Positive Thinking: How to Use it for Daily Benefits
In general, it’s always possible to apply positive thinking in our daily lives for our own benefit. This is what we’re often told. But can we really always be so optimistic in all circumstances?
Certainly, we can’t avoid negative or traumatic events or the emotions we experience about them. However, positive thinking seeks to make us understand that it’s always possible to move forward and even learn from our difficult experiences.
As Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived concentration camps in World War II, said: “If it’s not in your hands to change a situation that causes you pain, you can always choose the attitude with which you face that situation,”
The power of thought
We tend to underestimate the power of our minds. However, the thoughts that predominate in it will make us face our days with energy or, on the contrary, with apathy.
Perhaps this doesn’t seem very convincing for people who call themselves realists. But it’s not a matter of magic, nor of making positivity spring like a genie from a bottle with a snap of your fingers.
The point is, to begin with, that few man-made things exist that haven’t been ideas before. In other words, any invention that we see around us was first a thought in the mind of a person who had a vision, an inspiration.
Likewise, when we undertake a task, it’s because we have the conviction that we’re going to bring it to a successful conclusion. If it were not so, we would not even start it. Isn’t it, perhaps, the thought that guides us?
Of course, as long as it’s a positive thought, it can lead us to the place we want to go. Because if it’s negative, who knows where we will end up…Most certainly to another scenario that isn’t the one we want.
The loop of negative thoughts
Now, why do we immerse ourselves in a loop of negative thoughts? Well, we do this because it’s often the easiest thing to do. If we analyze the number of times we complain in just one day, for instance, we would be surprised.
Watching TV or social networks with news about what is happening in a world full of disasters may keep us informed, but they also flood us with negativity, as if it were a virus.
The same happens when we are in a line and we hear other people’s complaints. Then we start complaining ourselves. The bad stuff is contagious. However, so is the good.
On the other hand, how many times have we woken up thinking that we’re going to have a horrible and heavy day, or that we have to face a complicated situation and we will not be able to make the grade? How many mornings have we worried about the future?
Surely we’ve experienced all this at some point and the consequences are palpable. We feel grumpy, we feel like staying at home and we don’t want to see anyone. However, we must fulfill our obligations.
This could lead us to be tense, and irritable and give bad answers to those around us. And negative thinking brings a bad attitude and bad words that impact others. Then, this has negative repercussions for us.
The funny thing is that later we complain about bad luck, without realizing that we have triggered it. Negative thoughts often haunt our minds and we are not able to release them. On the contrary, we keep feeding them, and then they end up devouring us.
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The other option: Positive thinking
The central idea of positive thinking dictates that, in order to achieve good things and pursue happiness in life, people must constantly take on optimistic ideas, attitudes, and designs.
Over the past few years, there has been a growing interest in positive thinking. Every season there are thousands of books, seminars, courses, programs, websites, and personalities that promote its ideals.
According to experts, some of the channels to consolidate this type of thinking are the following:
- Visualize your success in the short, medium, and long term
- Repeating positive affirmations
- Boosting self-esteem through self-fulfillment
- Using positive thoughts to counteract the manifestation of negative thoughts
However, it’s important to emphasize that positive thinking is not a magic recipe to face any negative situation. In fact, this is something you have to learn to work on, as we will see below.
Exercises for positive thinking
We’ve already mentioned one exercise we can do to start using positive thinking in our lives: transforming the negative idea into something productive.
However, there are some more, even practices that can be really rewarding, such as mindfulness, as indicated by research published in 2017 in the journal Papeles del Psicólogo. Let’s take a closer look.
Meditation allows us to connect with the present and, most importantly, to observe our thoughts. In this way, we can be aware of them and let them flow without holding them in our minds.
This is one of the greatest benefits meditation has: it makes us aware of the here and now, helping us to relativize problems, and allowing us to let go of the past, as well as stop worrying about the future.
If we make meditation a habit, little by little we will feel better and positive thoughts will have more space in our minds and in our life, since meditating calms negative thoughts, which opens space for positive ones. It should be noted that the negative ones will not disappear completely, but we will not cling to them so much.
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2. Write in an emotions journal
Although the option of changing negative thoughts can work, even just saying “enough!” every time one of these thoughts is tormenting us, it’s also a very good idea to keep an emotional journal.
The reason is that we can go back over that journal and really see what kind of emotions we’re feeling, how much negativity there is, and if it’s justified. More often than not, we will realize that we’re too pessimistic and this will urge us to change.
3. Make a goals and achievements board
We can have a small board or blackboard in our workspace or in the dining room at home. On it, we can write something we want to achieve, what we want to do, or what we want to be.
We must try to set a realistic goal that is within our reach. Examples of concrete goals could be: to fix the garden, to run ten kilometers, to lose five kilos, to learn to dance the tango, to write a book, or to learn how to prepare lasagna.
You can write down everything you need to achieve the goal on one side and you can also add, from time to time, what you have achieved in pursuit of your goal, for instance: Today I ran five kilometers…I bought a beautiful jasmine plant…or, I finished the first chapter.
