The power of positive thinking (2023)

Do you usually see the glass half empty or half full? You have probably heard this question many times. Your answer is directly related to the concept of positive thinking and if you have onepositiveor negative view of life. Positive thinking plays an important role inPOSITIVE Psychology, a subfield devoted to the study of what makes people happy and fulfilled.

Research has found that positive thinking can help withstress managementand even plays an important role in your general health and well-being.It can help combat feelings of low self-esteem, improve physical health, and help improve your overall outlook on life.

This article looks at what positive thinking is and the health benefits of being positive. It also explores some of the strategies you can use to become a more positive thinker.

What is positive thinking?

Positive thinking means approaching life's challenges with a positive perspective.It doesn't mean viewing the world through rose-colored glasses, ignoring or overlooking the negative aspects of life.

Positive thinking does not necessarily mean avoiding difficult situations. Instead, positive thinking means making the most of potential obstacles, trying to see the best in other people, and seeing yourself and your abilities in a positive light.

Some researchers, including positive psychologistsmartin seligman, to frame positive thinking in terms of explanatory style.They areexplanatory styleit is how you explain why the events happened.

  • optimistic explanatory style: People with an optimistic explanatory style tend to take credit when good things happen and often blame external forces for bad outcomes. They also tend to see negative events as temporary and out of place.
  • pessimistic explanatory style: People with a pessimistic explanatory style often blame themselves when bad things happen, but don't take credit for successful outcomes.They also tend to view negative events as expected and long-lasting. As you can imagine, blaming yourself for events beyond your control or viewing these unfortunate events as a persistent part of your life can have a negative impact on your mood.

Positive thinkers are more likely to use an optimistic explanatory style, but the way people attribute events can also vary depending on the exact situation. For example, a person who generally thinks positively might use a more pessimistic explanatory style in particularly challenging situations, such as at work or school.


While there are many factors that determine whether a person has a positive outlook, the way they explain events in their life, known as their explanatory style, plays an important role.

Positive Psychology vs. Positive thinking

Although the terms "positive thinking" and "positive psychology" are sometimes used interchangeably, it's important to understand that they are not the same thing. Positive thinking is looking at things from a positive point of view. It is a type of thinking that focuses on maintaining a positive and optimistic attitude. Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that studies the effects of optimism, what causes it, and when it is best to use it.

Health benefits of positive thinking

In recent years, the so-called "power of positive thinking" has gained a lot of attention thanks to self-help books like "The Secret." While these popular psychology books often promote positive thinking or philosophies likelaw of attractionAs a sort of psychological panacea, empirical research has found that there are many real health benefits associated with positive thinking and optimistic attitudes.

Positive thinking is linked to a wide range of health benefits, including:

  • Better stress management and coping skills
  • improved psychological health
  • Increased resistance to the common cold
  • Greater physical well-being
  • longer shelf life
  • lower rates ofdepression
  • Reduced risk of death related to cardiovascular disease

A study of 1,558 older people found that positive thinking can also reduce frailty in old age.

A 2018 study published inAging Research Journalfound that having a positive mental attitude was associated with decreased mortality over a 35-year period.People who had a more positive outlook were also more likely to exercise regularly, avoid smoking, eat a healthier diet, and sleep better.

Clearly there are manybenefits of positive thinking. But why, exactly, does positive thinking have such a strong impact on physical and mental health?mental health?

One theory is that people who think positively tend to be less affected by stress. Research suggests that having more positive automatic thoughts helps people be more resilient in the face of stressful life events. People who had high levels of positive thinking were more likely to walk away from stressful life events with a greater sense of meaning in life.

Another possibility is that people who think positively tend to live healthier lives overall; they can exercise more, eat a more nutritious diet, and avoid unhealthy behaviors.

How to practice positive thinking

While you may be more prone to negative thoughts, there are strategies you can use to become a more positive thinker. Practicing these strategies regularly can help you get into the habit of maintaining a more positive outlook on life.

(Video) The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale | Full Audiobook

  • watch your thoughts: Begin to pay attention to the type of thoughts you have each day. If you find that many of them are negative, make a conscious effort to reframe your thinking in a more positive way.
  • Write in a gratitude journal.: Practicinggratitudeit can have a number of positive benefits and can help you learn to develop a better perspective. Experiencing thoughts of gratitude helps people feel more optimistic.
  • Use positive self-talk:how do you talk to yourselfIt can play an important role in shaping your prospect. Studies have shown that switching to a more positive self-talk can have a positive impact on your emotions and the way you respond to stress.

Hit play for tips on how to see the best in others.

Hosted by editor-in-chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode ofThe Mind Very Well Podcastshare why seeing the best in people benefits you. Click below to listen now.

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Potential Dangers of Positive Thinking

While there are many benefits to thinking positively, there are actually times when more realistic thinking is more advantageous. For example, in some situations,negative thinkingit can actually lead to more accurate decisions and results.

