How Positive Thinking Improves Your Health

How Positive Thinking Improves Your Health

Research is beginning to reveal that positive thinking is about much more than just being happy or displaying an upbeat attitude. Positive thoughts can create real value in your life and help you build skills that last much longer than a smile.

The impact of positive thinking on your work, health, and life is being studied by people like Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina. Fredrickson published a landmark paper providing insights about positive thinking and its impact.

Negative Thinking

Researchers have long known that negative emotions program your brain to do a specific action. Negative emotions narrow your mind and focus your thoughts. For example, when you’re in a fight with someone, your anger and emotions might consume you to the point where you can’t think about anything else. Your brain closes off from the outside world and focuses on the negative emotions of fear, anger, and stress. Negative emotions prevent your brain from seeing the other options and choices that surround you. It’s your survival instinct.

Positive Thinking

Fredrickson tested the impact of positive emotions on the brain by setting up a little experiment. During this experiment, she divided her research subjects into five groups and showed each group different film clips. Researchers showed the first two groups clips that created positive emotions. Group 1 saw images that created feelings of joy. Group 2 saw images that created feelings of contentment. The scientists showed the last two groups clips that created negative emotions. Group 3 was the control group. They saw images that were neutral and produced no significant emotion. Group 4 saw images that created feelings of fear. Group 5 saw images that created feelings of anger.

Afterward, researchers asked each participant to imagine themselves in a situation where similar feelings would arise. Participants who saw images of fear and anger wrote down the fewest responses. Meanwhile, the participants who saw images of joy and contentment wrote down a significantly higher number of actions that they would take, even when compared to the neutral group. When you are experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, you will see more possibilities in your life. These findings were among the first that proved that positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to more options.


The benefits of positive emotions don’t stop after a few minutes. In fact, the greatest benefit that positive emotions provide is the ability to build skills and develop resources for use later in life. Negative emotions do the opposite.

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This Article Was Updated: 04/04/2024.

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