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 answer (or a part of it) was internal? In this article, we explore the benefits of 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
The definition of a positive attitude encompasses 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. A positive attitude means allowing yourself to stay optimistic. The benefits of a positive attitude include anticipating happiness, health, success, and opportunities and, in turn, keeping top of mind the positive outcomes that you may want for yourself.
Our positive attitude towards anything starts with positive thinking and a positive mindset. In fact, we can think of positive thinking as a mental attitude. It helps us to look forward to good and favorable results. Here are some proven benefits of a positive attitude.
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 disease1.
The results looked at patients with cardiovascular disease 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 optimism was the major construct established and used in this study.
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 issues5. This means that we may protect ourselves from heart disease and improve our physical health by staying optimistic. A positive person avoids the burden and traits of negative thoughts.
We become more receptive to new information when we keep a positive attitude toward life. 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. Furthermore, which would encounter problems. Before they evaluated intellectual capacity, they assessed students' attitudes toward 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.
And a more positive attitude is better for mental health and shown to reduce anxiety4. Furthermore, other studies have found that cultivating a positive attitude can prove an important tool in dealing with depression2.
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 success6. 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 employee performance.
When an organization nurtures a positive learning space and feels positive to its people, staff perform better. It seems that when human resources foster positive energy in the work environment, it is good for individuals and co-workers.
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 commitment3. You have more chances of achieving your goals if you can approach negative situations with a more positive perspective.
Of course, having a positive attitude is not enough to get you through everything. We must identify a purpose for overcoming that obstacle to best realize the benefits of positive thinking. But with a combination of both, your chances of a more positive mindset are much more favorable.
We usually want healthy relationships, both in friendships and dating. Knowing this, we seek out people with whom we can build healthy, positive relationships. 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 and and encouraging attitude. 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 respond better to negative moments, and look to the bright side of life. As a result, they can better equip themselves to cultivate healthy responses to disagreements. And often more appropriate ones too.
Positive people use humor, creativity, relaxation, and optimistic thinking. Each of these qualities can help to disarm disagreements and dispel those bad attitude moments. Generally, this positive attitude will make anyone a better friend, family, or partner.
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 toward their recovery process is one of the strengths evaluated by therapists. Whether you're trying to regain the 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.”
A positive attitude is a habit. As with all habits, it becomes a part of you after you've practiced it over and over again. And the more you do so, the more you can avoid the opposing negative attitude. People with a positive attitude start by fostering good thoughts. Here are a few practices to add to your everyday routines to assist you in developing positive attitudes and stay positive throughout aspects of your life and work:
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 is the immediate environment that 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 practicing mindfulness meditation. Here's a 3-minute guided practice to help you get started, and these quotes will inspire you to keep going. If you're new to mindfulness, simple techniques like deep breathing can help you get started and clear your thoughts to focus on the positive.
You can also adopt the practice of positive self-talk or engage in positive affirmations as part of your morning routine, whereby you share verbally or in writing everything positive about the current moment or daily life.
Our list of journal prompts might assist you if you like to get your thoughts down on paper in a gratitude journal. To start out practicing gratitude, jot down what makes a great day, explore the part of life on the bright side, and reflect on compliments rather than criticism. When you practice gratitude, you can spend time with a more positive outlook, all helping foster a more positive attitude.
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 a growth mindset.
This positive mindset allows us to see the parts of ourselves that need improvement and to pursue opportunities for (positive) change actively. None of us will ever attain perfection, but we can live a positive and fulfilling life by staying open to change.
The people in your immediate environment contribute to shaping your attitude toward life. Seemingly ordinary things like encouragement, group solidarity, and support can serve as a buffer against negative thinking, experiences, or reactions.
If you want to cultivate a positive mental attitude, you should surround yourself with people brimming with positive thoughts who will encourage this growth. Avoid those with negative attitudes that might hinder your positive outlook.
It's worth noting here that while surrounding ourselves with others in a positive state of mind and who possess a great attitude can certainly help you maintain a positive attitude, life is not always that straightforward.
We can't always just ask people to stop complaining or look on the bright side. Negative people often need the support we can and should provide where we can. And when supporting or encouraging others to feel grateful and enjoy life, sharing our approaches to developing a more positive attitude can prove beneficial.
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 and nurturing your self-esteem, you'll have much more success with a good attitude than someone who avoids challenges.
Moreover, numerous studies point to the effects of positive thinking impacting our health in a positive way, from the immune system to the heart and mental health.
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 self-talk, emotions, and fears out of your own thoughts, and focus on better outcomes. As long as you have a positive attitude, you can always recover from any situation and pursue new adventures. After all, we could all do without more negativity.
|DuBois, Lopez, Beale, Healy, Boehm, Huffman. (2015). Relationships between positive psychological constructs and health outcomes in patients with cardiovascular disease: a systematic review.|
Ecija, C., Catala, P., Velasco, L., Pastor-Mira, M. A., & Peñacoba, C. (2022). When It Hurts, a Positive Attitude May Help. The Moderating Effect of Positive Affect on the Relationship Between Walking, Depression, and Symptoms in Women with Fibromyalgia. Pain Management Nursing.
|L 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.|
Emrich, K., Thompson, T. C., & Moore, G. (2003). Positive attitude: An essential element for effective care of people with mental illnesses. Journal of psychosocial nursing and mental health services, 41(5), 18-25.
|Laura 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.|
|Cameron, 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|
|Fredrickson. (2014). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions.|
|Prasko, J & Hruby, Radovan & Holubova, Michaela & Latalova, Klara & Vyskocilova, J & Slepecky, Milos & Ociskova, Marie & Grambal, A. (2016). Positive cognitive behavioral therapy. 58. 23-32.|
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Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.