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The Power of Positive Thinking

Have you ever had negative self talk that has had an impact on your mood? Overtime, negative thinking can impact not only your mood, it can have a negative impact on your health. Studies have shown people with an optimistic and positive attitude tend to live healthier lifestyles. According to an article about stress management from the Mayo Clinic, health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:

  • Increased life span

  • Lower levels of depression

  • Greater resistance to the common cold

  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

When people look on the brighter side of life, it is easier for them to deal with stressful situations, which can reduce the effects stress can have on your body.

Bring Awareness to Negative Thinking

There is an exercise I use when working with clients to help them bring awareness to negative thinking and the effects it has on how they behave. It is a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) technique to help people change cognitive distortions. In CBT, the idea is that our thoughts control our emotions and behavior. The exercise that is helpful for people to practice is to the ABC exercise where there is an activating event that impacts our behavior, brought on by feelings from our thoughts and then we have consequences of our behavior.

Here is an example:

  • Activating event - student gets a poor grade on an exam

  • Behavior - student's first thought is, "I'm never going to pass this class," which brings on the feeling of hopelessness and the behavior from this way of thinking is to not show up for future classes

  • Consequences of behavior - fail the class

Turning the Negative Thinking into Positive Thinking

You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking with some practice. So lets take the same example we used with negative thinking and take a look at the outcome when we practice positive thinking.

  • Activating event - student gets a poor grade on an exam

  • Behavior - student's first thought is, "I still have enough time to get a decent grade in the class," which brings on the feeling of hope and the behavior is to form a study group with other students

  • Consequences of behavior - make some new friends with the students in the study group

In this example you can see how changing the thought process to be more positive can lead to less stress and better coping skills.

It Takes Practice

If you do not tend to look at the positive side of life, that's okay, with some practice you too can become more optimistic. Start to focus on how your thoughts impact your behavior and when you become aware of an automatic negative thought, pause, and re-frame the negative thought into a positive one and notice how you feel and behave.

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