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The Importance of Optimism: How to Think Positive Thoughts

by Sammy Nickalls

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t…either way, you are right.” ~Henry Ford

Would you consider yourself to be an optimist or a pessimist?

Many would like to say optimist—after all, it’s much nicer to be known as the one who sees the world with rose-colored glasses. People like to hang out with happy people. Nobody likes hanging out with a Debbie Downer / Negative Nancy / Buzz Killington.

However, you might not be as much of an optimist as you’d like to think. Sometimes things in life happen that make it difficult to stay positive. Instead of thinking positive thoughts, you may be repeating self-defeating phrases in your mind, day in and day out—and it’s become so constant and normal that you don’t even realize you’re doing it.

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Think about it: are your thoughts as happy and optimistic as you’d like them to be? Do you find yourself telling yourself that you probably won’t get that promotion, or worrying about every possible negative outcome, or even reminding yourself about all of the traits that you don’t like about yourself?

Okay, maybe my thoughts are a little less than positive. But what does it matter as long as I don’t let it show to my friends?

Oh, my friend, it matters plenty. Positive thinking are definitely something you want to make a priority – and here’s why.

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The Benefits of Positive Thoughts

1. They keep anxiety and stress at bay

It’s pretty understandable why being optimistic can help keep you relaxed and stress-free. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, college students who had primarily positive thoughts during their first semester at college had significantly lower stress.

Related: 3 Benefits of Stress

In another study published in the Journal of Personality on survivors of missile attacks, researchers found that those who were less optimistic in their thought patterns were more likely to experience anxiety and depression under pressure. In fact, one study found that negative internal dialogue can even predict anxiety disorders.

2. They help you have more luck in love

Who doesn’t love a Positive Pete? According to an article by psychologists Charles S. Carver, Michael F. Scheier, and Suzanne C. Segerstrom, those with positive thoughts are more likely to be better in relationships—that is, they tend to work harder and more effectively at relationships.

The psychologists also point out that people are more accepting of those who are optimistic, and positive thinkers may be more satisfied in their relationship than pessimists because they concentrate on the good rather than the bad.

3. They keep your blood pressure down

Remember how those with positive thoughts had lower anxiety? Yeah, they also have lower blood pressure, according to one study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. After all, stress and blood pressure often go hand in hand.

4. They make your life less painful…literally

You might think that those who tend to be more pessimistic would have a higher pain tolerance since they’d expect pain; this is not the case, according to one study. If you tend to think positively, you’re more likely to have a higher pain tolerance.

Related: The Link Between Chronic Pain and Anxiety

5. They help you take care of yourself

You also may think that those who expect good things to happen would be less likely to take precautions to avoid events such as heart attacks—but the opposite is, once again, true. The aforementioned Carver, Scheier, and Segerstrom also found that positive thinkers tend to be more likely to take healthy measures, such as having safe sex and a healthy diet.

6. They help you stay youthful

Want to stay looking youthful? Work on your mindset! A study conducted at University College London found that positive thoughts are linked with “healthy aging,” so if you want to beat the liver spots, put on those rose-colored glasses.

7. They’re heart-healthy

Keep your thoughts optimistic for a healthy heart, literally and figuratively. Positive thoughts are good for the ticker, according to a study published by Harvard researchers. A sunny outlook is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular issues – and that’s independent of other factors such as age, weight, or smoking habits.

Related: What Is a “Heart Healthy Diet”?

8. They help you perform better

Got a big game? Think yourself to the win. According to a study published in the Journal of Sport Behavior, thinking positively can improve your performance. Participants in the study were asked to complete a dart-throwing task. Those who actively thought positively performed significantly better than those who did not.

But More Importantly…The Big Problem with Negative Thoughts

Beyond all of those benefits, there’s one major reason why you need to work on making your thoughts optimistic and self-serving:

Negative thoughts set you up for failure.

If you have a major presentation, you can absolutely do it. But thinking something like, “I’m going to get red in the face and mess up my speech,” will absolutely ensure that you will, indeed, get red in the face and mess up your speech.

Just thinking that you can’t achieve your goals will ensure that you will never achieve them, and thinking that you can’t lift a weight at the gym will ensure that you won’t be mentally strong enough to lift it.

Related: 11 Ways to Be Mentally Tough

In his article “The Incredible Power of Self Talk,” Jim Jensen likens it to a ship’s captain and crew, the captain being the conscious and the crew being the subconscious. You can control the “orders,” but remember that the “crew” will carry them out. If you are telling yourself you will fail, you will subconsciously make yourself fail.

