Try though I might, I have thus far in my life failed to find an overstatement of the benefits of positive thinking.
What many are quick to wave off as simply ‘being cheerful’ is really a daily practice that can have a wildly transformative effect on one’s life.
This post is not just about putting a smile on and cheering up on hard days. Healthy, open-minded optimism has a catalytic effect on your personal and professional success, as well as drastically improving your relationships with others, and yourself. This post is about the importance of positive thinking, which too many people overlook.
Forget about how full the glass is or isn’t. What I’m talking about is a mindset that reframes your entire worldview, and has a direct, practical impact on how your life plays out. There are so many powerful benefits of positive thinking that I myself am still often awed by it.
Whatever you envision in a better life for yourself, be it material wealth, professional success, emotional security, or peaceful contentment, positive thinking will always be there as a central prerequisite. Let’s dig in and see how far this can really go.
8 Practical Benefits of Positive Thinking
1. Subjective Experience
How many good things have happened to you in the past week? How many bad things? Likely you can tally up a fair mix of both.
Now, if I asked the same questions of someone else, who had lived through the exact same week as you, would their answers be the same? What if it were ten other people? And how would we know who was right?
Trick is, they’d all be right, and so would you.
Exceptionally little in life is objectively good, bad, or otherwise. In almost every case, it is within our power to decide how to experience it. Most of the time, if you choose to see a moment in your life as good, then it is. Same if you decide it sucks.
You cannot control all the events of your day, but you can manage how you think about them. And usually, the way you think has a much bigger impact on the way you feel than the events themselves do.
It is up to you how to interpret nearly everything you encounter. Most of the time, whether or not you have a good day is entirely up to how you choose to experience it.
2. Attracting Positive Outcomes
Great stuff loves positive people. Whether it’s exciting opportunities, interesting people, big personal wins, piles of money, or anything else, great stuff just finds optimists irresistibly sexy.
Years ago, when my dad taught me how to drive, he had one peculiar lesson for me that has always stuck with me: Don’t stare at the lines on the road. Seemed like a weird note to me. Don’t you need the lines to keep the car steady?
It turns out, the lines are helpful on your periphery, but when you stare right at them, you gradually but near-unavoidably drift toward them!
Your attitude works exactly the same way. Where you look, there you will go. If you put your attention to the negative, to all that hurts, frustrates, and upsets you, you’ll never stop listing toward it. Just like the lines on the road, it may seem worthy of your close attention, but I assure you, it’s not.
When you focus instead on the positive, on the things you love and the places you want to go, then that will be your guide. That will be what pulls you toward it.
Where you put your attention, there will you direct the course of your life. Great stuff loves positive people, and building a positive attitude will always attract that great stuff right to you.
3. Increased Capacity for Self-Love
When you take a positive attitude toward life, then you will naturally end up with a more positive attitude toward yourself!
A positive, supportive relationship with yourself is how you build self love. And healthy self love is something that, quite simply, a happy life is not complete without. People who truly love themselves feel happier, accomplish more, and aren’t nearly as weighed down by life’s challenges as everybody else.
Learning to love oneself is an essential foundation to fully loving and sharing positivity with others. Beyond that, it is the beginning of a chain reaction of happiness and positivity that can hardly be controlled. More on that in #6 below.
4. The Cycle of Positive Thinking
When you start to practice optimism, you set a self-sustaining process of positivity in motion.
You see, positive thinking is a natural way to increase your serotonin, which in turn makes it easier for you to feel happier and view things more positively.
Think of it like this: getting a car to go from 0-60 mph takes some work (I mean, mostly for the car, but y’know). Once you get up to speed, it’s easier to keep moving. Sure, you’ve got to lean on the pedal a bit here and there, but for the most part it’s smooth sailing. You have inertia, in unison with your own continued effort, moving you along.
That’s one of the things I love about building a positive attitude: it’s an investment. It takes a bit to get started, but once you’re cruising at 60 miles per hour, it does a lot of the work on its own. Positive thinking becomes easier as you go; you just need to keep giving it those little pushes along the way.
5. Being Known as a Positive Person
People like to be around people with a positive mindset.
It is better to be someone who faces a problem and asks, “how can we solve it?” than to be someone who complains about the problem and jumps immediately to the reasons it cannot be solved. People like to be around the former. They will view that person as upbeat, fun to spend time with, and most importantly, someone who can get things done. And they won’t be wrong on any of these.
Those with a persistently positive mindset naturally and almost invariably attract the respect and appreciation of others. This leads to stronger relationships with others, as well as an increase in personal and professional opportunities finding their way to you.
Remember, when you approach each new situation with fierce optimism, you are far more likely to achieve the things you set out to. And new opportunities fly to those who are prepared to handle them.
6. Healthier Relationships
Just as a positive attitude can transform your relationship with yourself (like in #3), so too can it give new life to your relationships with others.
