Understand why positive thinking is important and how to overcome unhealthy thought patterns. Learn how to think positively with practical tips. Identifying negative thinking patterns helps us reframe them with positive thoughts and healthy self-talk. Isn’t it time to build positive thinking habits for greater wellness in your body, soul, and spirit? Enjoy sample content from The Wellness Project.
Positive Thinking Supports a Healthy Life
Positive thinking can not only change your day, it can change your life in healthy ways.
Too often we narrow our health goals to the physical–increasing fitness, losing weight, improving eating habits, weight, or reducing cholesterol, to name a few. All good! But we need a healthy soul as well as physical vitality.
Your soul includes your mind, will, and emotions. This is where the power of positive thinking comes in. Our thoughts influence our emotions, decisions, beliefs, and health in powerful ways–for good or for bad.
When I mention positive thinking-what comes to mind? Am I getting an eyeball roll here? (Yes, is saw that). Positive thinking can get a bad rap in some circles: Pollyanna-syndrome, Name-it-and-Claim It, fake, overdone, trite, cliché… But here’s the reality—negative thoughts can derail growth, change, and health.
Our thoughts reflect what we believe in the moment. Emotions, attitudes, and behavior follow our thoughts. Our thoughts can either help or hinder us in sustaining our habits of health.
Why Positive Thinking Is Important
Consider the many health benefits of positive thinking for greater well-being. Some researchers have found that a habit of prolonged negative thinking diminishes your brain’s ability to think, reason, and form memories. Habitual toxic thinking drains the brain’s resources.
Another study reported in the journal American Academy of Neurology found that cynical thinking also produces a greater dementia risk. According to the Mayo Clinic, health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress and pain
- Greater resistance to illnesses
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Reduced risk of death from cancer
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
It is clear that what happens in the mind impacts the body. Developing positive thinking habits is a crucial element in your wellness journey.
Positive Thinking is Healthy Thinking
Positive thinking isn’t an unrealistic outlook or a denial of reality. Intentional choices to respond rather than react, positive thinking includes some of the following habits:
- Be attentive to what you’re thinking about.
- Examine your thoughts–are they healthy or unhealthy, positive or negative, true or false, helpful or destructive?
- Consider what is true.
- Refrain from disparaging yourself or others with critical, pessimistic, exaggerated, judgmental, or reactionary thoughts and opinions.
Replace or reframe negative thought with a positive truth or statement.
A positive mindset and healthy thought patterns actually rewire our brain, decreased stress, and can be related to disease prevention. It’s all connected.Our thoughts can either help or hinder us in sustaining our habits of health. #mentalhealth #positivethinking Click To Tweet
Is Your Self-Talk Healthy?
Getting personal here, friend. How do you talk to yourself in the privacy of your mind? Do you speak kindly to yourself when you’ve made a mistake or fallen short of a goal? Do you say things you would never say to someone else? Maybe you label yourself with thoughts like “not enough,” “stupid,” “you’ll never get it right,” “you always mess up” . . . and on and on our personal diatribes can go.
We all have moments of negative thinking or unhealthy self-talk. Take a moment to think about how consistent negative thoughts can derail your process of building healthy habits.
When it comes to the habits and patterns of our lives, our self-talk can be a powerful way to make progress.
Common Unhealthy Thought Patterns
Creating healthier thought habits begins with noticing when we default to a negative thought or reaction. Rita Schulte’s book, Think This, Not That provides a valuable list of thought patterns that distort our perspective and ignite difficult emotions. Here are a few that can get in the way of building healthy habits. For the full list, see my post “How Identify and Overcome Negative Thinking.”
- Should, must, ought to be, and have to be statements: These inflexible beliefs are based on misperceptions and can lead to anxiety, depression, self pity, anger, and guilt.
- Overgeneralization: This cognitive distortion happens when we assume that because something happened one way it will always happen that way. We can recognize this thinking pattern by words like never, always, and everyone.
- Personalization: When we see things as our fault without recognizing other contributing factors, we are personalizing. People who personalize see the issue as something wrong with themselves, a character flaw or deficit. It often cycles into personal name calling (I’m an idiot, I’m a loser, I’m unloveable) and self-condemnation.
