This article aims to highlight how people feel anxious and think negatively about everyday situations. What causes people to think negatively and what are its long-term impacts? We will also take a look at how we can change our outlook to a more positive one and the benefits that come along with positive thinking.
When you come across different situations in your daily life, do you often end up feeling stressed, anxious, or obsessing over the worst-case scenarios? Do you overthink a lot and struggle to think positively?
It could be caused by negative thinking. Negative thinking is something that most of us end up doing from time to time in our everyday lives, it is usually triggered by difficult circumstances and stress.
When we face bad experiences in life, we feel helpless, and to avoid feeling helpless, we make negative thinking the default way of life. By doing so, we feel that we are in control of our lives, and we won’t feel that disappointed when we actually face a bad experience.
But when we think negatively over a long period of time, it starts to affect our bodies, and our physical and mental health deteriorates. Some side effects of negative thinking are headaches, body aches, nausea, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, etc. And thinking negatively can be a hindrance on the path toward positivity and happiness.
Worry is yet another form of repetitive negative thinking and can be defined as a chain of thoughts and images that are negative and relatively uncontrollable (Borkovec et al. 1983; Roemer and Borkovec 1993).
With positive thinking, you can deal with problems and situations in your life in a much easier way. Positive thinking means focusing on the good parts of any given situation. As they say, "Every cloud has a silver lining," and so one must try to see the good in the bad.
Thinking positively does not mean ignoring reality or making light of problems. It means that whenever you come across a good or bad situation, you face it with the idea that things will go well and everything’s going to be fine.
Positive thinking has a lot of physical and mental health benefits, some of the physical health benefits include having a longer life span, a lower risk of having a heart attack, better pain tolerance, etc. Mental health benefits include being more creative, having better-coping skills, clear thinking, better mood, etc.
There are many ways to think positively, some of them are:
- Practice Gratitude: thinking of people, moments, and things that make you feel happy and comfortable and expressing gratitude towards them once a day can help in becoming more resilient, reducing stress, and improving self-esteem.
- Gratitude Journal: maintaining a gratitude journal and writing down what you are grateful for in the journal can help you become more optimistic, and whenever you are feeling a little low, you can read it and feel motivated. You’d realize that there are good things to look forward to, and ups and downs are all a part of life.
- Laugh more often: It is often said that "Laughter is the best medicine." It has been found that laughter helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It also helps in improving mood and self-esteem.
- Be around positive people: positivity and negativity are both contagious, if you are around someone who is negative all the time then you end up thinking negatively. Whereas being with positive people helps change your perspective to a brighter one, and you automatically see things on the bright side.
- Finding your areas of negativity: try to self-introspect and understand what are some of the things you end up feeling negative about often, if you are not able to think of anything specific, ask a friend or a family member to help understand your areas of negativity.
- Synthetic Happiness: Synthetic happiness is a term coined by Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert, most prominently in his TED Talk about the science of happiness. He describes "synthetic happiness" as a phenomenon where humans feel better about the world they inhabit or the cards they have been dealt. What that means, for instance, is that irrespective of whether you topped your academic tests or performed poorly in them, you might be just as happy in either case. How? Gilbert demonstrates, with compelling evidence based on empirical studies, that synthetic happiness created by our minds is just as real as natural happiness. He further goes on to establish how the option to choose or the option to reverse our choices and decisions causes dissatisfaction no matter what the outcome. Simply put, our psychology is far more satisfied when we are stuck with our choices, as we accept what’s been dealt with rather than mulling over foregone opportunities.
Thus, a common misunderstanding about the nature of happiness is that it can only be found when in reality, it can be synthesized or created. Our external environments and achievements might very well be temporary dopamine boosters, but they’re hardly mood-stabilizing.
In fact, pursuing external ambitions relentlessly leads to sacrificing one’s values and, along with them, one’s happiness. In another study, Gilbert demonstrated the realness of "synthetic happiness" through amnesia patients who had been asked to rank their favourite paintings from one to six.
He then let them keep one of the middle-ranking ones after they had forgotten which ones they had chosen initially. They would still reach for the higher ranking ones but on being told that they had chosen the middle ranking one for keeps before, they would instantly switch to being genuinely satisfied with their old decision even though it wasn’t their actual choice.
Therefore, this experiment establishes that you can be happy no matter what choices you make in life or what you achieve. Natural happiness might be how we feel when we get what we want, but synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we want.
To conclude, neither one of them lacks what you need to live a happy, fulfilling life. As humans, we like certainty, but we’re usually bad at predicting our happiness, leading to overestimating our pleasures or our pains. This is where we can let synthetic happiness take over the wheel so that worries and expectations can be overcome by manufacturing happiness ourselves.
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." ~ Mahatma Gandhi
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