From Norman Vincent Peale’s classic book The Power of Positive Thinking, to Al Fraken’s satiric self-help character Stuart Smally on Saturday Night Live, reminding us to affirm that, “I’m good enough, smart enough, and doggone it people like me.”
Frankly, positive thinking has become such a popularized and commercial notion that many people find it to be cliché and exaggerated.
Can we really be happier by just thinking positively? Can life actually improve by simply changing how we think about things?
I certainly believe that positive thinking can help us feel better. Our thoughts and feelings are intricately related and the way we interpret situations and events, which have been shown to impact the emotions and behavior that follow.
So, what does positive thinking involve?
Is just about using positive affirmations and idle statements?
When it comes to our well-being, there are three cognitive components that make-up positive thinking, which includes life-satisfaction, self-esteem, and optimism.
Three areas that are make-up positive thinking
Life-satisfaction – How would you rate the conditions of your life? Are you living close to your ideal when it comes to relationships, work, and leisure?
Life-satisfaction can be enhanced by working toward a balanced life, and setting small goals in different life domains. Give yourself a grade when it comes to your physical, social, mental, and spiritual health. What’s not working, and what could you do to make improvements?
Self-esteem – This is your feelings or attitude about your value as a person. Are you able to recognize your good qualities? Do you feel worthy and on an equal plane with others?
To enhance your self-esteem make a list of past accomplishments and the positive qualities that you and others recognize about you.
Optimism – The optimist looks on the bright side of things and responds in a more positive way to life events and changes. Below are the three P’s included in the optimistic triad.
If you’re an optimist your interpretation and beliefs about good and bad events is as follows.
Permanent: bad doesn’t last, good does.
Pervasive: good affects everything; bad is localized and doesn’t affect other parts of life.
Personal: Good=my fault; bad=random
So, considering these three areas, what thoughts and interpretations do you make about your overall life, self-worth, and your future?
When we change our thinking it is likely to impact our affect and emotional state.
Having more frequent positive affect and less frequent negative affect leads to greater well-being. As well, the intensity of these emotional experiences is important, where well-being relates to how intense our positive and negative emotions are.
When we are satisfied with life and have a positive attitude about ourselves and the future, we are likely to experience more positive and pleasurable moments which can help enhance our well-being.