The power of positivity

Posted on: 21 March 2016 by Lynda Shaw

Dr Lynda Shaw encourages you to take life by the scruff of the neck - all with a little bit of positive thinking.

power of positivity

There is a reason why positive people are more likely to succeed at work and in their lives generally.  Those of us who are able to think positively are more often that not able to make decisions, are more engaged, see the silver lining in the bigger picture, and are more likely to be confident and happy.  That is not to say that we don’t all get dragged down by negative feelings sometimes, its just that positive people are more likely to use their strengths to full effect in their lives, are more driven by the future than the past and believe that they are able to make a positive impact in their life.

Many psychologists have studied positive human development particularly when focusing on how disorders alone cannot fully explain an individual’s condition.  We look at states of pleasure, values, talent, virtues, strengths and how they work in society with a focus on positive experiences, relationships and traits.

Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi define positive psychology as "the scientific study of positive human functioning and flourishing on multiple levels that include the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life. LM Keyes and Shane Lopez illustrate the four typologies of mental health functioning: flourishing, struggling, floundering and languishing. Of course the goal of cognitive therapy across the world is to help people change negative styles of thinking to enable them to change how they feel and act when appropriate. A mentally healthy person is likely to score highly on emotional, social and psychological well-being, along with a low score of mental illness.

Mindfulness and positive thinking

Studies show that activation in an area of the brain called the ventral striatum correlates with positive emotions and is associated with lower level of cortisol, a stress hormone.  We can stimulate this region by being mindful of the good things that are going on around us. 

So how can we help ourselves be positive? To be more of an optimist, you have to start to think like one. Instead of asking what could go wrong, focus on all the good things that might come out of any changes you are thinking of making. Negativity and the chance of failing might scare or distract us, but sticking to our goals is rewarding.  Trying to find the silver lining may help you recover from stumbles and falls that you may have along the way.

Just as negative people might bring you down, positive people are capable of unconsciously affecting others through their feel-good factor.

Be aware of your environment, allow yourself to see the present clearly, reconnect your body with mindfulness. A ten-minute meditation every day can help you feel more positive and to stay in control in difficult situations. Put your hunger for life in motion so you approach your tasks with 100% commitment.

The brain and nervous system are reshaped by our experiences and way of thinking.  Positivity activates many networks in the brain, therefore practicing optimism, kindness and mindfulness helps the brain strengthen those neural connections.

Tips to being more positive

  1. The best thing about optimism is that it can be a learnable quality. Notice the good things around you.  It’s really hard to enjoy and anticipate new things in your life if you don’t sit back for a second to think about all that you have gained.
  1. Spend time doing things that make you feel excited and happy, and slowly let go of all the activities that bore you and when possible cancel plans that put you in low spirits
  1. It is often right to leave behind relationships that drain you or people that are toxic around you.
  1. Try to spend as much time with positive people and people you love as possible. Think about what and who helped you, and gain energy from it.
  1. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, don’t let not being good enough at something get to you. Either enjoy being just OK at something or focus on what you excel at.  Find new passions that can replace the worn ones. Learning a new skill will give you a sense of achievement and boost your confidence

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