Positive thinking can be a powerful tool in achieving your health goals and, in fact, there is plenty of research out there that suggests that optimistic people receive significant health benefits and even have longer lifespans. However, positive thinking is a skill like any other and there are more and less effective ways to do it. Let’s take a look at the 3 best ways to harness the power of positive thinking.
- Bring to Mind Believable Facts
Oftentimes, when we hear “positive thinking,” we think about positive affirmations. Those cheery, bright self-statements such as saying “I am capable and confident” even though you’re terrified. These statements often ring hollow in our minds, however, because they don’t actually match our reality. In fact, a 2009 study at the University of Waterloo found that for participants who already had low self-esteem repeating a positive affirmation, such as “I am a loveable person” actually made them feel worse! Therefore, it is much more effective to think about believable facts and repeat those. For example, “I remember last month when I was nervous to speak up in that meeting but I did it anyway and everyone liked my idea.” Or, “I remember last week when my spouse surprised me with a night out. They really love me.” Since these thoughts have actual evidence to back them up they are much more effective than a vague affirmation.
- Use Realistic Optimism
On the surface this sounds like a contradiction, right? You can either be an optimist or a realist. However, this isn’t so. A major positive thinking trap that we want to try and avoid is being overly or unrealistically optimistic which can cause us to bury our head in the sand or miss potential problems. However, being realistically optimistic means skewing towards the positive without turning a blind eye to the reality of the challenges that lay before us. This would be like saying, “I know I can be successful as long as I recognize my challenges and plan how to overcome them.”
- Think Positive, Plus Instructions
Let’s face it, fantasizing about your healthy new body or fitting into that brand new dress or seeing your goal weight on the scale feels good. I mean really good. The problem is… it feels really good. It can almost feel like you are actually living that fantasy and this can trick your brain into thinking you’ve already achieved your goal. And once you achieve a goal, your motivation to achieve it declines rapidly. Therefore, fantasizing about the outcome actually demotivates an individual from achieving that desired outcome. The more effective way to go about this is to imagine how you are going to overcome the obstacles on the path to your goal. Think positive, plus instructions. Think about what might get in your way and what you can do about it, who might be able to help you, and the path you are going to take to be successful.