The Power of Positive Thinking: The Facts

The+Power+of+Positive+Thinking%3A+The+Facts

Zoe Zou

In this crazy world, there is one thing you have sole control over: your own thoughts. There is nothing more powerful than knowing that you are in control of how you feel. When the world is crumbling around you or something is not going your way in day-to-day life, the thing that can save you is having a positive outlook. The idea of “thinking positively” is much easier said than done, but it is so necessary. Especially today, when you may find yourself alone with your thoughts, it is important that those thoughts are a shining light leading you though these times of darkness. Thinking positively is extremely important because not only will it help you maintain positive mental and physical health, but it will also allow you to get through trying times such as the ones we are experiencing now.

There have been countless studies proving that having a positive view of life will indeed allow you to be both more mentally and physically healthy. Positivity is often defined as being able to approach an unpleasant situation with the mindset that things can and will get better. According to positive psychology researcher Suzanne Segerstrom, “Setbacks are inherent to almost every worthwhile human activity, and a number of studies show that optimists are in general both psychologically and physiologically healthier.” Having a positive outlook will directly lead to better mental health. Not everything in life is butterflies and rainbows, but being content with struggle in your mind will help your brain to stay happier, and thus healthier. There are countless benefits that thinking positively will have on your physical well-being. Being more positive will help you to cope with the negative results of stress. Hans Selye’s model of General Adaptation Syndrome explains that in response to stress, our bodies experience three stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. The exhaustion stage is when your body breaks down from the impact of the stressor. Being positive will help alleviate the possibility of fatigue, burnout, depression, and anxiety that occur during the exhaustion stage.

A recent study done by Johns Hopkins expert Lisa R. Yanek, M.P.H., and her colleagues concluded that people with a positive outlook, which was operationally defined with a survey, reported being 13 percent less likely to have a heart attack or another coronary problem than those with a negative view on life. Physicians, scientists, and other medical experts from the Mayo Clinic, an American non-profit organization and academic medical center, found that having a positive view on life leads to increased life span, lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, greater resistance to the common cold, better psychological and physical well-being, better cardiovascular health, reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and better coping skills during hardships and times of stress. Who would not want these physical advantages? While having a positive outlook is not the sole cause of these benefits, without being physically healthy, we cannot thrive as people. Thus, we must do all that we can to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and having a positive outlook reaps plenty of benefits that allow for this.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, maintaining a positive outlook has become increasingly necessary, but also increasingly difficult. Not only is there the constant stress of “What to do today,” but there is also the pressing worry of what is to come. More than ever, you are trapped at home with your thoughts, so you must keep them positive in order to maintain the positive mental and physical health discussed previously. As companies, schools, and sports shut down in order to keep us healthy, your brain cannot shut down in order to have the same effect. Being negative will not help the country get back on its feet. It will also not help you regain and/or maintain all that you had before this began. With a positive outlook, what is gone is only temporary.

Kendra Cherry, MS, who is an author, educational consultant, and speaker, revealed on Verywell Mind (verywellmind.org) that “Psychologists believe that resilient individuals are better able to handle such adversity and rebuild their lives after a catastrophe.” Being positive leads to resilience, and we are in the middle of a catastrophe, so resilience is a trait that we all need. After all the disasters in our country, we see our strong leaders stepping up and issuing a positive rallying cry. This is because positivity is what we all need. When positivity comes from within, it is even more effective. AP Psychology Teacher John Cornicello explained, “There is an entire branch of psychology called ‘Positive Psychology’; this branch focuses on the positives in life. It encourages the emphasis on happiness, well-being, and positivity. We all could use a little bit of positive psychology right about now. It’s a relatively ‘newer’ branch of psychology that has gained some ground as of late. The idea is that if we focus on the positives, we can live a more fulfilling life.”

It is understandable that it may be easier said than done to maintain a positive outlook, but there are a multitude of ways to brighten your thoughts. You can make a schedule and focus on your career/schoolwork to remind yourself that all normalcy is not lost. More importantly, you can pick up a new passion. By spending time focusing on what you love, you can drown out all that you hate in the world for those hours. This will allow you to become more positive, and, in turn, more resilient, leading to the many benefits of a positive view on life. Additionally, the happiness that results from this positivity has been proven to lead to improved thinking and mental activity. Stimulation of the mind is extremely important nowadays and is just another benefit of keeping a positive outlook. Find a passion, call an old friend, enjoy your family, and keep as much normalcy as you can. Doing so will lead to positive thinking, which will give you the mental and physical health needed to persevere through these trying times.

While thinking positively sounds great, it is understood that it is not very easy. It makes sense to some to say that your thoughts do not have an influence on you and that you do not have time to remain positive during day-to-day life. However, thinking positively is possible and it is extremely necessary. For some, the countless proven benefits of positive thinking will not allow them to just flip a switch and think more positively. There are many resources and outlets to allow for positive thinking, even when it is not that easy. An article from Healthline (healthline.com) written by Adrienne Santos-Longhurst and reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD, explained that some other ways to maintain a positive outlook include focusing on the good things in life, practicing gratitude by keeping a journal of things which you are grateful for, opening yourself up to humor, spending time with positive people, practicing positive self-talk, and attempting to conquer your areas of negativity. Junior Sammi Feldman shared, “During quarantine, I have been staying positive by making the most out of what I have during these tough times. I have done several things to help out and to focus on myself; however, besides that, one thing I love is that I have been spending a lot more time with my family. Whether it’s sitting down all together at the dinner table or watching movies at night, it’s always a fun time.” This ability to find the positives is important in maintaining one’s mental health during these tough times.

When asked about the power of positive thinking and importance of one’s thoughts during this pandemic, Psychotherapist JoAnn P. Weisbord, L.C.S.W., gave much helpful insight. She explained, “Acknowledging the not knowing makes you normalize it. You have to acknowledge that you do not know, and then it becomes normal state of being…[You] have to acknowledge that you do not know and that you will feel stressed and that it is a normal response. I think that outlook will lead to a positive effect.” She continued by stating that “[It] will lead to a negative effect if you expect bad things…[It is beneficial to attain] the growth mindset: if you have an open mind set to take all this in, it will create positivity. You have to acknowledge what you miss, but [also that] it could be worse… [you] still have to have a positive spin…. If looking for positive, you can find it.” She concluded by expressing “The growth mindset or positive mindset needs to come out of this… If you expect bad, you will fall into depression… [It is important to] acknowledge the stress, not knowing, and anxiety, but after that, you have to find positives, and this is what you will learn to do.” She posed an important question in the end, asking: “Now that it is the norm, what will you do about it to make it have a good effect? How will you make time most productive?” Nothing good in life comes easily, but just like all else, spending time, especially amidst this pandemic, to focus on maintaining a positive outlook is not only possible, but it is necessary.

So, there you have it, the power (and benefits) of positive thinking. With a healthy mind, you can continue to push through the toughest of times. A positive outlook will lead to improved mental and physical health. It will help you to combat stress and be resilient in the darkest of times, such as the unprecedented times we are living through now during this coronavirus pandemic. Be a light in your own life and light up the world around you when it needs you most.