Some research has found that negative thoughts and moods can actually help people make better and more accurate judgments.

However, research suggests that realistic optimism may be ideal. The results of a 2020 study published inPersonality and Social Psychology Newsletterrevealed that people who have wrong expectations, whether optimistic or pessimistic, tend to do worse in terms of mental health compared to realistic ones.

The study authors suggest that the disappointment experienced by optimists when their high hopes do not come true could have a negative impact on well-being. This does not mean that people should strive to be pessimistic thinkers. as studies indicate that people with a negative outlook tend to do worse.Instead, having a generally positive outlook focused on realistic expectations may be the best approach.

In some cases, inappropriately applied positive thinking can cross the line into what is known astoxic positivity. This means insisting on maintaining a positive mindset, no matter how upsetting, dire, or damaging a situation may be. This type of excessive positivity can prevent authentic communication and cause people to experience feelings of shame or guilt if they struggle to maintain an overly positive outlook.


Positive thinking can have pitfalls at times. While it's important to have a positive overall outlook, excessively high expectations can lead to disappointment. Being unable to accept negative emotions, known as toxic positivity, can also have a negative effect on mental well-being.

A word from Verywell

Even if you're not a natural optimist, there are things you can do to learn tothink more positivelymibecome a positive thinker. One of the first steps is to focus on your own internal monologue and pay attention to your self-talk.

frequent questions

  • How do I start practicing positive thinking?

    Strategies that can improve your positive thinking include noticing your thoughts and making a conscious effort to shift from negative thoughts to more positive thoughts. Practicing positive self-talk and practicing gratitude can also be helpful ways to start having a more positive outlook.

  • Why is positive thinking important?

    (Video) The Power Of Positive Thinking Full Audiobook by Norman Vincent Peale

    Positive thinking is important because it can have a beneficial impact on mental and physical well-being. People who maintain a more positive outlook on life cope better with stress, have better immunity, and have a lower risk of early death. Positive thinking also helps promote greater feelings of happiness and overall satisfaction with life.

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of positive thinking?

    Positive thinking has been shown to help people live healthier and happier lives. When they have a positive outlook, they are more likely to adopt healthy behaviors like exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough rest. The downsides of positive thinking include the risk of setting expectations too high, resulting in disappointment, and being affected by toxic positivity.

  • How do you change your thinking from negative to positive?

    Practicing mindfulness can be a way to develop self-awareness and become more aware of how your negative thoughts affect your mood and behavior. As you get better at identifying negative thought patterns, you can take steps to shift to a more positive mindset. Actively replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can help you learn to become a more positive thinker.

    Know more:How to change negative thinking?

11 fuentes

Verywell Mind only uses high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. read ourpublishing processto learn more about how we fact check and keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Kim ES, Hagan KA, Grodstein F, DeMeo DL, De Vivo I, Kubzansky LD.Optimism and cause-specific mortality: a prospective cohort study.Am J Epidemiology.2017;185(1):21-29. doi:10.1093/aje/kww182

  2. Seligman M.learned optimism. Random house.

  3. Chang E, Sanna L.Virtue, vice and personality: the complexity of behavior. American Psychological Association.

  4. Medicina Johns Hopkins.The power of positive thinking.

  5. Park N, Peterson C, Szvarca D, Vander Molen RJ, Kim ES, Collon K.Positive psychology and physical health: research and applications.Am J Med lifestyle. 2016;10(3):200-206. doi:10.1177/1559827614550277

  6. Gale CR, Möttus R, Deary IJ, Cooper C, Sayer AA.Personality and risk of frailty: the English longitudinal study of aging.Ann Behav Med. 2017;51(1):128-136. doi:10.1007/s12160-016-9833-5

  7. Paganini-Hill A, Kawas CH, Corrada MM.Positive mental attitude associated with lower mortality at age 35: the world of entertainment cohort study.J Res Aging. 2018;2018:2126368. doi:10.1155/2018/2126368

  8. Boyraz G, Lightsey OU Jr.Can positive thinking help? Positive automatic thoughts as moderators of the stress-meaning relationship.Am J Ortopsiquiatria. 2012;82(2):267-77. doi:10.1111/j.1939-0025.2012.01150.x

  9. Kross E, Bruehlman-Senecal E, Park J, et al.Internal dialogue as a regulatory mechanism: how you do it matters.J Pers Soc Psychol. 2014;106(2):304-24. doi:10.1037/a0035173

  10. Forgas JP.Don't worry, be sad! On the cognitive, motivational and interpersonal benefits of negative mood.Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2013;22(3):225-232. doi:10.1177/0963721412474458

  11. De Meza D, Dawson C.Neither optimistic nor pessimistic: wrong expectations decrease well-being.Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2021;47(4):540-550. doi:10.1177/0146167220934577

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Bykendra cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on a variety of psychology topics. Kendra has a Master of Education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.

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