As someone who would probably be classed as a “negative thinker”, I thought I would share the idea’s of positive psychology, published in psychcentral.com.
Although it has often been viewed as New Age-y psychology, positive psychology doesn’t overlook the traditional views of psychology, it simply looks at the positive. It is now a form of therapy used by some professionals, where they study people with positive lives and look at them as role models. This way others can learn to be happy and lead positive lives themselves.
It’s also especially effective as researchers are beginning to realise that what makes people happy, or how to “achieve inner happiness”, is still a mystery. As inner happiness is an essential part of recovering from illness such as depression, a way to help this process further is warmly welcomed (by me at least).
Positive thinking is just one of the key principles of positive psychology. You can’t just buy yourself nice things and surround yourself with a good lifestyle to achieve inner happiness. How we really feel is determined by what goes on in our minds, and thinking positively is a way to block out negative thoughts. Thinking negatively is a good way to do the reverse (to block out positive thoughts). People who engage in this kind of thinking tend to become very insecure, always apologizing, and never being able to make a decision – I am now more convinced of my status as a “negative thinker”. The main problem with this is that it causes many stress issues, which only serves to make you more anxious and to make you think more negatively.
There are four common mindsets among negative thinkers:
1.) Filtering – focus only on the negatives in a situation, which leads people to deny that the positive does exist.
2.) Personalizing – making every tragedy about themselves. Negative thinkers believe that anything negative that can happen is due to them being unlucky, or because they are bad at something. This often involves creating suitable reasons why these negative occurrences are their fault.
3.) Catastrophizing – anticipating the worst, in every situation, causing them to overreact or dramatize simple events. As well as this, negative situations are then used to affirm the negative thoughts they experience.
4.) Polarizing – viewing things in black or white; perfect or catastrophe. Negative thinkers seem to have no middle ground between the two. This causes problems, and changing something as simple as negative thinking – and engage more positive thoughts – can actually help avoid symptoms of psychological disorders.
This is not to say that positive thinking means that you will never face symptoms of illnesses, like depression. Its a complicated illness, and has many different symptoms and causes, and implications. But, positive psychology can help towards the treatment of depression. It can give patients the tools they need to get out of, or avoid, low mood symptoms, as well as stopping the negative thoughts that depression is known for.
Additionally, researchers have now shown that there is a link between stress and the immune system. People under stressful conditions are less able to fight against bacteria and viruses, resulting in an increase of infections. Engaging in more positive thoughts will help people to deal with illness, and it has been shown to be effective during treatment of cancer (note: it is not a cure, it is simply beneficial during recovery). Positive thinking can also help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It’s not just about health benefits, however, as positive thinkers have also been found to be healthier both physically and mentally – they have better well-being over all, and develop better skills for coping with stress, which help fight against physical illness.
Although positive thinking has been suggested to have many health benefits, it is important to remember that it won’t stop these illnesses occurring. It simply gives you the tools and skills you need in order to deal with stressors and negative situations in every day life. Positive thinking does come naturally to some, but do not be discouraged if you feel you need professional help to get a kick start – I did.
It is clear to see why some people would hold a “hippie-ish” view of positive psychology, however it is based on science, and can be seen on a practical level. I am certainly starting to see the scientific side to positive thinking, and thanks to this article I am one step closer to becoming a positive thinker myself.
Written by: Philippa Berry
– Miller, G. E. & Cohen, S. (2005). Infectious disease and psychoneuroimmununology. In K. Vedhara & M. Irwin (Eds.). Human psychoneuroimmunology. New York: Oxford University Press.