Good vibes only! You’ve seen that wonderful idea floating around social media, right? And it sure does sound lovely…
But are “good vibes only” the answer to building a positive mindset? Heck no! That’s impossible.
Being happy 100% of the time just isn’t doable. So if you’ve struggled to build a positive mindset only to deal with bad vibes and feel like a failure I’m here to help!
Because it’s totally possible to build a positive mindset while still respecting and working through negative emotions. In fact, positive thinking can be a huge help when things get tough.
Let’s find out what a positive mindset is (and isn’t) and how we can tap into the power positive thinking in a more realistic way.
Ready to go? Let’s do this!
What Positive Thinking Has Done for Me
(Psst. That’s me!)
A friend recently told me that they really admired my positive attitude. And I was taken aback. Because I had literally finished opening up about how nervous I was for an upcoming doctors appointment (everything is thankfully ok!)
I didn’t think I was being very positive at the time. But they pointed out that despite my worries and fears I still had a really positive outlook. To them it was a very inspiring balance.
I’ve been examining that conversation since, rolling it around in my mind. And I’ve realized that we often have this strange view about what a positive attitude really is. I certainly did in that moment. Being positive doesn’t mean that we are happy all the time. That’s impossible. But it does mean that we nurture our minds and train ourselves to see more possibilities (even when things aren’t so great).
It takes time! And a ton of effort. In fact, it’s more of an ongoing journey than a destination. You don’t just land in positivity town and never have to worry about negative moments again! Life isn’t like that. But working on positive thinking does have its benefits.
For me, the pay-off became very clear after that conversation. After 7 years of Graves Disease and a ton of self love and self care I can face a potential health blip and still see the possibilities. While negative emotions definitely find me in those moments (totally natural by the way) I know that I will ultimately be ok.
And don’t we all deserve to find ourselves in such a positive head-space?
Positive thinking is about far more than simply being happy or having an upbeat attitude. And it definitely doesn’t mean that we won’t experience negative emotions ever again! But it does have the potential to support our mental and physical well-being in amazing ways!
So why don’t we take a peek at what positive thinking can do and 5 ways that we can make it a priority?
How Positive Thinking Affects Your Health
I imagine it’s no surprise that positive thinking is good for you. I mean, it makes us feel good so it must be good, right? Right! But how exactly does positive thinking work it’s magic on us?
According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking:
- Increases your life span
- Reduces depression and distress
- Boosts your immune health
- Supports mental and physical well-being
- Keeps that heart happy by benefiting cardiovascular health
- Makes it easier to cope with stress
But there are a few other fun possibilities too! Let’s check them out.
Positive Thinking Helps Us See More Possibilities
One really interesting and fantastical effect of positive thinking is it’s effect on our brains ability to see possibilities. Honestly, when you’re in a positive state of mind more seems possible. And there’s an interesting reason for that.
Think about a scenario where you felt a negative emotion, like anger or fear. Have you ever noticed how focused you are on that one feeling and the situation that caused it when you’re feeling bad? So consumed by the emotions that you can barely focus on anything else, like your mind has zoomed in on the situation. And there’s a reason for that. Our brain has some pretty incredible ways to deal with negative stimuli.
If a giant bear jumped out of the woods while you were on a walk your brain would have one concern – how in god’s name do we get out of this situation alive? Laser focus baby! Your mind is not going to be dreaming about date night or thinking about what you and your bestie might do next time you hit the town… because if that bear eats you then there won’t be anything else to look forward to. So our mind zooms in on the moment and ignores everything else.
The thing is – whether you’re afraid of that bear or afraid that you’re going to get fired, your brain’s laser focus is the same. We put blinders on and zoom in on what we need to do to protect ourselves from whatever is making us afraid. And our mind reacts similarly to other negative feelings. We narrow our focus onto what’s bothering us and, hopefully, how we can fix it. It’s part of our survival instinct. (source)
But positive thinking has the opposite effect.
If negative thinking is like zooming in, positive thinking is like zooming out. When you’re in a positive state of mind your brain is focused on all of the possibilities around you. Sounds kind of bonkers? Check this out:
Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, conducted a study where she and her team looked at the awesome effects of positive thinking. Her subjects were divided into five groups and exposed to film clips that would elicit an emotional response. Afterwards each subject was asked to write down what they would do when dealing with similar emotions.