Your brain is powerful, and just like it can tell you you can do something, it can also tell you you can’t.

By thinking negative thoughts, you are cementing yourself as your own worst enemy. And there’s nothing sadder than that.

You’re right. I’m a failure.

Hey, again with the negative thoughts! The good thing about your situation is that you have the power to change you. Thus, you can get rid of your own worst enemy and replace it with your own biggest cheerleader. You can develop positive thoughts so that you can accomplish anything you need to do.

But how?

Getting to that…

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How to Develop Positive Thoughts

If you’re not thinking 100% positively, you need to change that.

I know what you’re thinking: yes, yes, being optimistic is good for you and certainly has its benefits, but developing positive thoughts is easier said than done. If you’ve been thinking a certain way your entire life, how do you change it?

Related: 4 Ways to Use Positive Reinforcement to Achieve Your Goals

1. Believe!

Before we start, keep in mind that just thinking positive thoughts isn’t enough; you have to believe in them. According to a study by Joanne V. Wood, thinking positive thoughts can actually make things worse if you don’t believe them. Wood found that among those who had low self-esteem, positive self-statements had the opposite effect.

Thus, in order for positive thinking to work, you have to believe. Sounds like something right out of Peter Pan, doesn’t it? But positive thoughts aren’t pixie dust; the benefits of them are as real as can be, if you think the right way.

2. Pay attention to your thoughts

You’ve been thinking as long as you can remember, and sometimes your thoughts can become background noise; even you don’t know what you’re thinking. Take a week to actively pay attention to your thoughts. Make your inner monologue the most important thing in the room. Pay attention to passing thoughts and their nature.

3. Write them down

Buy yourself a nice notebook to dedicate purely to your thoughts. Whenever you think something noteworthy, be it positive or negative, jot it down, along with the time of the thought and the reason why you thought it (i.e. you were nervous for a presentation). After a while, you’ll have a solid amount of thoughts that you can look at instead of trying to remember them all in your head.

Related: How to Plan Your Day

 4. Discover the root

Analyze the thoughts you’ve written down. Highlight the negatives in one color and the positives in another. How often do you think positive thoughts, and how often negative? Is there a particular task, time, or area that makes you think positively or negatively? Discovering the root of your negativity can help you combat it in a more rosy way.

5. Combat with positivity

From now on, when you find yourself thinking a negative thought, combat it with a positive. For example, say you think to yourself, “I will never be able to lose weight.” Stop yourself, then think, “Why in the world wouldn’t I be able to? With proper diet and exercise, anyone can lose weight – and I certainly will.” It might seem strange to do this, but after a while, it’ll seem like second nature – and you’ll slowly begin to cut out self-destructive thoughts for good.

Related: The Power of Positive Thinking

6. Wear a reminder

Thoughts are something that occur pretty much constantly during our waking hours, so it can sometimes be hard to remind yourself of your efforts to be positive. Buy yourself a little trinket as a reminder. For example, I have a little plastic pink heart ring that I wear on my finger. It’s so ridiculous looking that every time I look at it, a part of me thinks, “Why am I wearing this Barbie-looking ring?….Oh right, think happy thoughts.”

7. Get a buddy!

Sounds cheesy, but isn’t it so much better doing things with a friend who has the same goals as you? Whether it’s working out or a personal hobby, having a friend work together with you makes it easier to keep your eye on the goal – and positive thinking is no exception, according to Dr. Carol Morgan, an expert on Inspiyr’s panel. If you have a friend to talk to and share your struggles and successes with in your ventures, the whole process will be much easier – and you can bask in each other’s positive glow!

The Takeaway

Being an optimist not only outwardly, but inwardly is essential to your success. Positive thinking not only has a ton of physical benefits, but most importantly, if you are constantly talking yourself down, you are building a mental wall between you and your goal. Don’t be your own worst enemy. You can change your mental patterns so that your thoughts will inspire you to achieve more than even your optimistic brain thought possible.


sammy nickallsSammy Nickalls is the Content Manager at She is an avid health nut and a lover of all things avocado. Photo by Brendan Timmons

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1 comment

Bill April 21, 2014 - 9:48 pm

“5. Combat with positivity

From now on, when you find yourself thinking a negative thought, combat it with a negative.”

Shouldn’t this be combat it with a positive?

Comments are closed.

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