Today we commemorate the benefits of positive thinking
Research into positive thinking began in the 1980s. Several studies have since confirmed that optimism is closely linked to physical and mental well-being. Positive thinking can reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, prolong life, help us better manage stress and besides, it is for free. Since 2003, every year on September 13, we have been commemorating the positive effects of an optimistic worldview as part of the Positive Thinking Day.
A serious study of positive thinking was started in 1985 by a study by American psychologists Michael F. Scheier and Charles S. Carver entitled Optimism, Coping, and Health: Assessment and Implications of Generalized Outcome Expectancies. The pair of researchers focused on dispositional optimism and the effects that this feature has on the health and physical symptoms during the stressful period of students.
"Long before this study was published, there was talk of 'the power of positive thinking,' but there was no way to prove it. The questionnaire used in this study began to be used in many other studies and started a scientific interest in this issue,” explains Veronika Hičárová from the Institute of Social Sciences of the Centre of Social and Psychological Sciences SAS and adds that today this publication has more than 3000 citations.
The most interesting finding of the study was the differences that distinguish optimists from pessimists. "Positive-minded people use different coping strategies. They are trying to solve and improve the situation, and if that is not possible, it is easier for them to accept it. Pessimists will rather reject the unpleasant situation, avoid it and focus more on their negative feelings,” adds the social psychologist.
On the occasion of the Positive Thinking Day, the scientist recalls several well-known steps by which we can support our own positive thinking:
- Notice how we perceive the events around us. Do we assess them negatively, or do we try to find something positive in everything? Our reactions are often automatic, but if we become more aware of them, we can discover the way we think.
- Realise negative thoughts and turn them into positive ones. Changing perspective or point of view is an important element of positive thinking. This does not mean that we do not see the negative side, but that if we are to choose what to focus on, it will be positive.
- It also helps if we realise that our thoughts are just thoughts and do not allow them to be the basis for our assessments, beliefs, or behaviours.
- Behind our negative thoughts often lies fear or anxiety about something that may await us in the future. Returning to the present moment helps eliminate these anxious negative thoughts.
- Even small things help to improve our mood. It can be a photo of someone who is very close to us or a memory of a vacation or a trip. Awareness of things for which we are grateful or a regular evening recapitulation of what we liked or managed during the day also contributes to building positive thinking.