Those who were exposed to positive emotions had a lot more to say (even when compared to the control group). When subjects were in a positive state of mind they felt like they have more possible options. (source)
But wait, there’s more!
Barbara Fredrickson also looked at the effects of Loving-Kindness Meditation (which very much focuses our minds on the positive) in this study. And the results were incredibly promising.
Those who practiced this form of meditation for just an hour or so every work week saw an increase in positive feelings that stayed with them long after they had finished meditating. They were essentially training their brains to remain in a positive state for a longer period of time. Kind of awesome, eh?
Positive Thinking Builds Your Skills and Broadens Your Horizons
That’s right loves – positive thinking often extends itself into skill building territory. It’s all part of something scientists call “The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions.” Basically, when you’re feeling the good feels, like joy, interest, love and contentment, you’re more likely to take part in an action that benefits your skill development. Sounds a little weird, but let’s break it down.
You know when you’re feeling super joyful and you just want to go out, have fun and celebrate life? That builds upon those social skills baby! Not to mentions, it helps to strengthen connections and even form new bonds. Totally awesome! What about when you’re in the zone, feeling incredibly interested and all you want to do is learn more? Exploring ideas flexes those sexy brain muscles!
See how positive feelings broaden your possibilities and cause you to go out and do more? Those positive feeling actions are really awesome! And they tend to help us build our skills and resources, which is pretty darn valuable!
How To Tap Into The Power of Positive Thinking
It’s all well and good to talk about how positive thinking supports your well-being. But that knowledge alone doesn’t really help us. How in goodness do we make positive thinking a bigger habit? Here are a few ideas that might help:
1. Accept that Negative Emotions are Important Too
Embracing positive thinking definitely doesn’t mean that you’re going to feel positive all the time. That’s not only unrealistic, it’s down right impossible.
All of our feelings serve a purpose, including the negative ones. And they are definitely going to pop up time and again. Ignoring your feelings or denying yourself the right to work through them doesn’t do you any good. In fact, suppressing emotions can have some pretty dire consequences, potentially increasing your risk of ailments like heart disease and even cancer (source). Kind of defeats the whole purpose right?
So if you want to make positive thinking a habit get ready to accept and work through those negative emotions as they come too. Variety is the spice of life sugar, even emotional variety.
And remember – there is absolutely no shame in seeking help when you’re working through something difficult. We never have to go it alone. Whether you need to rely on a friend or family member to talk through something or need a more neutral perspective and seek counselling, you are rocking it!
2. Try Meditation
I doubt you’re surprised here, since one of the studies on the power of positive thinking was literally about meditating. But seriously, even if all you have are 5 minutes a day for a little meditation you are still reaping the rewards.
What’s in it for you exactly?
- Reduced Anxiety and Stress
- Improved Focus and Concentration
- Decreased Blood Pressure
- Increased Empathy and Compassion (positive vibes fo’ days!)
How exactly do you meditate?
We can dive more into the what and how of meditation right here but in short a meditation session looks a little like this:
- Find a quiet place.
- Close your eyes and take deep breaths. In through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Choose a focus. For example:
Pay attention to your body and its surroundings, focusing on your senses and the present moment. I personally love to meditate outside and focus on the feeling on the wind on my skin.
Check in with your body and focus on how it feels.
Pay attention to your breathing. The feeling of your rib cage expanding and contracting as you fill and empty your lungs.
Or focus on a mantra of your own choosing (ex: “I love and accept myself as I am”, “I am so grateful”)
- If you notice your mind wandering be kind and patient with yourself and gently return to your focus. Allow your thoughts to arise as they are, acknowledge them and let them go.
3. Practice Self Love
Guess who has one of the biggest effects on your outlook and your mood. You! Yes you darling. The way you think about yourself and the way you speak to yourself has a huge effect on how you feel. Honestly, our relationship with our self is one of the most important relationships in our lives.
I’ve said this many times, but Imma say it again – self love is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. And when you make that a priority everything else falls into place around it. If you want to make positive thinking a bigger part of your everyday life, starting with how you talk to and think about yourself is huge!
