Positive thinking may be something you are aware of; but do you know how it can impact your health and issues such as stress? Here I take a closer look and offer tips to help you adopt a more positive mindset.
Louise Baillie S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3 @ActiveLouise Ask Louise
29 January 2021
What is a positive thinking?
Positive thinking is about adopting a hopeful attitude towards stressful or challenging situations. It centres around the idea that we should aim to focus on the good things that can arise out of a particular situation, rather than concentrating too hard on the negatives. For example, our recent experiences of lockdown may be isolating and scary but, if we were to apply positive thinking to this, we might hone in the fact that it is an opportunity to develop new skills at home or spend time with family. This, in turn, may offer a little reassurance.
My self-care tip: Reap the health benefits of positive thinking
Here I go through just a few of the health benefits associated with positive thinking.
Does positive thinking really work?
A lot of research has looked into the effect of positive thinking, and there are some good results.
One study noted that when participants suffering from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) visualised a positive image in response to their worries, they reported greater happiness, restfulness and decreased anxiety.1 It has also been found that people are generally happier for adopting a positive and optimistic outlook; plus, they feel more confident and energetic.2
A positive outlook has also been found to have a direct impact on our health. In fact, according to one 2019 study, it could help us to live longer – the most optimistic of participants had an 11-15% longer lifespan, plus they were significantly more likely to reach the age of 85.3 Positive thinking can make it easier to control emotions and, therefore, provides some protection from stress. This may explain why it has such a dramatic influence on health.
However, positive thinking is by no means an easy mantra to adopt and it's likely that not everyone will be find following its principles something they can stick to. So, let's look at a few tips to help.
Tactics for adopting positive thinking
To get to grips with positive thinking, here are a few things to bear in mind:
Before doing something that you deem challenging, lay out the good and bad that can come from it. Hone in on the good and believe that this will be the outcome you achieve. Taking the time to consider any negatives also brings a bit of preparation for what is to come.
Be careful not to think in black and white – sometimes the outcome of a situation is neither excellent nor terrible but somewhere in between. This is ok too.
Put negatives behind you. When/if something troubling occurs, let go of it and move on when you are ready. Just because you've experienced something downbeat, it doesn't mean the rest of your day/month/year will be that way.
Hone in on the good in any given situation. For example, perhaps you nip out to the supermarket but forget your mask so can't enter once there. That's ok. Take a deep breath, return home and focus on the good of the situation – you may have got a bit of exercise in walking to the shop, for example, or enjoyed the tunes on the car ride over.
Putting positive thinking into practice
On a day-to-day basis, here's what you could do to try out positive thinking for yourself:
Keep a journal – write down a page of positive things at the end of the week. This could include tasks as simple as baking a cake or finishing a very good book.
Smile to get through challenging tasks or even just smile more in general – when out for your daily walk, for example, pass on a grin to the people you meet on your way.
Mark off your 'to-do lists' to see just how much you have accomplished at the end of a day, rather than getting annoyed about what you haven't managed to do.
Use your skills – write down what these are and how you can implement them during the course of the day. If you are creative, maybe it's time to explore new pursuits in this area to help boost confidence and feelings of accomplishment.
What if positive thinking doesn’t work for me?
If you're still struggling to get to grips with positive thinking then don't worry, perhaps this simply isn't for you! There are plenty of other stress-beating/mood-boosting tactics you can deploy instead – just take a look at our blog '5 ways to cope with stress' for suggestions.
In the meantime, you might be interested to hear about how natural remedies can help with these kinds of issues. Stress Relief Daytime, for example, has traditionally been used to address mild stress and anxiety. It contains Valerian and Hops to gently calm the nervous system.
When we feel stressed or anxious our body responds as though we are under attack, releasing a surge of adrenaline which can cause a number of baffling bodily behaviours including palpitations, shortness of breath and even a dry mouth!