Positive Thinking: Benefits, Definition and How to Practice

6 min read
Feb 26, 2024
Positive Thinking: Benefits, Definition and How to Practice

When you look at a glass, do you usually perceive half empty or half full? It's likely that you have heard that question a lot. Your response is directly related to the idea of positive thinking and indicates whether you view life from a positive or negative perspective. In positive psychology, a branch of psychology that examines what makes people happy and content, positive thinking is crucial.

Positive thinking has been linked to improved stress management as well as improved general health and wellbeing, according to research. It can help you overcome low self-esteem, enhance your physical well-being, and broaden your perspective on life.(1)

The definition of positive thinking and the advantages of positivism for health are covered in this article. It also looks at various methods you might employ to think more optimistically.

What Is Positive Thinking?

To approach life's obstacles with a positive viewpoint is to practice positive thinking. It does not imply glossing over or disregarding the unpleasant parts of life in favor of viewing the world through rose-colored glasses.(2)

Avoiding challenging circumstances is not always the result of positive thinking. Rather, positive thinking entails maximizing possible challenges, attempting to see the best in others, and maintaining an optimistic outlook on yourself and your skills.

Positive psychologist Martin Seligman is among the scholars who frame positive thinking in terms of explanatory style. The way you explain why things happened is known as your explaining style.(2)

  • Optimistic explanatory style: When positive things happen, people who have an optimistic explanation style usually take credit for them and attribute negative results to other factors. Negative experiences are also frequently perceived by them as transient and unusual.
  • Pessimistic explanatory style: Individuals who have a pessimistic explanation style tend to hold themselves responsible for negative events but do not give themselves enough credit for positive ones.

Additionally, they frequently perceive unfavorable occurrences as inevitable and persistent. As you can understand, it may be quite harmful to your mental health to hold oneself responsible for uncontrollable circumstances or to see these bad things as a constant in your life.

Thoughtful individuals are more likely to explain things in an upbeat manner, how people interpret events can also change according on the circumstances. An individual with a usually optimistic outlook, for instance, might adopt a more negative explanation style when faced with especially difficult circumstances, such those at work or school.


Although there are numerous elements that contribute to an individual's positive perspective, one significant factor is the explanatory style—the manner in which they interpret their experiences—in which they explain life's occurrences.

Positive Psychology vs. Positive Thinking

Although the terms "positive psychology" and "positive thinking" are occasionally used synonymously, it's crucial to realize that they are not the same. Seeing things from an optimistic perspective is the foundation of positive thinking.

It's a way of thinking that emphasizes keeping an upbeat, hopeful outlook. The field of psychology known as "positive psychology" examines the origins, benefits, and optimal times to apply optimism.(4)

Health Benefits of Positive Thinking

The "power of positive thinking" has garnered a lot of attention in recent years, largely due to self-help books like "The Secret." While these popular psychology books frequently promote theories like the law of attraction or positive thinking as a kind of psychological cure, empirical research has shown that these approaches have a number of very genuine health advantages.

Health Benefits of Positive Thinking
Health Benefits of Positive Thinking

Several health advantages, including the following, are linked to positive thinking:(5)

  • Enhanced coping and stress management abilities
  • Improved mental well-being
  • Increased ability to fend off the common cold
  • Enhanced physical health
  • Greater longevity
  • Reduced depression rates
  • Decreased chance of dying from cardiovascular illness

Positive thinking was identified as a factor in reducing frailty among older individuals in a study involving 1,558 participants.(6)

Positive mental attitude was associated with lower mortality during a 35-year period, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Aging Research. Positive thinking was also linked to increased likelihood of regular exercise, quitting smoking, eating a healthier diet, and getting better sleep.(7)

It is obvious that thinking positively has many advantages. However, why can thinking positively affect mental and physical health in such a significant way?

Positive thinkers may be less susceptible to the negative effects of stress. According to research, persons who automatically think more positively are more able to withstand difficult situations in life. After experiencing stressful life experiences, people with high levels of positive thinking were more likely to feel that life had more purpose.(8)

It's also possible that optimistic thinkers generally lead healthier lifestyles; they might engage in more physical activity, eat a more nutrient-dense diet, and abstain from harmful habits.(7)

How to Practice Positive Thinking

Even if you may have a tendency toward negative thinking, there are techniques you may do to change your way of thinking. Regularly putting these techniques into practice can help you develop the habit of keeping a more optimistic view on life.

  • Notice your thoughts: Begin observing the kinds of thoughts you think on a daily basis. Make a deliberate attempt to change the way you are thinking if you find that a lot of them are negative.
  • Write in a gratitude journal: There are many advantages to cultivating thankfulness, and it can teach you how to see things more positively. Thinking thankful thoughts makes one feel happier and more upbeat.
  • Use positive self-talk: Your viewpoint can be significantly shaped by the way you speak to yourself. Research has indicated that adopting a more affirmative self-talk pattern might positively influence your emotions and stress-reduction strategies.(9)

Potential Pitfalls of Positive Thinking

Though optimistic thinking has numerous advantages, there are instances in which more practical thinking is preferable. For example, sometimes thinking negatively leads to more correct decisions and outcomes.

Negative thoughts and emotions have been shown in certain studies to really aid in the improvement of judgmental accuracy.(10)

But evidence suggests that the best kind of optimism may be realistic optimism. Whether their predictions are optimistic or pessimistic, persons with erroneous expectations generally perform worse mentally than realists, according to a 2020 study whose findings were published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.(11)

The study's authors contend that optimists' sadness when their lofty expectations are not met can be detrimental to wellbeing. This is not to say that individuals should try to think negatively.

since research suggests that those who have a pessimistic attitude typically have the lowest outcomes. Rather, the best course of action might be to maintain a generally optimistic attitude while keeping realistic expectations in mind.(11)

When positive thinking is used improperly, it can occasionally overflow into poisonous optimism. This entails demanding to keep an optimistic outlook regardless of how distressing, dreadful, or harmful a circumstance may be.

Excessive positivism of this kind can hinder genuine communication and make those who struggle to keep such an optimistic attitude feel guilty or ashamed.


Sometimes there are traps for positive thinking. While optimism is important, setting unrealistic expectations could lead to disappointment. Toxic positivity—the inability to acknowledge any unpleasant emotions—can also be detrimental to one's mental health.

A Word From PondStories

You can develop your ability to think positively and become a positive thinker even if you are not naturally optimistic. Focusing on your own inner monologue and being aware of your self-talk is one of the first steps.

FAQ for Positive Thinking

How do I start practicing positive thinking?

Enhancing positive thinking involves being aware of your thoughts and actively redirecting them from negativity to positivity. Engaging in positive self-talk and cultivating gratitude are effective methods to foster a more optimistic perspective.

Why is positive thinking important?

Thinking positively can improve one's physical and mental health, which makes it significant. Positive thinkers are better at handling stress, have more immune system compliant, and have a lower chance of dying young. Moreover, positive thinking contributes to increased happiness and life satisfaction in general.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of positive thinking?

People that think positively have been demonstrated to lead happier, healthier lives. They are more likely to practice healthy habits like working exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep when they have a happy mindset.

The danger of developing unreasonably high expectations that lead to disappointment and being impacted by poisonous positivity are drawbacks of positive thinking.

How do you change your thinking from negative to positive?

Developing self-awareness and becoming more aware of how your negative thoughts impact your emotions and actions can be accomplished by engaging in mindfulness practices.

Once you're more adept at seeing negative thought patterns, you can take action to change your perspective to one that is more optimistic. You can gradually learn to think more positively by actively substituting good ideas for negative ones.