The Science Behind Positivity: How And Why It Changes Your Life For The Better
How many times have you come across an inspirational quote on Instagram telling you to be positive, been told by a friend to look on the bright side, or heard that the secret to success is having a positive mental attitude?
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, those quotes and well-intentioned pieces of advice aren’t just hollow phrases: nuh-uh, there really is something to be said for looking at life through the lens of positivity.
But don’t just take our word for it: there’s stacks of scientific research to back us up. Ready to find out how and why positivity *actually* changes your life for the better? Brace yourselves and let’s dig in…
The Science Of Positivity
Positive thinking inspires positive actions
The way you think influences the way you act. Think about it for a sec. If you’re in a foul mood, you’re probably going to sulk off to your room, lash out at someone you care about or turn down an invite. But when you’re in flying form, you’re more likely to grab an exciting opportunity that’s come your way with both hands or say yes to that nerve-wracking first date because you feel empowered.
Not convinced? Get this: according to Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver Of Excellence, positive thinking causes an increase in prefrontal activity in the brain which enhances essential functions like creative thinking, attention span, and faster processing. On the flip side, negative thinking draws activity away from the prefrontal cortex making it harder for you to perform at your best.
When you flood the brain with positive thoughts, it boosts your productivity, increases your ability to focus, and improves mental clarity allowing you to take affirmative actions that move you closer to your goals.
What’s more, research also suggests that people with an optimistic outlook tend to be more successful than those who see the glass as half empty. The secret to success? It’s positivity combined with inspired action. Go get ‘em!
Positivity opens your mind to bigger possibilities
Question time: do you believe anything is possible or do you put a cap on what you can have, do and achieve? If you fall into the latter camp, positivity is a sure-fire way to let go of your limitations. But don’t just take our word for it.
Barbara Fredrickson, one of the world-leading researchers on positive psychology conducted an experiment on how positive emotions broaden our horizons. The experiment involved five groups, who were each shown a different set of images that would either create feelings of joy, contentment, fear, or anger - or generate no significant emotion at all.
After, each group was told to imagine themselves in scenarios that would generate similar feelings and write down what actions they’d take. Each participant was given a piece of paper with 20 blank lines starting with the phrase “I would like to…”.
Guess what happened? The ‘anger’ and ‘fear’ groups wrote the fewest responses, while those in the positive emotion groups came up with loads of actions they could take.
In short, positivity helps capture that ‘I’ve Got This’ feeling; it builds your self-belief, enables you to see all the possibilities in life and empowers you to take powerful actions that create results.
Positivity creates positive experiences
Fun fact: Thanks to a little thing called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) when you focus on the positives, you’re destined to find even more positives. Why? Because the RAS is the part of the brain responsible for filtering our experiences. It reflects back to us what we’ve been giving our attention to, whether it’s good or bad.
Say you’re going through a tricky time at work but instead of thinking about how tough your boss is or how much you dislike the job, you start appreciating how wonderful your colleagues are and how grateful you feel to make a steady wage. When you do this, your RAS will draw your attention to other positives and soon you’ll have a whole list of things you love about your work.
What’s more, if you keep giving your attention to the positives, you can rewire your brain. This process is known as neuroplasticity. See, our brains are adaptable and depending on how we think and behave, they have the power to change their own structure over time. Basically? The more you think positively the more automatic the habit becomes. How’s that for a game-changer?
But wait, there’s more…
That’s not all. Positivity has been scientifically proven to benefit us in lots of other ways too, such as:
- Improves stress management
- Boosts resilience
- Increases life expectancy
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Contributes to lower levels of anxiety and depression
So now that you know just how wonderful positive thinking can be, how can you unleash its power? Try some of these on for size…
How To Be More Positive
“Be grateful for what you have and you’ll end up having more.” It was Oprah who said that and she’s not wrong. Gratitude is proven to raise your happiness levels by 25% (Yes, really!) and alleviate all those pesky, uncomfortable emotions like envy, anger, and resentment. It can even lower cholesterol and reduce stress too.
So, how do you make it a habit? Easy, start jotting down five things you’re grateful for in the morning or record what you’re most thankful for last thing at night. Another pro tip? If you’re ever going through a tough time, double your efforts. Think about what you’re struggling with, grab pen and paper and do your best to find ten positives. It won’t take long before you see things differently – promise!
Follow your bliss
You want our advice? Do more of what makes you happy. It’s really that simple. It could be spending an extra 20 minutes in bed with a good book in the mornings, getting out into the fresh air for a walk every day, or catting up with an old friend for a chat. The more positive experiences you create, the more positive you’ll feel.
We love manifestation coach Kathrin Zenkina’s approach. She says “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no”. Basically, spend your time on the things that make you want to yell “hell yes!” and less time on the stuff that makes you whimper ‘oh no’.
Close your eyes right now and picture all of your dreams coming true. See it in vivid detail. How do you feel? We’re guessing you feel pretty damn good, right? Well, we aren’t surprised because a 2016 study published in the Journal Of Behaviour Research and Therapy found that imagining positive outcomes – like achieving that financial goal you’ve been working towards or acing a big test – caused increased levels of happiness, decreased anxiety, and reduced feelings of restfulness.
Excuse us, while we close our eyes.
Subscribe to The Positivity Package
You didn’t think we’d write this whole post without a little plug, did you? We know we’re biased but our perfectly packaged subscription boxes really do bring a smile to your dial and provide an enduring happiness that lasts all month… until your next exciting delivery!
You get to choose…
When it comes to how you feel, you always have a choice. While it’s not possible to be permanently happy, it is possible to adopt a Positive Mental Attitude. That means seeing the good in life now, no matter what you’re going through.
With that in mind, let us ask you this: when you look at your life right now, and we mean really look at it, is the glass half empty or is it full to the brim with thick chocolate milkshake, sweet whipped cream, and sprinkles?
We’ll bet you there’s more colourful sprinkles and sweet chocolatey goodness in your life than you can imagine. So go on, open wide and appreciate the sprinkles. We promise they taste delicious.