After a year like 2020 and with the new year starting off still just as rocky, it can be hard to remain positive. When all of the news you see and read is constantly negative, and it feels like there is no end in sight to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s no wonder the rates of depression and anxiety have increased dramatically. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the negativity and feel helpless and overwhelmed, but trying to remain positive and finding hope can help get you through these tough times.
Positive thinking can be beneficial for both your mental and physical health, and can help you cope with life’s inevitable challenges, setbacks, and disappointments. Learning to be a positive thinker is not a magic bullet and won’t make your problems suddenly just disappear. It will, however, help make any challenges seem more manageable and help you approach problems in a more productive way.
What is positive thinking?
Positive thinking is not necessarily just viewing the world through rose-colored glasses or ignoring bad things. Positive thinking actually involves how you approach life’s challenges—it means making the most of bad situations, trying to always see the best in people, and regarding yourself in a positive light.
Some psychologists view positive thinking in terms of explanatory style: how you explain why events occurred. Those with an optimistic explanatory style take credit when good things happen to them, but will usually blame outside influences for the bad things. They tend to believe negative events are temporary and abnormal. The opposite is true for people who have a negative explanatory style; they typically blame themselves when things go wrong, even for events that are out of their control.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, positive thinking can also have a variety of health benefits including the following:
- Improved ability to cope with problems and better stress management
- Improved immune system function, with fewer sicknesses like the common cold
- Lower rates of depression
- Higher energy levels
- Decreased risk of heart disease and cardiovascular-related death
- A longer life expectancy
Reframing your thinking
While some people are just born naturally more positive people, anyone can improve their outlook and practice the power of positive thinking.
Focus on the good
Finding the silver lining in all situations is one way to practice positive thinking. You cannot avoid problems or disappointments—they are a regular part of life. But you can control how you think about them. For example, if you had a big event you were looking forward to and it was canceled, your first reaction may be to be disappointed or upset, but instead of focusing on what you’re missing, look at it as an opportunity to have more time to do something else you want to do, like catching up on a TV show, reading a book, or spending time with your family.
In difficult times, finding things to be thankful for can reduce stress and help you cope. Try to find something you are grateful for every day—whether it’s a person in your life, your pet, someone who helped you at your job, or even something as small as being able to get outside and take a walk. Try to focus on things or people that bring you joy and comfort.
Being able to find humor in all situations, even difficult ones, can lighten your mood and lower stress and anxiety.
Surround yourself with positive people
Positivity can be contagious, as can negativity. Be careful not to spend time with people who are constantly negative, complaining, or always in a bad mood. Instead, surround yourself with people who support you, lift you up, and see the good in situations and other people.
Practice supportive self-talk
Don’t be your own worst critic. Thinking negatively about yourself and your abilities can cause harm to your self-esteem over time. Be mindful of the voice in your head, and try to shift the ways you talk to yourself.
Positive thinking during the most difficult times
Sometimes, when you are in the throes of a really difficult time, such as during periods of grieving or other serious situations such as illness or job loss, it can seem impossible to remain positive. Remember that positive thinking doesn’t mean you have to avoid every negative thought or emotion you have. It’s okay to be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to be sad or angry or to experience any other negative emotion for a period of time.
It’s also important during these times to make sure you have supportive people to lean on and whom you can ask for help. Oftentimes, the worst periods in our lives are what inspire us to make the most positive and significant changes. Remind yourself that the situation is temporary and that things will get better.
This advice is particularly important right now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is testing everyone’s patience and making it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Recognize that you are doing well during one of the most challenging times in our nation, and that’s what it is—just a period of time—and it will get better.