The science of the power of positive thinking seems conclusive. Positivity makes us healthier, happier, and hopeful.
This conclusion does come in the face of critics and disheartening studies that show positive thinking can’t heal all wounds. In fact, a recent study found that positive thinking did nothing for cancer patients with advanced diseases.
But with all that information in tow, positive thinking can influence our quality of life.
Still, what part of our lives can changing our mindset influence most?
That question and others will be answered as we dive into the truth behind positive thinking, and why everyone should work just a little harder to put more smiles in their life.
What Really Happens When We Think Positively?
Every thought releases brain chemicals. Those chemicals, in turn, help guide our emotions and bodies. That makes the thoughts you have really important!
When we think positively, our brains release endorphins and serotonin. These chemicals are responsible for making us happy. They generate those “feel good” emotions that make us feel optimistic and capable.
Endorphins are responsible for the euphoria surrounding the “runner’s high” and sexual intercourse. And serotonin affects just about everything, but especially our self-esteem and increased feelings of worthiness and sense of belonging. Now isn’t that a positive thought in and of itself?
On the other hand, negative thoughts release chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormone.
Left over from our days as hunters and gatherers, cortisol triggers our fight or flight response. But when that response is triggered without the threat of immediate danger, like when we are stressed at work or experience a tragedy, cortisol can build up, causing depression, hypertension, and can even lead to heart disease.
Not only does thinking positively help relieve the symptoms of negative emotions, it helps you forge new, healthier brain paths.
Happy thoughts help support brain growth, as well as the generation and reinforcement of new synapses, especially in your prefrontal cortex (PFC). This is the area of the brain that regulates the signals your neurons transmit to other parts of the brain and body, as well as allows you to think about and reflect upon what you’re doing.
In other words, the PFC lets you control emotional responses and gain insights.
It’s the part of the brain that allows you to control your emotions, behaviors, and achieve your goals. So when you think positively, you enable your mind to not only think more positively, but also reflect on the good and bad in your life, and empower you to better your life.
Just by thinking happy thoughts!
What Does Positive Thinking Really Influence?
The science behind how and why we think positively is clear, but discovering the long-term effects on our lives has taken a lot of research.
Scientists seem to be in a constant battle over whether thinking positively can have lasting effects on our lives, in terms of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Is it really that simple to live happier, healthier lives?
Most of the science points to YES!
By regularly practicing positive thinking, you can:
- Boost your immune system. Positive thinking helps feed your immune system so you can better ward off illness.
- Improve your heart health. Clearing your body of cortisol and managing adrenaline can keep your heart strong and free from disease.
- Fight stress. Not only does purposeful positive thinking replace some of the negative thoughts that cause stress, it also helps you access mental tools to manage stressful situations.
- Increase your resilience. By strengthening the PFC, you bounce back faster after setbacks or traumas.
- Extend your lifespan. Negative thoughts come with myriad health consequences, such as increased risk for heart disease and depression. When you replace those thoughts with positivity, you reduce those risks while also taking healthier actions in day-to-day life, like exercising, getting more sleep, and eating better.
- Tolerate pain better. The happy chemicals released when you think positively help reduce the sensations of pain (while negative chemicals increase them). Upbeat thoughts also help keep your mind off pain, so you feel it even less.
- Boost your self-esteem. Getting in the habit of thinking positively about outside situations helps you think more positively about yourself.
- Build stronger habits. Because positive thinking strengthens your PFC, where habits are formed and maintained, you will actually be able to stick to habits better when you choose to think positively.
- Better your relationships. Not only will you be able to appreciate your relationships more, you’ll be better equipped to spot negative or toxic relationships in your life and clear them out for good.
Regardless of all these life-changing benefits, positive thinking is still an underused tool in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of ailments.
But it doesn’t have to be!
You can use positive thinking to receive all these benefits. Getting more positivity into your life is easier than you might think.
How Can I Really Get More Positivity in My Life?
Just as positivity can have infinite benefits for your life, so are there infinite ways to inject positivity into your day-to-day routine.
Here we look at actions you can take physically, mentally, and emotionally to think more positively and help better your life in every way possible.
