Positive Thinking: Reduce Stress and Enjoy Life More

Positive thinking reduces stress and you enjoy life more.Is your glass half empty or half full? How you answer that question illustrates your general outlook on the world and how well you cope with stress.

But positive thinking extends beyond being a stress buster. Studies suggest is increases your lifespan, reduces your chances of depression, and helps you to deal with hardships in a better way.

But an optimistic attitude doesn’t mean that you adopt emu-like qualities and keep your head in the sand and ignore problems or unpleasant causes of stress. It is about approaching unpleasant or stressful events in a more positive and constructive way!

However, adopting a positive approach can be difficult when you are feeling down or are bombarded by stress.

Here we provide you with:

  • the benefits of optimism
  • how positive thoughts help you to cope with stress
  • ways to promote positive thinking
  • come common thinking traps
  • ways to become aware of negative thinking and how to change it.

The power of positive thinking

The benefits of optimism extend beyond stress relief to better health, more rewarding relationships and enhanced productivity.

People with a positive outlook tend to experience:

  • reduced incidence of depression
  • lower stress levels and are better able to cope with stress causing events
  • an increased life span
  • overall better health
  • improved psychological well-being

People with a positive outlook on life are also more likely to live a healthier lifestyle, and to smoke less and drink less alcohol.

Positive thoughts and coping with stress

The contemporary definition of stress states that the way that we perceive a situation can influence our stress levels and our ability to cope with stress.

In short....the way you think influences the amount of stress you feel!

There has even been scientific research conducted by Andrews and colleagues (2008) that revealed that when men and women who reported having a happy mood (positive thoughts) had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

This suggests that optimism may reduce biological vulnerability.

Optimists tend to attribute their failures to external circumstances and when they do fail, they tend to have a "try again" mindset.

Optimists are also more likely to have problem-orientated coping strategies for dealing with stress.

On the other hand, pessimists are more likely to blame failure on themselves and are reluctant to "give it a go" again with the negative experience.

Pessimists are more likely to be in denial or avoid coping with stress altogether.

So are you an optimist or not, and how can you develop a positive attitude?

The answer to this question can be important for coping with stress.

Six ways Ways to promote your positive thinking and reduce stress

Martin Seligman, a psychologist and renowned clinical researcher, in his book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life suggests that optimism can be learned.

Here we provide a number of strategies to bring more positive thoughts into your life. In doing so you reap the benefits of positive thinking which is increase happiness and well-being.

1. Become aware your self talk

Any time that you engage in an internal dialogue with yourself you are engaging in self-talk. Self talk is the stream of endless chatter that runs through your head each day.

For the most part self-talk arises from logic and reason. But sometimes self-talk can be blown out of proportion.

This self talk influences your emotions and actions and it can be your greatest asset or your worst enemy. It all depends on how you use it!

Your self talk can be reasonable "I better prepare for my meeting" or "I am looking forward to catching up with friends."

But sometimes the self-talk can turn negative..."I am going to fail for sure", or "I didn't do very well...I'm hopeless".

Negative thinking can occur when you criticize yourself after an error, when you are down on yourself, anticipate failure, or doubt your abilities.

This negative thinking lowers your confidence, reduces your performance, and leads to feelings of helplessness!

Often the first step to developing positive thoughts is to recognize the self-talk that you engage in.

2. Understand your negative thinking

Negative self-talk is likely to contribute to a pessimistic view on life.

By becoming aware of your negative thinking and the cognitive distortions that may underlie these; you can develop strategies to turn this into constructive or positive thoughts.

But remember it takes time to develop a new habit.

Some Common Thinking Traps that Perpetuate Stress are:

Black and white thinking. Do you use the word "Always" or "Never" often? If something is not perfect then it then it must be horrible!

Is there no shade of grey in your thoughts?

Often no middle ground is the characteristic of black and white thinkers.

Black and white thinking tends to exacerbate stress, conflict, anxiety, and a host of other everyday problems.

Overgeneralizations. Do you suffer a few setbacks and think "Nothing works for me."

Do you experience a couple of failures and think "I am a failure."

What about a traffic jam that elicits the response "This always happens to me!"

An overgeneralization is where you draw a conclusion of yourself (or others) based on one or two instances.

This type of thinking exacerbates stress and other everyday problems.

Personalizing: Do you interpret the comments or behaviors of others as a personal attack on your worth and ability?

There are a number of other thinking traps that can perpetuate stress which are about beautifully in David Burns' book The Feeling Good Handbook.

Most of us have some negative self-talk going on, and this negative self-talk does not mean that we are doomed to a life of negativity and stress.

There are a number of things that you can do to change this habit.

3. Monitor your self-talk

One way to monitor your thoughts is with this stress diary. Alternatively monitor, and write down, your moods and the thoughts that underpin these moods.

Be particularly aware of times when your mood may change.

When you are sad what are you saying to yourself?What about when you get angry or are happy?

Becoming more aware of the link between your thoughts and emotions gives you more control on your stress and is one of the best stress reducers.

4. Promote and practice your positive self-talk

Positive self-talk promotes an optimistic view of life and you are more likely to be a positive thinker.

Here are some examples of negative self talk and some more constructive statements that you can use to reduce stress.

Negative self talkConstructive statement
I am a failure if I lose my jobI may fail to hold this job but I myself am not a failure
I am not good enoughNo one is perfect. There are some things I am good at, and who cares if I am not good at everything
I made a mistakeThis is an opportunity for me to learn
No one bothers to talk to meI can try to open the communication channels with others
I’ll never get all of this done. It’s too much for meI’ve done more that this before. I can do it. Or…I can reschedule my priorities or do it tomorrow
Everyone will think I am an idiotI don’t know what others will think. Why should I worry, as they are probably not taking too much notice of me.
I can’t stand it.I don’t like it but I can put with it without making it worse.

You can challenge your negative thoughts with cognitive therapy.

Don’t expect to be able to change your attitude overnight as positive thinking is a skill and like any skill, whether is is learning a new language or a new instrument, requires practice to master.

5. Develop a list of positive affirmations

Positive affirmations or positive thinking quotes help to re-program your thinking so that you can promote automatic positive thinking.

Positive affirmations reflect positive attitudes and thoughts and promote self confidence and personal control.

But you need affirmations that are believable and capture the feelings of a satisfying experience.

Some positive affirmations such as "I come through when under pressure" or "I see challenges as an opportunity to grow" are good when feeling stressed.

When setting your own positive affirmations state what you want, as if you already had it!

6. Surround yourself with other positive people

If you think you are a pessimist then becoming an optimist takes practice. Changing a habit of negative thinking will not occur overnight.

But with practice you can develop your positive thinking, which research shows will improve your outlook, promote better relationships and reduce your stress.

Surrounding yourself with negative thinkers perpetuates your old habit of thinking, making it more difficult to change. Try to surround yourself with positive others so you learn and model their type of thinking in response to different situations.

Search here for other positive thinking tips

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