Can positive thoughts build skills, boost confidence and improve your health?

Can positive thoughts build skills, boost confidence and improve your health?
04 Aug

Can positive thoughts build skills, boost confidence and improve your health?

(0 votes)

Great news. A new branch of psychology - positive psychology - has identified that positive thinking can actually make real improvements in people’s lives, provided they back it up with positive action.

Does this sound like what you need? Read on…


According to Australia’s Black Dog Institute, positive psychology is not about pretending to be happy when you’re not. There’s no escaping some of the inevitable things life dishes out. But countless scientific studies have shown that there are certain strategies and happiness-building techniques that allow people to become more resilient and navigate life’s challenges effectively.

Positive psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology. It shifts the focus from what is clinically wrong with a person, to concentrating on wellbeing and the creation of a satisfying life filled with ‘meaning, pleasure, engagement, positive relationships and accomplishment.’

So, what can you do to develop the habit of positive thinking? The most ‘do-able’ strategies are:

1)   Get into the ‘moment’ to enhance feeling of pleasure and satisfaction. This means that when you feel pleasure, take the time to really experience it. Whether it’s doing fun activities and sharing them with others, recalling pleasurable events or scenes, congratulating yourself on some long-awaited achievement or using romance, music, art or pets to sharpen your sense of enjoyment. Take time out to just be. Don’t wait for others to make you happy.

2)   Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. How often do you say these sorts of things (below) to yourself? Replace negative self-talk with positive.

Examples of Negative self-talk

Take a positive spin

I’ve never done it before.

It’s an opportunity to learn something.

It’s too complicated.

I’ll tackle it from a different angle.

I don’t have the resources.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

There’s not enough time.

Let’s re-evaluate some priorities.

There’s no way it will work.

I can learn to make it work.

It’s too radical a change.

Let’s take a chance.

No one communicates with me.

I will start the conversation.

I’m not getting any better at this.

I want to give it another chance.


According to Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, negative emotions program your brain into a specific reaction – in most cases they narrow your mind and focus your thoughts.

Our brain was programmed like this originally, so we could survive escaping from wild animals and other natural hazards.  But in our modern society our worries are less immediate. The problem is that brains are still programmed to respond to negative emotions in the same way -- by shutting off the outside world and limiting the options we see around us, putting us into survival mode.

For example, when we’ve spent most of the day procrastinating about not starting that important TAFEnow assignment, we’re paralysed with thoughts about how little willpower we have, how lazy we are and how we don't have any motivation. So we do nothing. Negative emotions actually stop us from seeing productive options and choices, like phoning a friend, making a plan of the assignment or summarizing some information.

Researcher Barbara Fredrickson tested the impact of positive emotions on the brain by setting up a well-known experiment. She divided her research subjects into five groups and showed each group different film clips. The first two groups were shown clips that created positive emotions. Group 1 saw images that created feelings of joy, group 2 saw images that created feelings of contentment and group 3 was the control group. They saw images that were neutral and produced no significant emotions. The last two groups (4 & 5) were shown clips that created negative emotions. Group 4 saw images that created feelings of fear, while group 5 saw images that created feelings of anger.

Then, each participant was asked to imagine themselves in a situation where similar feelings would arise and to write down what they would do about the situation. They had 20 lines. Significantly, participants who saw images of fear and anger wrote down the fewest words. Participants who saw images of joy and contentment wrote down a significantly higher number of actions that they would take, even when compared with the neutral group.

Barbara’s research concluded that when you’re experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, you will see more possibilities in your life. These were amongst the first documented findings that suggested positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind to see more options.

And here’s where the news gets better. The benefits of positive emotions don't stop after a few minutes of good feelings. For students and educational staff, positive emotions enhance the ability to build skills and develop resources for use later in life.

Fredrickson refers to this as the broaden and build theory because positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life. So positive builds positive.

3)  So, what practical active things can you do to develop a positive mindset and broaden your options?  Here are three things to consider...

a. Meditation - Recent research by Fredrickson and many other scientists has revealed that people who meditate daily display more positive emotions than those who do not.

b. Writing - Writing daily about positive experiences can have long-lasting wellness benefits, well after the writing has stopped. Write a diary, a blog, some positive Facebook entries.

c. Play - Schedule time to ‘play’. Remember the old adage, ‘all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.’ Well, studies have shown it is, indeed, true. Schedule time for play and adventure so that you can experience contentment and joy, and build new skills.

So, don’t put off getting into these positive habits any longer. Don’t wait for something good to happen because you are in control.Happiness is both the precursor to success and the result of it.

To put it simply: Seek joy, talk to yourself positively, meditate, play often, write about your experiences and pursue adventure. Your brain will do the rest of the improvements without you even trying.


Further reference:

Read 1430 times Last modified on Wednesday, 12 August 2015 00:36

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.