Your body and your mind are directly connected. And the way you treat your body affects your thoughts and emotions. Here are a few things you can physically do to bring more positivity into your life and help prepare your mind for positive thinking.
Smile – Science has shown that smiles are contagious, make us appear more attractive to others, and lift our mood as well as the mood of those around us.
Yoga – While yoga is great exercise that releases endorphins, it also focuses on mindfulness and asks practitioners to live in the moment, which is proven to make people happier.
Meditation – Deepak Chopra and many other medical professionals stand behind meditation as one of the best ways to boost positive thinking.
Sing/Listen to Music – Singing is proven to boost your mood and listening to music can help take your mind off negative circumstances so it’s easier to think positively.
Read – Read or listen to uplifting books to help train your mind to think more positively.
Eat Better – Your gut and brain are explicitly connected. When you feed your body good, healthy food, it gives your brain more power to push those positive thoughts.
Exercise – Blood-pumping exercise helps keep your body healthy and release endorphins in your brain, so those positive thoughts can flow freely.
It can be difficult to take charge of your mind at first. A lot of those negative thinking pathways have been burned into our brains for years. When you feel the negative thoughts coming on, try using these brain tricks to tame them.
Consciously Replace Negative Thoughts – Come up with a reward system for pushing negative thoughts out of your mind. Actively practice seeing the silver lining in bad situations and positive thoughts will start to come more easily.
Take Control – One of the easiest ways to increase positive thoughts is to like what you do. If you find negative thoughts pervading your life, look at the things you can remove or change around you and take control of your life.
Make a List – Sometimes the best way to fill your mind with positive thoughts is to write them down. Put down uplifting messages of encouragement or list positive qualities on paper to make them stick. You can also use list-making to rid your mind of negativity or organize yourself if you feel stressed.
Taking charge of your emotions will probably be your most difficult task when trying to adopt a positive-thinking lifestyle, but it’s the most important. These actions aren’t easy, and they aren’t supposed to be, but if you can make a genuine effort, you’ll be eternally better off for it.
Be Around Positive Thinkers – Studies have shown that you will reflect the qualities of the five people closest to you. Make sure those people are also positive thinkers. It helps keep you upbeat and keeps you from having to rescue your pessimistic friends constantly, which can be exhausting.
Solve Others’ Problems – Maybe you’ve got problems you’re not sure how to tackle. That doesn’t mean you can’t use your powers of positivity to help others problem solve. You can do this by reaching out to a struggling friend or doing some community service. Either way, overcoming an obstacle will keep those positive thoughts alive and well.
Connect Spiritually – However you define spirituality, studies have shown that people feel better when they feel like they have a purpose. Take the time to do some soul searching and connect with yourself and your environment on a deeper level to open up a pathway to positivity you never knew existed.
Find Your Community – Humans are social animals and feeling connected to others emotionally and physically is proven to boost your mood. Physical contact releases endorphins, as does having a sense of belonging. So go out and find a community that really jives with your values, like positive thinking!
Vitamins and minerals help your brain function at optimal capacity. They can help with the transfer of the happy chemicals in your brain to the right place. Try these supplements to ease yourself into positive thinking by targeting some of the problems blocking your way.
AnxiousLess – This supplement uses natural nutrients and herbs to replenish your body’s coping reserves and calm your mind on a stressful day.
Nutri-Calm – Simply sooth nerves with this all-natural multivitamin that replenishes B vitamins and nutrients after a stressful situation. Unlike AnxiousLess, this supplement will make you drowsy, so it’s great for getting sound sleep.
Stress-J – A stressful event really wreaks havoc on your body. You can set it straight with this supplement that includes passionflower, fennel, feverfew, hops, chamomile, and marshmallow.
The journey you take to harnessing the power of positive thinking will be intensely personal. You won’t be able to take all the actions listed above, but you’ll be surprised by the domino effect of positivity if you just commit to two or three.
Our intuitions guide us toward understanding the benefits of positive thinking, and science has finally caught up. It’s reassuring and inspiring to see study after study confirm the real power positive thinking has on every aspect of our lives.
Now it’s your turn to turn this knowledge into power. Go forth and share the positivity!