Positive thinking has been in mainstream headlines and psychology headlines for a number of years now.
It’s something you are probably well familiar with, but what exactly does it mean and what are the true psychological and well-being ramifications of positive thinking?
So, before we start, what exactly is positive thinking?
One of the first issues here is that you might be tempted to think that positive thinking is looking at the world without any negativity, like looking through rose glasses.
It means having a positive outlook in spite of everyday challenges and barriers we all face.
The psychologist Martin Seligman gives an explanatory understanding in illustrating what positive thinking is.
He states that positive thinkers are able to absorb the good things that happen and can see negative outcomes as external to them and as temporary and fixable.
On the other hand, negative out lookers blame themselves for circumstances they can’t control.
They fail to give themselves credit.
They view negative events as lasting and expected, and they view challenges as insurmountable.
So, now we know what positive thinking is and isn’t. What then can we do to adopt more positive thinking and what could this do for our well-being?
In recent years, pop psychology books have made positive thinking popular.
However, positive thinking has real empirical research that shows massive health and well-being benefits.
Benefits such as:
- Less stress
- Longer life span
- Increase resistance to infection
- Lower depression rates
So why are there all these benefits from positive thinking?
Well, first of all, its clear that positive thinking is linked to other things that improve our health and well-being.
By thinking more positively, we adopt a tougher protection to things like stress and anxiety, we also tend to live healthier lives in general.
All of this positive thinking stuff sounds great then, but how can YOU develop a life with more positive thinking and gain all these incredible benefits?
Well, the first thing you can do is to be aware of your inner monologue. What is your inner monologue saying to you? Is it positive or negative?
By doing this, we can start to understand the source of our positive and negative thinking patterns.
Dependent on the situation and context, your inner monologue might tell you something really detrimental and negative. Knowing what situation this happens in is the first step to developing a more positive outlook.
Understand and evaluate how you think in difficult situations.
For example, for me when things go wrong, I am quick to think that my situation is unfixable and that the situation is inevitably going to get worse.
What is best for me here is to focus on my successes so far, understand that difficulty is part of what I am doing and that I have made it through similar circumstances before.
By being realistic about my circumstances and the situation I face and knowing that I have faced similar situations before, I develop my positive outlook and my positive thinking patterns.
Understand your own blame game
One of the defining features of negative thinkers is that they are quick to blame themselves, regardless of the circumstance.
This doesn’t mean as a positive thinker you need to blame others.
It means that as a positive thinker you need to be realistic with the blame you dish out.
Understanding what you are capable of improving and working on rather than fixating on what you cant control goes a long way to improving your positive thinking capabilities.
Studies have shown that people who try to cultivate new habits and try to change big aspects of their lives all at once, fail more often than not.
Focusing on small steps tend to stick better over time.
So how can you utilise this when trying to think more positively?
Well, perhaps you could try some daily reflections on your negative self-talk.
Or you could find one situation a day that you normally would feel negative about and try and have a more positive outlook on.
Fundamentally, positive thinking can have an incredibly profound and positive impact on your daily lives.
There is no doubt that it is difficult, it can be hard to suddenly change from focussing on negativity to thinking more positively.
However, by adopting these top tips and understanding a little more about positive thinking, you will be well on your way to making that change.
Why not check out my YouTube channel GetPsyched where I took a look at positive thinking in a recent video, just click here to see the video.
Motivation is a strange concept, we can feel motivated to do a number of different things, but often we don’t fully see them through.
Often, we might think we are motivated to complete a task, and yet struggle when things get too difficult or when we fail.
The truth is, there are loads of things they we wish we were doing, but often we don’t undertake them or push forward to achieve them, but why is this?
The first thing we need to consider is a change in our language.
Something we would like to do is vastly different from something we want to do. It is the dichotomy of true desire and passive thought.
If we truly want something, then we are much more likely to go out and get it. So, the first point of call when assessing and developing our self-motivation is to think, is what I am working towards something I really want, or something I would like to do?
If it’s the later, then there’s a bit of an issue.
Perhaps thinking about who you are doing this for, what you might gain from achieving it, or how far you have come already will aid you in developing your ‘would like’ into a ‘want’.
The next thing for you to consider is to question yourself, are you scared to progress forward in your life?
Ron Siegel from Harvard University gives a cognitive neuroscientific perceptive here. He says that we are hard-wired to continuously expect danger in new situations.
That fundamentally means changes, or new circumstances, elicit feelings of anxiety and concern before they elicit feelings of anticipation or excitement.
Therefore, it is likely that the first thing we do will be to highlight the potential for failure, or harm to ourselves when undertaking something new. This can be really difficult when developing a sense of self-motivation.
So how do we combat this?
Well, it might sound simple, but focusing on the positive and the opportunity over the chance of failure is what is key here.
If we highlight the chance of failure instead of seeing the positive possibilities in a new task or venture, then we are much less likely to be motivated to push forward and achieve what we want, especially if and when times get hard.