When you love yourself you make decisions with your best interests at heart. You make time for yourself because you know that you need it. Self love encourages you to work on speaking nicely to yourself because you know that you don’t deserve to be talked down to. And you feed yourself with kindness because you know that you deserve it… see how all that love leads to a ton of positivity?
It definitely isn’t always easy. Your relationship with you is the same as any relationship. It takes time, effort, patience and dedication. And some days are better than others. But the important thing is that we’re committed to loving ourselves through the good and bad times. Sickness and health and all that, right? We are stuck with ourselves forever after all. So it’s a really awesome idea to make that life long commitment a loving and happy one.
How can you work on self love?
There is no one size fits all method. It’s all about finding the right groove for you. But I find that starting with positive self talk and self care work really well.
Make time for you. You deserve the same time, dedication, love and respect that you give to those around you. In fact I find that we are less able to be present for others when we aren’t present for ourselves. Because when we don’t make our own well-being a priority we often become ill, drained or simply burnt out. And then there really isn’t much of our goodness left to go around.
Our loved ones only benefit when we love ourselves fiercely. And so does our positive thinking. It’s all win!
4. Gratitude Journal
You know how I just mentioned making time for self care a few seconds ago? Well gratitude journaling is one of those self care activities that only takes a few minutes a day but has a humongous impact.
Dedicating 5 to 10 minutes a day to gratitude journaling:
- Leads to longer, more restful sleeps (source)
- Increases feelings of happiness and satisfaction (source)
- Potentially reduces visits to the doctor (source)
- May lower how often we get ill (source)
- Supports our overall mental and physical well-being (source)
How exactly does Gratitude Journaling help with positive thinking?
Think about this daily practice as a form of retraining your mindset. Gratitude journaling helps us learn to marvel in awe at the goodness that surrounds us. Practice makes perfect; you will find that after a while you’ll be able to carry the essence of gratitude with you throughout the day.
How do you gratitude journal?
Get yourself a journal and make a habit of writing down what you are grateful for, who you are undeniably blessed to be surrounded by and positive affirmations that make you exude joy. It may be difficult at first, but you will find that your list will grow every time you sit down to create one.
If you’re feeling lost there are awesome gratitude journals out there like this one that guide your along.
The pre-made gratitude journal provides you with a space for daily declarations of gratitude, positive affirmations and love. And it leaves tons of room to get creative, so you can even bust out your pencil crayons for extra fun! Definitely a big help if you’re just starting out and feeling completely lost.
There were a lot of good things that we left behind us when we entered adulthood. I mean, picking your nose was never in style, right? But play never goes out of style. No matter how old you are.
What does play do for our health exactly?
- Triggers a release of feel good endorphins
- Creates a sense of well-being
- Reduces stress
- Strengthens relationships
- Supports our mental health
I don’t know about you, but that’s a whole lot of positive goodness right there! It doesn’t matter how old you are, there is still a part of you that’s totally playful and really deserves to be indulged. And no, this doesn’t mean that you have to find some friends and play tag (although, I am 100% down if someone’s setting something up ;)). Playing is adaptable to your own likes and needs.
Whether you choose to try escape rooms, make some cool stuff with Lego, have a board game party, get lost in a video game, or anything else… schedule a little play time. It will foster a ton of goodness, I promise.
Your turn: how do you make positive thinking a priority? Would you add any advice to the list? Let me know your lovely thoughts in the comments.
Health and love,
Thought of the day: You deserve to experience moments of extreme giddiness and joy and a general sense of contentment.
WANT SOME EXTRA GOODNESS?
Ms. Health-Esteem wouldn’t be possible without you! I’m so grateful that you make it possible for me to share free weekly self-love, wellness and healthy lifestyle inspiration. Thank you!
If “How To Tap Into The Power of Positive Thinking” was your first Ms. Health-Esteem article, thank you tons for reading it and welcome to the Health-Esteemie family <3.
Here’s how you can get a little extra goodness from this site:
Subscribe for freebies, extra inspiration, and much more!
Treat yourself to a $2.50 copy of Smoothie Love – How to Drink Your Fruits and Veggie and Love It
Looking to promote something that aligns with Ms. Health-Esteem’s health-philosophies? Let’s talk about it (options for bloggers and businesses alike)