The Mayo Clinic recently reported the health benefits of positive thinking and stopping negative self-talk. We may have been brought up in an environment of glass-half-empty or culturally surrounded by thinking that limited a positive outlook. However, just like any other muscle in our body, we can train our minds to move from a negative outlook to a more positive one and begin to see the world from a glass-half-full perspective.
Studies over the years have proved that traits such as optimism and positive thinking not only impact our minds but also our bodies. There are two sides to this equation:
Martin Seligman, psychologist, and author shared his theory of positive psychology with the world since the 1980s and is best known for his 3 Ps of Optimism – Personalise, Pervasive and Permanent. He said; “Life inflicts the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist as on the pessimist, but the optimist weathers them better.”
He found that those people with a more positive outlook are able to step back from personalising a situation as being entirely their fault or able to look at what else was the cause, compared with a pessimist who will assume all responsibility and blame. Someone with an optimistic outlook will be able to see the situation from a wider angle and contextualise the issue (be pervasive), compared with a more negative outlook seeing the impact of the situation everywhere. And those with an optimistic viewpoint will view the disaster as temporary or specific to one area of their life vs a more permanent and all-inclusive view by someone with a more pessimistic nature.
TOP TIP – Changing from a pessimistic to an optimistic viewpoint:
STOP turning situations into a catastrophe
START to redefine the situation as bigger, less personal
REPLACE irrational thinking with reasonable thinking, dispute your fears with facts
Shirzad Chamine, researcher and author of Positive Intelligence, suggests that there are 3 simple steps to improve wellbeing, be more effective at work and improve our relationships. The steps start with recognising who is doing your critical self-talk, he identified 10 universal saboteurs that we all have to some degree, with one major dominant negative voice that we are familiar with, coming from our Judge.
His aspiration is to help “every human build mental fitness so they can fulfil their true potential for both happiness and contribution.” We all can recognise the self talk our Judge whispers in our ears and inside our minds, but most people don’t realise the three faces to this pesky character. We judge ourselves by badgering us for past mistakes or current shortcomings. We judge others by focusing on what is wrong, what we don’t like or find wanting. We also judge the situation or circumstances as bad, harmful or wrong and are not able to see any possible opportunity from it.
The key to self-talk is to notice. Notice what is being said, how it’s being said, who or what triggers you Judge and critical voice, and notice how it makes you feel. By taking this first step of noticing you can often nip the chat in the bud as well as raise your awareness as to who is controlling your thinking.
TOP TIP – noticing your inner Judge:
STOP the negative chatter by noticing it is happening
START to name it as your Judge, separating it from your own thinking
REPLACE the negative words or phrases with an acknowledgment of what you can be proud of, or are good at
By improving your positive thinking and reducing your negative self-talk, the Mayo Clinic reported that the health benefits may include:
- Increased life span – research has discovered that people who have a more positive outlook outlive their more negative counterparts by 10 years
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress and pain
- Greater resistance to illness
- Better wellbeing
- Better cardiovascular health
- Reduced risk of death from cancer, respiratory conditions and infections
- Better coping skills through times of hardship
Whilst we won’t know how many of these benefits are due to the power of positive thinking alone, we do know it invariably has a knock-on effect for coping better with stress and encouraging a more healthier lifestyle.
(source of benefits – Mayo Clinic)