Look no farther than the relationships you have today. Think of the people in your life who you love to spend time with. The ones who make you feel happy, appreciated, loved. It’s fun just to be around them, and you usually walk away glad you got a chance to see them. Dollars to donuts, these are people with positive attitudes.
Mind you, these are not people who never have bad days, never get upset with life, and are incapable of causing others pain or discomfort. But they typically choose to see the good in events as well as in people. They don’t let negative circumstances overtake their world, and they have healthy relationships with themselves, which helps them be a better connection to you.
When you take hold of a positive lens through which to view your world, it enables you to be more supportive to those around you. This, in turn, makes them more enthusiastic to spend time with you, and motivated to be supportive and loving in return.
By naturally reinforcing the positive thinking of the people around you, you help create a virtuous cycle of healthy, positive people lifting each other up. Positive thinking is truly infectious.
7. Smiling in the Face of Adversity
At no point can you simply skip over life’s bad stuff. That’s not what I’m selling here. I’m selling a positive attitude that refuses to let the bad shit define your life.
This morning I woke up with a headache. I soon found out that my refrigerator door had been slightly ajar overnight and that all of my perishable food had embodied the name by perishing. A fly landed in my coffee, and I broke my favorite pair of headphones. I then got an email that the utility company would be cutting power to our whole neighborhood for most of the day.
I’m not even making this up.
Several of these things even happened while I was in the middle of a conversation with my wife about positive thinking, about writing this very post.
Stuff like this is gonna happen. From a series of annoyances like these, to a string of life’s heaviest and most difficult struggles. It’s not for us to know what the universe has in store for us, or to always be able to take it with a smile. That’s not what optimism is.
Optimism is taking the lemons life gives you, and making the very best of it you can. Making room for hurt feelings to happen, and also letting the positive perspective in to find your way forward. We can’t stop the challenges from coming, but one of the greatest benefits of positive thinking is to be able to handle them, keep taking the next step, and not let them decide our fate.
8. Leading the Charge up the Mountain of Positivity
Leadership is such an interesting word because it can mean so many different things. To many, it is a concept of tangible power over others. Some feel it is more about recognition of success, a reward to the greatest among us for their hard work. To large companies the world over, leadership is either coded language to separate the haves from the have-nots, or (my personal favorite) a meaningless buzzword used to deflect company responsibility onto its employees by “empowering” them. Ugh.
To me, leadership is much bigger than all that. Leadership is about boldly embodying your values, and setting a strong example. It is a position of humble service to those willing to follow.
One of my favorite benefits of positive thinking is this manner of leadership. It has nothing to do with control, recognition or power. It has everything to do with making a lasting beneficial impact on others by living your beliefs to the fullest.
And trust me, when you flood your life with open minded optimism and begin to reap the benefits of positive thinking, others will be unable to help but follow that example, much to their own delight and success.
Optimists naturally spread optimism. And for all these reasons here above, and many more, it’s a bug well worth catching.
Avoiding the Disadvantages of Positive Thinking
In fair contrast to the far-reaching benefits, it’s also important to note some of the potential disadvantages of positive thinking:
- Blind optimism can lead to unrealistic expectations, and harsh feelings of disappointment when these expectations are not met.
- Excessive or disingenuous positivity with others can draw misunderstanding, envy, and even resentment from others.
- Trying to be exclusively positive in the face of your own (or others’) negative feelings can create an environment of toxic positivity.
And that’s the bulk of it. There really aren’t many disadvantages to positive thinking, but they can be quite problematic if not properly addressed.
Fortunately, all three of these challenges share a common thread, and are fairly easy to get ahead of.
As a general rule, think of positivity as a compass. Use it to navigate and interpret situations, and help you decide how to act. Optimism doesn’t become problematic until you try to use it to replace negative feelings and steamroll the attitudes of others. Life will always have difficult moments and unpleasant emotions. Healthy positive thinking can be used to navigate these moments, but never to ignore or replace them.
So long as you take care to be earnest and empathetic in your positivity, you’ll have everything you need.
How Can I Develop Positive Thoughts?
By now, you’re most likely ready to start taking advantage of the magic of outrageous optimism. So, how do we do it? It’s actually much simpler than you may think.
For all its amazing short-term and long-term payoff, positive thinking is little more than a simple, healthy habit. That is to say, it takes a little bit of effort to get it going if you’re not already in a bit of a rhythm with it. But once you establish that rhythm, it takes on a life of its own. It grows, evolves, and adapts to fit your situation. And as I’ve said already, positivity is self-replicating. Get it going, and it will keep you going.
If you’d like a little help getting started, you can start with these 7 easy ways to unleash more positivity into your life.
It just takes a bit of initial kindling, and a little tending as time goes on, to turn a small spark of positivity into an overwhelming blaze of joy, enthusiasm, and accomplishment.