Would you agree there’s a high demand for happiness and wellbeing, yet there seems to be a shortage of supply?
A fact sheet by Black Dog Institute states that 1 in 5 or 20% of Australians between 16 & 85 years old experience a mental illness in any year. The most common are depression, anxiety, and substance abuse and these three often occur in combination. Example, someone with depression/anxiety might misuse alcohol or drugs to self-medicate or someone with anxiety disorder could also develop depression. About 45% (almost half) of Australians will experience mental illness in their lifetime.*
Not unknown to many, mental health is essential to the quality of one’s life. The state of our mental health determines our confidence, productivity, and skill in navigating life’s inescapable challenges. Strong mental health maximizes confidence, skills, and productivity while poor mental health minimizes them. Having poor mental health also results to a poor quality life. To avoid ending up in that dark road, it’s important to fortify ourselves with positivity.
We can improve our mental health with positive thinking. Positivity leads to positive results that will benefit us in the long run.
What is positive thinking?
Many might think it’s a shallow view of reality where one sees the world through rose-colored glasses and ignoring (or sugar coating) the unpleasant parts of life. But really, it’s so much more than that. It isn’t cherry picking or avoiding bad things. Instead, it involves making the best of bad situations, viewing yourself in a brighter light, and trying to see the good in others. Positive thinking actually requires courage in approaching life’s challenges. It is living through crises and problems with a positive outlook.
Is there really power in positivity?
The belief that positive thinking leads to positive results isn’t new and, in fact, dates back to the 50’s and the best-selling book by Norman Vincent Peale “The Power of Positive Thinking.” What it basically means is that positive thoughts and an optimistic attitude generate better results, lead to wellbeing, and a greater life satisfaction.
Let’s remember what Zig Ziglar said, “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” The moment we use positive thoughts in place of the negatives, we’ll start getting positive results.
In 2006, Rhonda Byrne’s book “The Secret” brought this idea back to popularity with the help of Oprah Winfrey. Byrne claims that positive thinking alone can bring about positive life outcomes, such as good fortune. Can positivity alone really make our lives better? What does the field of Psychology have to say?
Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson (along with others) looked into the role of positive emotions in improving one’s mood and in healthy physical and mental outcomes.
How does positive thinking work?
Fredrickson presented the “broaden and build” theory which asserts that positive emotions cause people to be more active. They become active in thinking about positive solutions/possibilities, in trying new things, in becoming more creative, and in becoming more sociable. This being “active” leads them to build better skills: creative, personal, and social skills. For instance, if your positive emotions cause you to go hiking or do outdoor activities, you then build physical skills that support good health. Consequently, it is these skills that bring about positive outcomes –it’s not the positive emotions and thoughts themselves.
“[Positivity] Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable OR happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.” –Francesca Reigler
Another way that positive thinking leads to positive results is in how keeping positive thoughts about others can lead THEM to achieve positive results. This idea stems from the lifelong work of psychologist Robert Rosenthal called “the Pygmalion Effect.” It means that holding positive expectations about someone brings about a positive change in THEIR behavior. In his well-known study of elementary students, Rosenthal oriented the teachers to believe that some students would show a “growth spurt” in intelligence over the schoolyear, but those students were actually chosen randomly. True enough, at the end of the term, the students classified as “intellectual bloomers” scored higher on academic tests. He found that it wasn’t the teachers’ positive expectations alone which caused the outcome, but the fact that they challenged those students more and spent more time with them than the other students.
So, what does this tell us about the role of positive emotions and thoughts in generating positive results?
It’s, therefore, important to be realistically optimistic –to believe that we are capable of succeeding, but, it takes work in practicing constructive actions and positive habits to achieve positive outcomes. Plus, we now see that believing in ourselves isn’t enough. Having support and encouragement from others who believe in us also helps immensely in achieving success.
The answer to our question about the high demand for happiness yet a shortage of supply may actually lie in positive thinking. Positivity leads to achieving goals and success which results to happiness which then leads to positive thoughts/emotions.
If you’re struggling with anxiety/depression and need help developing positive emotions and constructive habits, Jarvis Hypnotherapy can get you there.