What are the Benefits of a Positive Attitude?

Were you encouraged to “see the glass as half full” when faced with a grim situation? Did that prompt help? When we feel at the end of our tether, such motivational words may not seem useful. We often want practical solutions or a helping hand. But what if the solution (or a part of it) was internal? In this article, we explore the benefits of a positive attitude.

What is a Positive Attitude?

“The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.”

– William James, American philosopher and psychologist

A positive attitude is a state of mind that allows you to envision and expect good things. It does not mean living in denial of the negative situations around you. This attitude allows you to stay optimistic. The benefits of a positive attitude include anticipating happiness, health, success, and opportunities. In turn, keeping top of mind the positive outcomes that you may want for yourself.

Our positive attitude towards anything starts with positive thinking. In fact, we can think of positive thinking as a mental attitude. It helps us to look forward to good and favourable results6. Here are some proven benefits of a positive attitude.

Benefits of a Positive Attitude

Thumbs Up - Keeping A Positive Attitude
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1. Better heart health

Our positive or negative thoughts and attitudes can impact our hearts. One study sought to identify the possible benefits of a positive attitude in patients diagnosed with heart diseases1.

The results looked at patients who introduced positive constructs. The study found they experienced improved heart health. They also benefited from reduced rates of hospitalization. And even improved mortality. We can note that the major construct established and used in this study was optimism.

Another study suggests that having positive psychological well-being can further aid heart health. This study shows a contribution to the prevention of cardiovascular health issues3. This means that we may protect ourselves from heart diseases by staying optimistic. And avoiding the burden of negative thoughts.

2. An active, curious mind

When we have a positive attitude towards life, we become more receptive towards new information. We also enjoy trying out new things without the fear of failure.

Two Australian psychologists tested this theory on a group of students9. In their study, they looked at self-belief – a positive attitude. They looked at which students from the sample would actively pursue their learning. And furthermore, which would encounter problems. Before they evaluated intellectual capacity they assessed students’ attitudes towards their education.

Just like the students in this group, a positive attitude will help you approach challenging tasks better. You can also counter negative emotions when they sneak up on you by challenging these thoughts with your self-belief.

3. Increased productivity at work

Researchers have proven that individuals with positive attitudes are more productive than their peers.  While approaching a new (or previously failed) task, they positively reinforce themselves. Thereby increasing their self-confidence and chances at success4. However, people who choose negative reinforcements by focusing on their mistakes have a chance of failing again.

This approach even goes beyond individuals. We can also look at its role at work. Companies that emphasize positivity will record better performance from their staff. Of course, as humans, we naturally prefer to be exposed to positive things. The benefits of a positive attitude can be shown across different aspects of both work and life. These aspects include cognitively, emotionally, psychologically, and socially. Positive atmospheres at work are shown to lead to higher performance. When an organization feels positive to its people, its staff perform better.

4. Overcoming obstacles becomes easier

Founders, social entrepreneurs, and other people who pursue their dreams despite obstacles are applauded for having grit. But grit does not come from intent. It comes from a positive attitude and commitment2. You have more chances of achieving your goals if you can approach negative situations without losing your positivity.

Of course, having a positive attitude is not enough to get you through everything. We must identify a purpose for overcoming that obstacle. But with a combination of both, your chances are a lot more favourable.

5. Better relationships and social life

We usually want healthy relationships, both in friendships and dating. Knowing this, we seek out people who we can build healthy, positive relationships with. But a study by a prominent psychologist reveals the means for people to create healthy relationships.

They must (first) be able to cultivate positive emotions7. This is because relationships will not always be on good terms as people disagree often. In such moments, negative emotions can push us to take narrow-minded actions which may not be easy to undo.

Further, positive people tend to have built-in psychological resilience. This resilience allows them to better respond to negative moments. As a result, they can be better equipped to cultivate healthy responses to disagreements. And often more appropriate ones too. We can see positive people using humour, creativity, relaxation, and optimistic thinking. Each of these qualities can help to disarm disagreements. Generally, this positive attitude will make anyone a better friend, family, or partner.

6. Better recovery process

Recovery processes such as physiotherapy or mental therapy require a lot of commitment and hard work. In fact, therapists like to establish their client’s resilience to identify their strengths and use them better8.

The attitude of any patient towards their recovery process is one of the strengths evaluated by therapists. Whether you’re trying to regain use of your limbs or recover from mental trauma, your therapist knows one thing. Maintaining a positive attitude will help the progress of your therapy.