So, focus on the potential positive opportunity rather than the chance of failure!
Perhaps this can be better highlighted with an example that I’m sure you can appreciate.
I have a friend who smokes and keeps attempting to stop. Time and time again he says, ‘this is my last one’ or ‘I really would like to give this up’ (again we are back to ‘would like to’ and ‘want to’ from earlier).
However, he always returns to smoking, making some lame excuse as to why he hasn’t given up, or he just ignores people altogether when he is pulled up about it.
He lacks self-motivation and can’t seem to stop.
Fundamentally, this is because the focus is with the fear of pain that he might experience in quitting, as opposed to the massive positive impact it could have on his life. He focusses on the difficulty he will experience in trying to quit, rather than the potential health improvements.
The cravings etc. are what the immediate effects would be, the health improvements are much further down the line and require discipline to progress through the negative effects of quitting smoking.
This is fundamentally what he struggles with, and is a perfect example of someone who focusses on the potential for failure, rather than the opportunity for positive success in the long run.
What makes this even more prominent and what makes it even harder for people to become self-motivated is a fixation on immediate reward, rather than long-term and sustainable gain.
Short-term immediate gain over longer sustainable and more profound gain is what stops people from being motivated in the future.
It’s what makes people stick to a job they hate rather than quit, take a pay cut and start a business of their own.
It’s what makes people go to parties rather than study for upcoming exams that will inevitably improve their future.
So, what can we possibly do about this?
My first piece of advice here would be to write out all the potential failures and successes you might experience as a result of doing what you desire.
Then, attempt to fully emotionally engage with them, experience how it would feel to fail and to succeed at what you want to do.
If we use our previous example, try and emotionally engage with the challenges and difficulties of going through cravings when quitting smoking. Then engage with how it would feel to be healthier and fitter as a result.
By experiencing the emotions as in-depth as we can, we, in turn, develop our awareness and expectations of what might happen if we fail and if we succeed.
I’m willing to bet that if you fully engage with this, then the joy of succeeding and getting what you want will be so enticing that you’ll become much more self-motivated to take that leap.
So, after all of this, how do we know if we are self-motivated or not?
Well, all you really have to do is ask yourself these 4 questions:
- Can you do it?
- Do you really want it?
- Will it work?
- Is it worth it?
If you answer yes to all of these above questions, then consider yourself self-motivated…congratulations!!!
Self-motivation is not something we are born with, nor is it something that we just stumble across one day.
It is something we work on.
Don’t be disheartened when you fail or you procrastinate, what matters is that you seek to develop your self-motivation as much as possible on a daily basis.
With this understanding and applying these tips, you’ll be well on your way!
Also, be sure to stay up to date with my YouTube channel GetPsyched as self-motivation and the development of self-motivation is something I’ll look at in the coming weeks. You can subscribe and hit the bell next to the subscribe button to get reminders of when I upload!
Psychology is the study of the mental functions of people, their emotions, their reasoning, and how all of these things influence and impact their behaviour and thinking patterns. It can be taxing and time-consuming to delve into the self-awareness, financial commitment and sacrifices to partake in advance studies in psychology. So, why do it?
- Why does a person become a doctor? Perhaps to help others?
- Why does another become a lawyer? To be involved in social justice and make a difference?
- Why does someone else become a teacher? To inspire and nurture future generations? Like anything, the answer is subjective and multidimensional.
In psychology, I feel the answer is as subjective and multidimensional as it is possible to be. The concept of the ‘wounded healer’ suggests that difficulties, tragedies, and turmoils an individual has faced in their past, leads them to want to help others in a way that did, or would have, helped them at that time. For some though, perhaps the answer lies else where, perhaps a person follows in a family members footsteps, or admires a famous or inspirational psychological figure. For me, my mother’s background in psychology and my own past challenges have led me to pursue psychology as not only my career but my passion.
My advice to anyone considering a career in psychology is to first ask why they want to go into it. The commitment is extensive, an undergraduate degree in psychology will only get you so far. To pursue further career opportunities in the field then masters and doctorate study programmes have to be considered. These study ventures require commitment, sacrifice and effort. However, if seeking to help others, to make a difference to both individuals and larger populations, if you have a vested interest in social justice, mental health or the positive development of young people, then pursuing a career in psychology may just be the best bet.
Speaking as a counselling psychologist in training, I have undergone some of the sacrifice and commitment required (with quite a bit still to go). What I can say is that both, academically, professionally and perhaps most importantly personally, I have seen positive changes and developments in my life. It is a field of work and study full of possibilities, opportunities and chances to advance into numerous fields. Working in clinical settings in the NHS or private hospitals, working in therapeutic settings with individuals and groups, working in prisons helping prisons and assisting the issue of re-offending and working in schools with the mental and emotional well-being of young people are all options available to those going into psychology. The opportunities are there and with the developing awareness of the impact of mental health issues, psychologists are needed now more than ever.
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