It’s pretty easy (well relatively speaking) to assess the dose-response relationship between administration of a supplement and performance, a weight-training program regimen and strength gains, or a calorie-restricted diet and weight loss. On the other hand, assessing the effects of psychology can be somewhat vague, as the mind is intangible and those of us who are scientists often want to “see it before we believe it.” There is a lot to be said for when we can “believe it before we see it.” Which leads into the focal point of this article: the power of positivity.
Positive psychology shifts the focus from making the bad things in life better to making the good things in life better (Bayramoglu and Sahin, 2015). The practice and implementation of positive psychology or cultivating a positive mindset is a skill that shows promise if adopted. Just like you train your body, you must train your mind, and how we train our minds can make all the difference in the world for achieving success and happiness. The advantages to adopting a positive mindset can be the difference in successfully adopting a new behavior, improving or maintaining your health, and enhance your overall sense of happiness or well being.
One of the fundamental components of behavior change is mindset. And as the field of positive psychology has continued to grow, more research has demonstrated the effects of positive psychology on behavior change. Kahler and colleagues (2014) introduced positive psychotherapy for smoking cessation and one-third of the 19 subjects who participated in the study reported not smoking at six months post-intervention. The use of positive affirmations has also been shown to be successful when introducing health-behavior change (Epton et al., 2014).
Having a positive outlook on life not only influences the way in which we approach situations, it can also impact our health and overall well being. In fact, a meta-analysis comprised of 150 studies assessed the impact of well being on objective measures of health and concluded that overall well being was positively linked to short- and long-term health outcomes as well as pain-tolerance and immunity (Howell, 2007). Having positive psychological well being, specifically being optimistic, was associated with a decreased risk for cardiovascular-related events (Boehm and Kubzansky, 2012). Another study assessed the influence of optimism on cortisol levels during high-stress situations and concluded that optimism decreased the amount of cortisol released in these scenarios (Jobin, Wrosch and Scheier, 2014). And finally, positive psychology interventions have also been shown to decrease anxiety, depression and distress among adolescents (Shoshani and Steinmetz, 2014).
This is just a small sampling of scientific research demonstrating the positive influences and outcomes of positive psychology. Furthermore, most people can see the positive impacts of positive psychology in their own lives. Think of a given scenario where the news you received initially seemed negative, such as the loss of a job, a breakup or health issues. Rather than focusing on the negative, it s possible—and advisable—to search for the silver lining: an opportunity to create the job you have dreamed of or to spend more time with your family, and a renewed perspective on life and the value of health.
We don’t always need to rely on science and statistics to demonstrate the truth; inf act, sometimes it is much more valuable to look within. By seeing the good things in life and making them even better, we are cultivating our happiness and well being, something that no one can take away. While we can’t always know the outcome, we can play an essential role in the process. By embracing positivity and optimism, you can be sure that no matter what life throws at you, you will come out on top. How? Because positivity always sees the best, there is no room or time to be spent elsewhere.
Bayramoglu, G. and Sahin, M. (2015). Positive psychological capacity and its impacts on success. Journal of Advanced Management Science, 3, 2.
Boehm, J.K. and Kubzansky, L.D. (2012). The heart's content: The association between positive psychological well-being and cardiovascular health. Psychological Bulletin, 138, 4, 655.
Epton, T. et al. (2014). The Impact of Self-Affirmation on Health-Behavior Change: A Meta-Analysis. Health Psychology, 34, 3, 187-196.
Howell, R.T. (2007). Health benefits: Meta-analytically determining the impact of well-being on objective health outcomes. Health Psychology Review, 1, 1, 83-136.
Jobin, J., Wrosch, C. and Scheier, M.F. (2014). Associations between dispositional optimism and diurnal cortisol in a community sample: When stress is perceived as higher than normal. Health Psychology, 33, 4, 382.
Kahler, C.W. et al. (2014). Positive psychotherapy for smoking cessation: Treatment development, feasibility and preliminary results. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 9, 1, 19-29.
Shoshani, A. and Steinmetz, S. (2014). Positive psychology at school: A school-based intervention to promote adolescents’ mental health and well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15, 6, 1289-1311.