The power of positive thinking has been widely recognised and studied by researchers, psychologists, and medical professionals alike. It’s a well-established fact that our thoughts have a profound impact on our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. The way we perceive the world and ourselves is shaped by the thoughts we think. If our thoughts are negative and filled with worry, fear, and doubt, we’ll experience life through that lens, and it can be a miserable existence. On the other hand, when we adopt a positive outlook, we open ourselves up to new possibilities, and life takes on a brighter, more fulfilling hue.
Studies have shown that negative thoughts can make us more sensitive to physical pain, and can even exacerbate existing conditions. This is because when we’re in a negative mindset, our body is under more stress, and the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline can increase pain and discomfort. On the other hand, people who are more optimistic have been found to have a higher survival rate after a cancer diagnosis. They’re more likely to take care of themselves, adhere to medical treatments, and have a better overall quality of life.
Moreover, positive thinking has been linked to better mental health, increased resilience, and reduced stress levels. When we focus on positive thoughts, we reduce anxiety, worry, and fear, and instead cultivate feelings of happiness, contentment, and joy. Positive thinking can help us build strong relationships, achieve our goals, and lead fulfilling lives. When I have clients sat with me in my therapy room and I ask them what they want more of, they usually say something similar to joy and happiness. Achieving it is simple, but not always easy.
It’s important to note that positive thinking isn’t just about avoiding negative thoughts, it’s about actively choosing to focus on what’s good in our lives. This could be anything from our relationships, our health, or the small moments of happiness we experience every day. When we adopt a positive outlook, we train our brains to focus on the positive, and over time, this becomes a habit.
Let’s start by acknowledging what we don’t want in our lives. This can include feelings like grumpiness, anger, resentment, regret, fear, and identifying with the role of a victim or martyr. Now that we’re clear on what we don’t want, it’s time to focus on what we do want. Some examples might include having curiosity, acceptance, honesty, inspiration, compassion, love, joy, peace, and serenity.
Here’s an example of how changing your thoughts can make a difference. Imagine you were cut off in traffic and your initial reaction was to label the driver as an “asshole.” However, what if you took a moment to consider other possibilities for the driver’s behavior? Maybe they were on their way to the funeral home to bury their mother, rushing to the hospital because their child was in a car accident, or simply having a bad day and were completely distracted and feel terrible about their lapse in concentration. By shifting your focus to these potential reasons, the anger and frustration you initially felt may start to fade away.
It’s important to note that changing your thoughts is not always easy, but it’s worth the effort. Every time you challenge yourself to think from a different perspective, you build new neural pathways in your brain. This requires stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing discomfort, but the benefits are worth it.
What you focus on shapes your brain. If you focus on self-criticism, worries, and negativity, your brain will respond by sending signals of anger, sadness, guilt, and shame to your nervous system. On the other hand, if you focus on gratitude, joy, positivity, and self-worth, you create new neural pathways and build resilience, optimism, and inner strength.
To make this process easier, ask yourself daily (or even hourly!) whether your thoughts are helpful or not. If the answer is no, it’s time to change them. Within almost every situation there’s a tiny sliver of something good. While it’s easy to sit in the negative and have a knee-jerk reaction that this is ‘toxic positivity’ and stomp away, maybe circle back around sometime when you’re not feeling so frustrated with life and consider what these little shifts might bring. when we reach for a positive thought we give ourselves a little hit of dopamine, a little reward, and a boost. It helps us both in that moment and in terms of laying down neural pathways for the future.
The power of positive thinking is undeniable, and it’s within our reach to harness it. By focusing on what’s good in our lives, and actively seeking out positive experiences, we can change the way we think and feel, and create a better life for ourselves. Positive thinking is not just a mindset, it’s a habit that we can all develop, and it can make all the difference in the world. Acknowledging negative thoughts, erasing them, and replacing them with positive ones can create tunnels of inner strength in your brain. Over time, old negativity will crumble and become unpassable, and your brain will naturally reach for thoughts of curiosity, positivity, gratitude, joy, compassion, and empathy.
Remember to be patient and compassionate with yourself, take it one day at a time, and enjoy the journey!
Are you finding it hard to find the positives? Book a chat with me and let’s see if I can help.