The Importance of Positive Thinking

When you're feeling down or in a major life crisis, the last thing you want to hear from others is to simply "think positive." But it actually is great advice. While maintaining a positive attitude may not provide any immediate results, research proves that thinking positive instead of dwelling on the negative can be extremely beneficial in the long run. 

So, what exactly is positive thinking? 

Here's what it's not -- it's not about denying or ignoring reality, but instead choosing to focus on more positive outcomes. When you choose to think positive, you're deciding to focus less on the negative and finding reasons to be hopeful.  Positive thinking is an attitude that chooses to focus less on the negative aspects of any situation. It doesn't mean that you never experience challenges or upsetting situations -- you approach life's challenges in more productive and positive ways. You're able to look beyond the current crisis or setback to a more positive view of the future. Simply put, it's about cultivating happiness and success rather than always expecting the worst outcome. 

Science Proves the Benefits of Positive Thinking

There is now a growing number of scientific studies that show positive thinking can greatly benefit our physical and emotional health. Research shows that expecting good things to happen in any given situation can improve everything from our immune system to heart health. Studies in peer reviewed journals found that positive thinking is good for the immune system, enhanced cognitive ability, cardiovascular health, reduces stress and anxiety, improves sleep, and increases positive emotions such as happiness.

Researchers at Wisconsin University discovered that negative emotions lead to weakening of the immune response to the flu vaccine, in the level of antibodies present six months later. 

Our brains also benefit from the habit of positive thinking. A study conducted by Northwestern University found that people with have positive attitudes are less likely to suffer from memory decline as the age. The researchers concluded that cultivating a positive attitude was linked to a less steep decline in memory.

Another study by the University of Illinois discovered that optimistic adults experienced better cardiovascular health and improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Another study found that maintaining a positive mindset helped to reduce the risk of heart disease by 30%. 

A Harvard study found that optimistic women had a reduced risk of dying from major causes of death compared with women who were negative thinkers.

How to Cultivate Positive Thinking

Try starting with positive self-talk. Self-talk is that endless stream of chatter that runs through your head. That non-stop stream of thoughts can be either positive or negative. While some self-talk can come from logic and reason, other self-talk comes from your negative inner critic that is constantly putting you down and imagining the worse outcome of practically every situation.

While some people are naturally more optimistic than others, you can easily learn how to develop a more positive outlook on life and its many difficult challenges. It takes some effort, but after you practice adopting a more positive approach along with self-compassion, your brain will begin to form new ways of thinking, so it becomes second nature to you.