We can also add motivational phrases, addressed to ourselves, such as: you can do it, you will achieve it, you are on the right track.
4. Get yourself a small gift every day
We often forget about the little things around us that make us happy. We tend to look for idealized happiness when, in reality, happiness really lies in balance and in taking care of ourselves and enjoying every moment, with our five senses.
In this order of ideas, an exercise that we can do every day to encourage positive thinking is to give ourselves something we like. However, this is not about buying a dress or a piece of jewelry, but about simpler things.
For example, maybe you like tea or music. Then, you prepare yourself a cup of tea, put on your favorite melody, and dedicate those minutes just to taste and listen, enjoying and telling yourself that you are giving yourself a gift and a little love because you deserve it.
This exercise will make us appreciate that there are also good things around us. And for a while, we will remove from our mind the thoughts that do not do us good.
5. Show gratitude
Gratitude can help us to have more positive thoughts by increasing our positive affections. This is because our mind always seeks congruence between what we feel and what we think, so when we’re sad, we have sad thoughts, and when we’re happy, we only think of things that make us happy.
That’s why eery morning when we wake up, we should dedicate a minute to give thanks for something good we have in our life. Preferably for something concrete, like the house we live in.
Likewise, in the evening, we should give thanks for something good that happened to us during the day. Of course, to exercise gratitude we have to look for what is good in our life. This will result in maintaining a positive attitude and positive thinking.
The benefits of positive thinking
In her book 9 Steps to Reversing or Preventing Cancer and Other Diseases: Learn to Heal Within (2004), Shivani Goodman states that diseases arise due to toxic attitudes and emotional pain.
Similarly, oncologist Carl Simonton, in his book Getting Well Again (1978), argues that thinking plays an important role in the development of cancer.
However, regardless of the personal beliefs behind it, there is evidence that positive thinking can have a direct impact on health. The following research is mentioned in this regard:
- For example, it has been found that this type of thinking has positive effects in reducing stress and anxiety.
- Other experts endorse its use to control your emotional distress and day-to-day worries.
- A study published in BMC Psychology in 2021 found that it can be useful to improve hope for the future and the quality of sleep.
- Finally, there are studies noting that it helps to increase well-being and subjective happiness.
A balance in our lives
Do you ever stop to analyze if you have more positive thoughts than negative thoughts in your mind? If there isn’t a good balance, you should try and refocus your thoughts.
In any case, we should all remember that the best thing to do if we feel depressed or negative is to see a psychologist who will be able to offer us guidance as well as personalized attention.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Andrade, G. (2019). The ethics of positive thinking in healthcare. Journal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, 12. Disponible en: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7166246/
- Cebolla, A., Enrique, A., Alvear, D., Soler, J. y García-Campayo, J. (2017). Psicología positiva contemplativa: integrando mindfulness en la psicología positiva. Papeles del psicólogo, 38(1), 12-18. Disponible en: https://www.redalyc.org/journal/778/77849972003/html/
- Cunha, L. F., Pellanda, L. C., & Reppold, C. T. (2019). Positive psychology and gratitude interventions: A randomized clinical trial. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 584.
- Eagleson, C., Hayes, S., Mathews, A., Perman, G., & Hirsch, C. R. (2016). The power of positive thinking: Pathological worry is reduced by thought replacement in Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Behaviour research and therapy, 78, 13-18. Disponible en: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796715300814
- Goodman, S. (2004). 9 Steps to Reversing or Preventing Cancer and Other Diseases: Learn to Heal Within. Weiser.
- Kiken, L. G., & Shook, N. J. (2014). Does mindfulness attenuate thoughts emphasizing negativity, but not positivity?. Journal of research in personality, 53, 22-30.
- Lemos, R. (2019, 8 de Junio). Cómo crear un diario emocional. La Mente es Maravillosa. Disponible en: https://lamenteesmaravillosa.com/como-crear-un-diario-emocional/
- Lyubomirsky, S., & Layous, K. (2013). How do simple positive activities increase well-being?. Current directions in psychological science, 22(1), 57-62. Disponible en: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0963721412469809
- Makaremnia, S., Dehghan Manshadi, M., & Khademian, Z. (2021). Effects of a positive thinking program on hope and sleep quality in Iranian patients with thalassemia: a randomized clinical trial. BMC psychology, 9(1), 1-10. Disponible en: https://bmcpsychology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40359-021-00547-0
- Shokrpour, N., Sheidaie, S., Amirkhani, M., Bazrafkan, L., & Modreki, A. (2021). Effect of positive thinking training on stress, anxiety, depression, and quality of life among hemodialysis patients: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of Education and Health Promotion, 10:225, 1-7. Disponible en: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8318152/
- Simonton, O. C., Matthews-Simonton, S., & Creighton, J. (1978). Getting well again. Bantam Books.
- Velasquez Cordoba, L. F. (2007). Viktor Emil Frankl: the physician and the thinker of a life with sense. Iatreia, 20(3), 314-320. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262737054_Viktor_Emil_Frankl_The_physician_and_the_thinker_of_a_life_with_sense