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The Power of Positivity

The Power of Positivity

‘The more you feed your mind with positive thoughts, the more you can attract great things into your life.’  Roy T Bennett, Author

At the end of each day, many of us think about the tasks we didn’t get done and rather than our achievements and successes. While it’s often impossible to complete all the tasks on our ever increasing to-do list, we invariably continue to ask ourselves - how will we get everything done?

What will help switch from focusing on negatives to positives? There is one thing that is within our own control and part of our personal wellbeing toolkit that is guaranteed to make a difference – self-talk.

Self-talk, as it suggests, is the way you talk to yourself. It combines conscious thoughts with your inbuilt beliefs and bias, heard through an internal monologue throughout the day. This might be reasoned and logical, yet it is also influenced by the stories you have created about yourself. If thoughts are mostly negative, they can cause self-doubt and lack of confidence, meaning your outlook is more likely to be pessimistic. If thoughts are predominantly positive, you are likely to celebrate achievements, be confident and optimistic.

What is the power of positive thinking?

Positive psychology aims to discover and promote those factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive. Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi define it as ‘the scientific study of positive human functioning and flourishing on multiple levels that include the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life.’

Psychologist, Barbara Fredrickson, proposes that a ratio of at least three positive emotions for every negative emotion, serves as a tipping point, which helps determine whether you languish in life or flourish.1 Fredrickson’s proposal emerged from a wide range of analysis of the perception of images and situations by successful individuals, and comparisons with research on flourishing marriages.

This ratio scale can serve as a point of reference when considering self-talk. On a daily basis, most of us experience a ratio of positive to negative thoughts of about two-to-one, with those who suffer from depression and other emotional disorders at a ratio of one-to-one or lower.2

Fredrickson’s mathematics have been challenged and debated and it is more likely the positive to negative ratio will vary for individuals. However, many researchers exploring the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health and wellbeing, have reached a consensus on the likely benefits, including: improved psychological and physical wellbeing; increased resilience and the ability to bounce back more quickly from adversity; greater creativity in solving problems; greater social connectivity and higher levels of trust, leading to better (win/win) outcomes, more effective individuals and teams and improved academic performance from students.

Striking a balance is important and it is very easy to slip into the negative and reflect on what hasn’t been achieved and the mistakes made, rather than what has been achieved and successes. So how might you counteract this?

You can use any of the tips below and see how these help.

You won’t get everything done so quit trying: Instead, learn how to prioritise effectively to make sure the most important tasks are completed - focus on those that have the greatest impact for the least effort, and remember - perfectionism is overrated.

Be aware of what you say to yourself: The person you hear the most is you - being conscious of what you tell yourself each day is important, so creating time to regularly reflect on your thoughts is a good place to start.

Focus on achievements and successes: At the end of each day, reflect on at least 3 positive things done. Using a trigger to remember helps start to form a habit – maybe set a reminder on your phone or put a sticky note on your steering wheel.

Boost your own self-esteem: If tasks seem impossible or overwhelming, switch the focus to your strengths and what you are good at - compile a list. If you struggle, ask your line-manager, colleagues or friends to share what they think - it’s easy to forget about your good parts.

Put it in perspective: Will any task worrying you, have an impact in a week, a month, a year? What is the worst thing that could happen? When we are too wrapped up in a task, we can lose sight of the whole picture.

Think about what you are grateful for: What brings enjoyment and fulfilment into your life? Think about these when you are having negative thoughts.

The goalposts always move: Life isn’t fair and things are bound to change – learn to accept this as part of your beliefs and move on.

Share your situation: If you feel negative or lack confidence, talk to your line-manager, colleagues or friends and ask them to help. Review achievements, strengths, behaviours or targets. The more you keep problems to yourself, the greater stress you are likely to feel.

Our mindset, the set of beliefs we have about ourselves, others and the world, plays a huge role in how we approach and respond to difficulties, challenges and setbacks. We can choose to be our own greatest critic or loudest cheerleader?

After all, we are the person we listen to most each day.

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*2 Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing - PMC (