Everything we know, believe, and feel is based on our internal thoughts. Positive thinking gives us extraordinary power over our thinking and ourselves (Strycharczyk & Clough, 2015).
Some people are exceptional; they always seem to remain positive regardless of what lemons are tossed their way. You know the type, the every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining, glass-half-full, things-will-get-better type of people. We love to have them around when we need their support, but we can also envy their seemingly relentless positive energy.
But – if our positivity is superficial and never permeates deep into our psyche, it can become unhealthy for us. It’s essential to make space in our lives for all the emotions we need to feel to avoid suppressing emotions and potentially becoming ill (dis-eased). This kind of surface happiness can be a little too nonchalant and detach us from what’s really going on in our lives.
It’s less about having positive feelings and more about choosing a positive attitude to whatever we feel. We cannot control our emotions; we can decide how to behave with those emotions – this is when we start to tap into that extraordinary power. Smiling is a proven way to physically start changing our attitude to uncomfortable emotions.
Smiling offers a mood boost and helps our bodies release cortisol and endorphins that provide numerous health benefits, including reduced blood pressure, stress and pain, and increased endurance and a strengthened immune system.
There is also growing evidence that the use of positive self-talk (following on from our smile and going a little deeper) can significantly improve how we tackle a challenge or approach a situation. Talk to yourself as though a friend, coach, or supportive colleague is offering you positive advice. This means that we don’t push out the emotions that we’d rather avoid, but instead, we approach them with a healthier attitude.
We must avoid feeling bad for feeling unfocused, bored, tired, overwhelmed, inadequate, excluded, exposed, anxious (and tons of other feelings!). Instead, we can internally acknowledge them and say to ourselves: “I know you’re feeling overwhelmed and tired, but you can do this. Rest if you need to, and start again a little later.” This creates space for discomfort whilst holding a healthy, positive attitude.
At the end of each day, we can reflect on our successes and achievements rather than dwelling on disappointments or perceived failures. Whether it’s in how we spoke with our family, landed a project at work, or even managed to achieve a finance, fitness or food goal – this practice helps us find the healthy positive.