Is the glass half empty or half full? It’s a term you’ve likely heard before – to the point where it’s causing a frustrated eye-roll – but your answer can directly relate to the concept of positive thinking and whether you have a positive or negative outlook on life.
Research has found that positive thinking can lead to a range of physical, mental and lifestyle benefits — it may even aid progress in your career.
What is positive thinking?
Positive thinking isn’t looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses or ignoring the negative aspects of life. It simply means approaching life’s challenges with a positive outlook. It involves making the most of potentially bad situations, trying to see the best in other people, and viewing yourself and your abilities in a positive light.
Positive thinkers tend to have a more optimistic explanation for any given situation. They tend to give themselves credit when good things happen and typically blame outside forces for bad outcomes. They also tend to see negative events as temporary and atypical. On the flip side, those who don’t have a positive outlook tend to have more pessimistic explanations of life’s situations. They often blame themselves when bad things happen, but fail to give themselves adequate credit for successful outcomes.
The benefits of positive thinking
In recent years, you’ve probably come across books referencing ‘the power of positivity’. That’s because research has shown very real health benefits linked to positive thinking and optimistic attitudes.
Positive thinking is linked to:
- Enhanced psychological health.
- Better stress management and coping skills.
- Greater resilience to illness like the common cold.
- Increased physical wellbeing.
- Lower rates of depression.
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
So why does this happen? One leading theory is that people who think positively tend to be less affected by one of life’s great agers — stress. One study published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (“Can positive thinking help? Positive automatic thoughts as moderators of the stress–meaning relationship”) found that people who had high levels of positive thinking were more likely to walk away from stressful life events with a higher sense of the meaningfulness of life.
Another theory is that people who think positively tend to live healthier lives in general; they may exercise more, follow a more nutritious diet, and avoid unhealthy behaviours.
How to think positive
It’s important to remember that your thoughts and attitude on life don’t change overnight. But there are a number of things you can do to harness the power of positive and change your perceptions over time.
- Do some research on the topic and discover techniques that may work for you.
- Limit your time around people who express negativity and/or are negative around you.
- Visualise only favourable and beneficial situations and outcomes.
- Use positive language in your dialogue e.g., “it’s possible”, “I can” and “I am able”.
- Find more reasons to smile. Smiling not only boosts the production of positive hormones in your own body, but those around you too, helping you maintain more harmonious relations with people.
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones and focus only on good and happy thoughts.
- Repeat affirmations about yourself to change your mindset. This may be thinking about 5-10 things you like about your appearance and/or your personality every day. This will help your mind naturally focus on the positive and help your general self-esteem and outlook.
How positivity can impact your career
Believe it or not, positive thinking can actually help you progress in your career. Let’s take the following examples:
Richard has a negative attitude to life. When he applied for a new job, he didn’t believe he would get the job as other people were more qualified than him — even though he got an interview!
On the day of the interview, Richard woke up late and realised the shirt he wanted to wear that morning was dirty and the other was creased. Because he didn’t have time to iron his shirt, he went out wearing it as it was and also missed eating breakfast. During the interview, Richard was stressed, nervous and hungry. His mind was distracted, and this made it difficult for him to focus on the interview. Richard made a bad first impression and didn’t get the job.
When Jasmine applied for the job, she was confident that she was going to be successful. During the week preceding the interview, Jasmine visualised herself making a good impression and getting the job. She also repeated positive affirmations throughout the week.
Jasmine did not leave anything to the last minute. She laid out what she wanted to wear the night before and woke up with plenty of time to have breakfast and get to the interview with time to spare. Jasmine remained calm throughout the interview and made a good impression. She was offered the job.
Ultimately, Richard’s negative attitude set himself up for failure. Because he didn’t think he would get the job anyway, he didn’t have the energy or the mindset to prepare as Jasmine did. Parallels to this situation can be drawn to other aspects of career progression too e.g., with her positive mindset, Jasmine begins visualising her pathway to management and works hard and efficiently to achieve her goal.
If you want to start thinking more positively, begin by noticing your thoughts in certain situations and make a conscious effort to shift from negative thoughts to more positive ones. Not only can it improve your physical and mental health, but it can make you feel happier in general. When you have these positive feelings, you may even see your behaviours change, such as wanting to exercise more, eat healthier foods and achieve a better sleep routine.