Positive thinking sounds useful on the surface. But, “positive thinking” can be easy to dismiss. In the real world, positive thinking rarely carries the same weight as words like “work ethic” or “persistence.” Research is starting to show that positive thinking is about much more than just being happy. Positive thoughts can actually create real value in your life and help you build skills that can last a lifetime. The impact of positive thinking on your work, health, and life is being studied by people around the world.
Researchers have long known that negative emotions can program your brain to do a specific action. Negative emotions narrow your mind and focus your thoughts on just that: negativity. The problem with a negative attitude is that your brain is still programmed to respond to negative emotions in the same way, which is by shutting off the outside world and limiting the options you are able to see. A good example is when you’re in a fight with someone, your anger might consume you to the point where you can’t think straight. Or, when you are stressed out about everything you have to get done today, you may find it hard to actually start anything because you’re stuck focusing on how long your to–do list has is. Or, if you feel bad about not exercising or not eating healthy, all you think about is how little willpower you have, how you’re lazy, and how you don’t have any motivation.
In each case, your brain closes off from reality and focuses on the negative emotions of fear, anger, and stress. Instead of being proactive you are scaring yourself into doing nothing. Negative emotions stop your brain from seeing the choices that surround you. It’s your survival instinct.
The benefits of positive thinking and emotions can help with your ability to build skills and develop important resources that will be useful throughout one’s lifetime. Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychologist at the University of North Carolina believes in the broaden and build theory, where positive emotions broaden your life possibilities and give you a more open mind, and allows you to build new skills and upon your resources that can add value to one’s life.