life mental health

The Power of Positive Thinking

If you think positively, you will reap positive results.

Also known as The Happiness Advantage. 

If you think positively, you will reap positive results. 

As a dual major in business marketing and psychology, I have always been extremely interested in how people think and why people think differently. I have recently become interested in positive psychology and throughout this blog post I point out a few ideas that greatly interest me.

Positive Psychology: the scientific study of human flourishing, and an applied approach to optimal functioning. It has also been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities and organisations to thrive (Gable & Haidt, 2005, Sheldon & King, 2001).

As we continue to study what goes wrong in life or why bad things happen, we also cannot forget to study why good things happen. Why do people smile? What happens in the body when someone smiles? How does yoga positively effect the mind and body? Why is it so beneficial to help others? Positive psychology adds a new element to traditional psychology. It is a complement that developed in 1998.

There isn’t a day that goes by where you won’t run into some conflict. It could be getting in an argument/misunderstanding with friends to being stressed about studying for 4 tests in one week to be confused about what the future holds. There are a countless number of situations that we encounter everyday that involve conflict. The power is in how we react to the conflicts of daily life.


Albert Bandura. This is the belief in our own self-competence and effectiveness to succeed in trying or specific situations.

People with “strong feelings of high self-efficacy are more persistent, less anxious, and less depressed” (Myers). These three factors lead to higher productivity and a healthier life  overall. Self-efficacy is very closely related to having an internal locus of control. This means I (me, myself, I, just me!) have control over what happens in my life. I have control over outcomes in life. If one sees themselves as a victim to conflict or a victim to specific circumstances, they have what is called an external locus of control and low self-efficacy.

This is why believing in yourself matters so much when it comes to positive thinking. Believing that you have the power to control your behavior.

How do I improve my self-efficacy?

  1. Performance Accomplishments: work on something that you wish to improve on and keep that idea active in your mind until you master it.
    • Example: I want to stop biting my nails. It takes 21 days to form a habit.
  2. Observation: If you watch someone that you admire or someone that is good at something you wish to be good at, watching, learning, and mastering will allow you to feel accomplished.
  3. Verbal Persuasion: Surround yourself with people that lift you up, but at the same time give constructive criticism. External motivation can help you reach a goal, which will increase your self-efficacy.
  4. Psychological States: “It is the way people interpret and evaluate emotional states that is important for how they develop self-efficacy beliefs.”

Psychological states are crucial to positive thinking. How do we control and evaluate our emotional states? Here are some ways to train your mind and body:

  1. Meditation/Yoga: we can rewire our brains to raise levels of happiness, lower stress, and improve immune functions
  2. Find something to look forward to: Anticipation can light up the brain and change a negative mood into something more positive.
  3. Random Acts of Kindness: Buy that lady in front of you in the Starbucks drive through her caramel latte. These acts are proven to increased mental health and decreased stress.
  4. Your Surroundings: Spending just 20 minutes outside everyday can be a big mood booster and increase our working memory (like a crossword puzzle!). Watching less negative or violent tv will also improve positive thinking.
  5. Exercise (my personal favorite): A great anti-depressant. Exercise increases motivation and feelings of mastery and decreases anxiety.
  6. Spend money…. on things other than “stuff”: $ don’t buy happiness baby. Experiences do though. Experiences produce more meaningful and longer lasting positive emotions. #TravelOften

Practice Positive Thinking

The Tetris Effect (Train your brain): this term refers to any activity that begins to shadow a person’s thoughts. Developed by Shawn Achor. Once you begin practicing positively, it turns into a default.

  • Writing down one happy thought or one thing you’re grateful for everyday. This develops into a habit and then the positive unconsciously shadows over the negative.

Check out Shawn Achor, a happiness researcher, on  TedTalks 

Focus on small goals rather than overbearing impossibly large goals. Come to understand what you wish to change and ask yourself if it is possible to change. Make your goal measurable and attainable.

  • Goal: I will graduate college in 4 years with a degree in business and a minor in French with a 3.4 GPA.
  • Goal: I will to workout 5 times a week at Lifetime for 1-2 hours each workout.


Personal Experience

About a little over a month ago I started keeping a little journal of a happy thought or accomplishment or a quote I really like once a day. My latest “post” was:

Got an 88% on my stats test *snaps*  Also got a Denver, CO postcard from my dad, I’ve been waiting for one.

When you remember the good things that happen everyday, you start to see the good even in the bad. That leads to a healthier life, a healthier mind.

It is so easy to see more bad than good. Look at the news. The news doesn’t tell everyone overtime a homeless puppy is adopted, instead we see things such as attacks on OSU or about mom’s being kidnapped. We can look at the world as a sad, hurting place, or we can use the happiness advantage to fuel ourselves to be better. This makes the world better as well.

When bad things happen over and over again and when good things happen over and over again, you control how you look at it and how you react to it. Take a different avenue than the path to learned helplessness.

Learned helplessness

develops by going through uncontrollable bad events repeatedly and having a perceived lack of control. If you BELIEVE (self-efficacy) you have control over your thoughts, your feelings, and your life, learned helplessness will not be an outcome.

Prisoners given some control over their environment– by being able to move chairs, control TV sets, and operate the lights– experience less stress, exhibit fewer health problems, and commit less vandalism. (Ruback and others, 1986; Werner & others, 1987) –David G Myers in Exploring Social Psychology 

“My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.”

For more research on Positive Psychology check out:

  • How will you measure your life- Clayton M. Christensen
  • Exploring Social Psychology- David G. Myers
  • The Happiness Advantage- Shawn Achors

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Shawn Achor, 2011, Ebury Publishing,

The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?

Lyubomirsky, Sonja; King, Laura; Diener, Ed Psychological Bulletin, Vol 131(6), Nov 2005, 803-855

Meditation and positive psychology, Shapiro, S.L., Schwartz, G.E.R., & Santerre, C. (2005). in Snyder, C.R., & Lopez, S.J. (Eds.), Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp. 632-645). New York: Oxford University Press.

Just the expectation of a mirthful laughter experience boosts endorphins 27 percent, HGH, 87 percent 2. (April 3, 2006).American Physiological Society. Retrieved at

Post, S.G. (2005). Altruism, happiness, and health: It’s good to be good. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 12, 66-67; Schwartz et al. (2003). Altruistic social interest behaviours are associated with better mental health. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 778-785.

Keller, M.C., Fredrickson, B.L., et al. (2005). A warm heart and a clear head: The contingent effects of mood and weather on cognition. Psychological Science, 16, 724-731.

Gerber, G.L., Gross, et al. (1980). The “main-streaming” of America: Violence profile no. 11. Journal of Communication, 30, 10-29. As cited in Barbara Fredrickson’s Positivity, at 173.

Babyak, M., Blumenthal, J., Herman, S., Khatri, P., Doraiswamy, P., Moore, K., Craighead, W., Baldewicz, T., & Krishnan, K. (2000). Exercise treatment for major depression: Maintenance of therapeutic benefit at ten months. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62, 633-638.

Frank, R.H. (2000). Luxury Fever. New York: Princeton University Press.

Connelly, J. (2002). All together now. Gallup Management Journal, 2, 12-18.

Pinterest for pictures 🙂

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