fearful ideas and thoughts running through your mind, and seek to replace them with less emotionally charged alternatives. You’ll be snagging some zzz’s in no time!
5. Positive Thinking Lowers Your Blood Pressure
American researchers conducted a study of 2,564 men and women and used a number of evaluation methods to assess their baseline overall health and wellbeing.
Then, they used a four-item positive-emotion scale to determine the emotional state of their subjects.
They discovered that those with positive emotions and an optimistic outlook had conclusively lower blood pressure than those with a more pessimistic outlook.
What’s more is that over a subsequent four year periods, the pessimistic subjects were three times as likely to develop hypertension as their positive thinking counterparts.
How to Encourage Optimism In Your Life
Practicing positive thinking is just that: a practice. It’s not an inherent trait, or even a disposition that some enjoy over others.
It’s a state of being and a cognitive skill that can be learned, cultivated, and routinely practiced to bring about a number of powerful benefits, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
You can work on nurturing a more optimistic outlook in a number of ways.
Sometimes, enjoying more optimism can first begin with practicing realism. How does this work? Well, a surprising number of us fall into pessimistic thought patterns without realizing it.
We can begin to reorient ourselves toward positive thinking by first aiming to perceive the things around us through a realistic lens, as opposed to a pessimistic one.
Pessimists are often guilty of catastrophizing. This is the act of allowing irrational thoughts to project onto a specific situation, creating a devastating disaster where before none existed. Ever heard the expression making a mountain out of a molehill?
Challenging yourself to perceive your life events through a more realistic lens will help you take steps in the direction of positive thinking.
Question the negative scripts that take hold during periods of stress and anxiety. Seek to reframe these ideas in more pragmatic ways.
You’ll soon find that reaching toward optimism is closer and easier than ever before.
Do you have any strategies you use for practicing positive thinking? What do you find is the most effective way to pull yourself out of a pessimistic rut? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!