Have you ever wondered if optimism impacts not only how you feel, but also your health and productivity? Positive thinking is something we have all heard about, but it may not be something we apply consistently. It seems that there may be a deeper truth to the phrase ‘The Power of Positive Thinking,’ as recent, research has begun to show that a positive attitude can have a significant impact on our mind with subsequent effects on our work and overall health.
Cognitive Broadening: It has been proposed by researchers (Fredrickson et al.) that positive emotions can broaden the scope of our cognitive functions, thus impacting the range of thoughts and actions. The broaden-and-build theory predicts that all the positive emotions one experiences over time accumulate to improve our array of personal resources such as mental health, attention and thinking. Simply put, when you experience positive emotions, you think better. On the contrary, negative emotions can have the opposite effect by potentially reducing the capacity of our cognitive abilities and limiting the brain’s ability to think and problem-solve.
Optimism and Health:
Studies on heart disease have shown a link between optimism and improved cardiovascular health with one study demonstrating that emotional vitality reduced the risk of coronary heart disease. This association was thought to be due to the idea that optimism creates a protective effect on individuals by influencing healthy choices and behaviours related to mental health, exercise, diet, and general lifestyle choices. A similar effect has been observed with other chronic diseases such as cancer, however, there is still additional research required in these areas to gain a deeper understanding of the correlation.
Ways to Increase Positivity in Your Life: With all this information, it is important to think about how we can increase positive thinking in our lives and reap its benefits. For many individuals, anything that brings joy, happiness and excitement will often bring positivity as well. For some, this may be spending time with friends and family, playing sports or even taking up a hobby. A few other ways people have used to improve their positivity is through meditation and journaling.
Meditation Meditation is considered a pathway to mindfulness – a conscious discipline where we strive to allow the mind and body to be fully present in the moment. It is not surprising that meditation would be a means of enhancing our positive psychology. One study showed that individuals experienced more positive emotions when they meditated daily and had better overall health outcomes in the long term.
Journaling The ability to experience gratitude – a general state of appreciation or thankfulness – is another way to foster positivity in your life. Although it can be difficult to consciously remind yourself to be grateful day-to-day, an alternative is to write in a journal at the end of each day. It has been shown that writing down little accomplishments or something positive that made you feel grateful that day, results in greater feelings of optimism. By focusing on those positives, you will naturally begin to encourage more optimism in your life. References: Kim, E.S. et al. Optimism and Healthy Aging in Women and Men. A J Epidemiol. 2019.
Kubzansky, L.D., Thurston, R.C. Emotional vitality and incident coronary heart disease: benefits of healthy psychological functioning. Arch Gen Pyschiatry. 2007
Fredrickson, B.L., Branigan, C. Positive Emotions broadent the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires. Cogn Emot. 2005.
Fredrickson, B.L. The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology: The Broaden-and- Build Theory. Am Psychol. 2001.
Avvenuti, G., Baiardini, L., Giardini, A. Optimism’s explicative role for chronic diseases. Frontiers in Psychology. 2016.
Fredrickson, B.L., et al. Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2011.
Emmons, R.A., McCullough, M.E. Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003.