The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The WHO has emphasized on 3 components: physical, mental and social well-being. Among these, mental well-being is equally important as the positive dimension of mental health is stressed in WHO’s definition of health.
Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. For mental well-being positive thoughts are very important. Positive thinking helps with stress management and can even improve our health.
Positive thinking may reflect your outlook on life, your attitude toward yourself, and whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic — and it may even affect your health.
Indeed, some studies show that personality traits such as optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits.
Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst.
Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of lack of information.
If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly negative, your outlook on life is more likely pessimistic. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you’re likely an optimist — someone who practices positive thinking.
Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
It’s unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.
It’s also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess.
You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it does take time and practice — you’re creating a new habit, after all. Here are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way:
Identify areas to change. If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify areas of your life that you usually think negatively about, whether it’s work, your daily commute or a relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
Be open to humor. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
Follow a healthy lifestyle. Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week. You can also break it up into 10-minute chunks of time during the day. Exercise can positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. And learn techniques to manage stress.
Surround yourself with positive people. Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
Practice positive self-talk. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you. Think about things you’re thankful for in your life.
Here are some examples of negative self-talk and how you can apply a positive thinking twist to them:
Practicing positive thinking every day will help for healthy living. If you tend to have a negative outlook, don’t expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you.
When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you’re better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. That ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of positive thinking.
Depression is one of the major threats to the mental well-being which ranges from mild to moderate to severe degree. Depending upon the severity, the treatment could be antidepressant medications and/or psychotherapy (talk therapy).
Psychotherapy involves different types counselling conducted by a trained therapist. This type of therapy can be used alone for mild cases of depression or used in combination with medications in more severe cases of depression.
One of the most commonly used types of psychotherapy is called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT involves working with a therapist to look at false thoughts that may have negative effects on your mood and behaviour. In people with depression, most will automatically think negatively about a given situation, and this can have a major effect on their mood/cognition.
With CBT, the therapist works with the person to help find negative thoughts and to determine how many of these thoughts are false. By working through this with a therapist, the person starts to see how these thoughts affect their lives and don’t help the way they feel. By replacing these negative thoughts with realistic and positive ones, it can improve the person’s mood and help them cope with stressful situations.