July 24, 2024

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Benefits of Positive Thinking for Body and Mind

4 min read

People sometimes say that they prefer to “look on the bright side” of a challenging situation or that they “see the cup as half full.” Chances are good that the individuals who make these comments are positive thinkers, and they may be getting many benefits because of this approach.

Research is finding more and more evidence pointing to the many benefits of positive thinking and staying optimistic. Such findings suggest that not only are positive thinkers healthier and less stressed, but they also tend to have greater overall well-being and a higher level of resilience.

Press Play for Advice On Thinking More Positively

Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to find the positive things in life. Click below to listen now.

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Benefits of Positive Thinking

Even if positive thinking doesn’t come naturally, there are plenty of great reasons to start cultivating affirmative thoughts and minimizing negative self-talk.

Reduced Stress

When faced with stressful situations, positive thinkers cope more effectively than pessimistic thinkers—and with less anxiety and worry. Rather than dwelling on their frustrations or things that they cannot change, they will devise a plan of action and ask others for assistance and advice.

Pessimistic thinkers, on the other hand, are more likely to assume that the situation is out of their control. They often believe that there is nothing they can do to change it.

Increased Immunity

In recent years, researchers have found that the mind can have a powerful effect on the body. Immunity is one area where one’s thoughts and attitudes can have a particularly powerful influence.

According to one published article, the more positive thoughts a person has, the better their ability to fight off disease. The authors also suggest that the opposite is true—the fewer positive thoughts a person has, the greater their disease risk.

Improved Wellness

Not only can positive thinking impact the ability to cope with stress and compromise immunity, but it also has an impact on overall well-being. Specifically, it is tied to a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular issues, lower depression risk, and an increased lifespan.

While researchers aren’t entirely clear on why positive thinking benefits health, some suggest that positive people might lead healthier lifestyles. By coping better with stress and avoiding unhealthy behaviors, they are able to improve their health and well-being.

Better Resilience

Resilience refers to our ability to cope with problems. Resilient people are able to face a crisis or trauma with strength and resolve. Rather than falling apart in the face of such stress, they have the ability to carry on and eventually overcome such adversity.

Positive thinking can play a major role in resilience. When dealing with a challenge, optimistic thinkers typically look at what they can do to fix the problem. Instead of giving up hope, they marshal their resources and are willing to ask others for help.

By nurturing positive emotions, even in the face of terrible events, people can reap both short-term and long-term rewards, including managing stress levels, lessening depression, and building coping skills that will serve them well in the future.

When Positive Thinking May Not Be Helpful

Before trying to put on rose-colored glasses in every situation, it’s important to note that positive thinking is not about taking a “Pollyanna” approach to life. In fact, in some instances, optimism might not be beneficial.

One instance is when it’s unrealistic to be optimistic. As an example, someone who is unrealistically optimistic may not correctly evaluate their risk of developing a major disease such as cancer, causing them to engage in behaviors that further elevate their risk.

Instead of ignoring reality in favor of the silver lining, positive thinking centers on such things as a person’s belief in their abilities, a positive approach to challenges, and trying to make the most of the bad situations.

Bad things can happen. Sometimes we will be disappointed or hurt by the actions of others. This does not mean that the world is out to get us or that all people will let us down. Instead, positive thinkers look at the situation realistically, search for ways that they can improve the situation, and try to learn from their experiences.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Eagleson C, Hayes S, Mathews A, Perman G, Hirsch CR. The power of positive thinking: Pathological worry is reduced by thought replacement in generalized anxiety disorder. Behav Res Ther. 2016;78:13-18. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2015.12.017

  3. Shankar P, Dinesh P, Preetha S. Impact of positive thoughts on immunity. Ind J Forensic Med Toxicol. 2020;14(4):5364-5371.

  4. Buigues C, Queralt A, De Velasco JA, et al. Psycho-social factors in patients with cardiovascular disease attending a family-centred prevention and rehabilitation programme: Euroaction model in Spain. Life. 2021;11(2):89. doi:10.3390/life11020089

  5. Bortolotti L, Antrobus M. Costs and benefits of realism and optimism. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2015;28(2):194-198. doi:10.1097.YCO.0000000000000143

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the “Everything Psychology Book.”


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