Seligman, one of the founders of the Positive Psychology movement puts it this way:

“If we want to build and maintain well-being, we must, on one hand, lessen our misery; but on the contrary, we must have a positive meaning, emotion, accomplishment, and positive relationships.”

How to Cultivate a Positive Attitude

High Fives! Benefits of a positive attitude
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A positive attitude is a habit. As with all habits, it becomes a part of you after you’ve practised it over and over again. Here are a few practices to add to your everyday routines and lifestyle for a positive attitude.

1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness involves actively paying attention to your environment; both internal and external. What we don’t know, is that most of our actions and responses to situations are on autopilot. In fact, the average person is on autopilot 47% of the time.

Mindfulness will enable you to take stock of your environment and your responses to the prompts around you. What makes you feel nervous about a new task? Who/What in your immediate environment makes you feel like you can do anything? Who makes you feel like a failure? What do you tell yourself when you’re scared? How do you respond to both positive and negative events?

All these questions can be answered by practising mindfulness. Here’s a 3 minute guided practice to help you get started.

2. Adopt a growth mindset

We don’t like to accept our shortcomings. But if we want to get better, we must first accept the negative parts of ourselves along with the positive. To begin this process, we should adopt a growth mindset. Take time to understand the difference between a fixed and growth mindset.

This mindset allows us to see the parts of ourselves that need improvement, and to actively pursue opportunities for (positive) change. None of us will ever attain perfection, but we can live a positive and fulfilling life by staying open to change.

3. Surround yourself with positive people

The people in your immediate environment contribute to shaping your attitude towards life. Seemingly normal things like encouragement, group solidarity, and support can serve as a buffer against negative experiences or reactions5. If you want to cultivate a positive attitude, you should surround yourself with people who will encourage this growth. Avoiding those that hinder it.

Conclusion

The benefits of a positive attitude go beyond feel-good moments. Your attitude serves as the building blocks for your experiences and achievements. If you approach challenges while believing in yourself, you’ll have a lot more success than someone who avoids challenges.

If you treat people positively, you’ll be able to build happy and fulfilling relationships. Your general health also thrives when you can keep negative emotions and fears off your mind, and focus on better outcomes. As long as you have a positive attitude, you can always recover from any situation and pursue new adventures.

Katrina

Further Reading:

Sources & References:

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1DuBois, Lopez, Beale, Healy, Boehm, Huffman. (2015). Relationships between positive psychological constructs and health outcomes in patients with cardiovascular disease: a systematic review.
2L Hill, Patrick & L Burrow, Anthony & Cotton Bronk, Kendall. (2014). Persevering with Positivity and Purpose: An Examination of Purpose Commitment and Positive Affect as Predictors of Grit. Journal of Happiness Studies. 17. 10.1007/s10902-014-9593-5.
3Laura D. Kubzansky, Jeff C. Huffman, Julia K. Boehm, Rosalba Hernandez, Eric S. Kim, Hayami K. Koga, Emily H. Feig, Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, Martin E.P. Seligman, Darwin R. Labarthe, Positive Psychological Well-Being and Cardiovascular Disease: JACC Health Promotion Series, Journal of the American College of ardiology, Volume 72, Issue 12, 2018, Pages 1382-1396, ISSN 0735-1097, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2018.07.042.
4Cameron, K., Mora, C., Leutscher, T., & Calarco, M. (2011). Effects of Positive Practices on Organizational Effectiveness. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 47(3), 266–308. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021886310395514
5Cameron, K., Mora, C., Leutscher, T., & Calarco, M. (2011). Effects of Positive Practices on Organizational Effectiveness. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 47(3), 266–308. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021886310395514
6K.C.P.Low & Ang, Sik. (2011). Lessons on Positive Thinking and Leadership from Confucius. Internatonal Journal of GSTF Business Review. 1. 199-206.
7Fredrickson. (2014). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions.
8Prasko, J & Hruby, Radovan & Holubova, Michaela & Latalova, Klara & Vyskocilova, J & Slepecky, Milos & Ociskova, Marie & Grambal, A. (2016). Positive cognitive behavioral therapy. 58. 23-32.
9Martin, Andrew & Marsh, Herb. (2003). Fear of Failure: Friend or Foe?. Australian Psychologist - AUST PSYCHOL. 38. 31-38. 10.1080/00050060310001706997.

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