- Disqualifying the positive: Schulte explains this pattern, “Disqualifying the positive is a way we overestimate a negative outcome and minimize our ability to cope with difficult situations. We reject our positive experiences, or our strengths, and we focus instead on the negative aspects of our situation or our character” (p.97).
- Emotional reasoning: Interpreting negative feelings as truth is a destructive pattern of unhealthy thinking. I feel unworthy becomes a belief that I am unworthy. I wrote a lot about this pattern in Holy in the Moment.
- All or nothing thinking. This pattern moves from one extreme to another, not recognizing the middle ground between. For example, feeling inadequate may lead to the belief I must be perfect or I’m a total failure.
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Could one of these unproductive patterns be holding you back from a happier and healthier life?
10 Examples of Reframing Negative Thoughts
Consider a few examples reframing to shift into positive with your thoughts. Catch a vision for how you can be cheerleader for yourself rather than allow your inner-critic to run the show.
- I can’t.→I’ll try.
- No use trying.→I’ll give it my best effort.
- It’s too overwhelming.→I can take it one step at a time.
- I always fail.→I often succeed.
- I can’t do anything right.→I do many things well/I haven’t figured it out yet.
- It’s hopeless.→Today is not the end of the story.
- It’s too hard.→I’ll never be able to ___/ This is hard, but I’ll keep trying.
- I can’t control the situation.→I can choose how I respond.
- I’m so bad at this.→I will improve if I keep trying.
- I’ll never be able to do this→I will focus on progress instead of perfection.
Which of these statements could be a game-changer for you? Create a few statements of your own. This week, choose a positive statement to reframe the negative thought or situation that challenges you.
Body and Spirit Connection
Positive thinking reflects a transformed mind. In the fascinating book Switch On Your Brain, Dr. Caroline Leaf explains that harnessing negative thought, changing it through awareness, repentance, and forgiveness, and replacing it with truth helps rewire healthy new circuits in our brains, part of God’s transforming work in our minds.
Ephesians 4:23 tells us to “Let the Spirit change your way of thinking” (CEV). Building positive thinking habits not only benefits our health, but it is a practical part of renewing our mind. How amazing that God literally re-wires the neural pathways in our brains when we consistently choose healthy and positive thoughts.
Nurture your body, soul, and spirit by adding biblical statements of truth to your self-talk. Here are a few examples to get you started. Click here to read the full verses.
- I am fearfully and wonderfully made –Psalm 139:13-14
- God gives me strength when I am tired and weary. – Isaiah 40:29
- I will take this thought captive to Christ –2 Corinthians 10:5
- I can do all things with Christ who strengthens me –Phil 4:13
- I walk by faith rather than what I see today – 2 Corinthians 5:7
TIP: Practice choosing a better thought pattern when you aren’t under pressure.
When you’ve got some down time, practice better ways to reframe a negative thought pattern. This way you are prepared when that negative thought comes to mind.
TIP: Trust God to do the work of transforming your mind as you cooperate in the process.
Be patient with yourself. Renewing your mind takes time. Rely on the Holy Spirit’s help to do what you can’t do. Overtime, you will build new patterns of healthy thinking.
My friend, you can do this! Practice positive thinking one moment at a time. Before you know it, the power of habit will kick in. Set a goal of one issue, one pattern, or one challenge to work on this week.
Here’s your prayer to bless your effort this week.
Lord, thank you for the gift of my amazing mind. Help me to become aware of my thinking habits. Please show me a specific unhealthy thought pattern to work on this week. I trust you to remind me to restate my thoughts in positive ways. With your help, I can build a consistent habit of choosing positive thoughts. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Live well and focus on the positive this week!
Cheering you on,
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References for Healthy Thinking
The following articles and books referred to in this post:
- Medical Press: Do negative thoughts increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease?
- Science Daily: Cynical? You May Be Hurting Your Brain Health
- Mayo Clinic: Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress
- Think This, Not That: by Rita Schulte
- Ginger Harrington: How Identify and Overcome Negative Thinking
- Holy in the Moment: Simple Ways to Love God and Enjoy Your Life by Ginger Harrington
- Switch on Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health by Dr. Caroline Leaf, p. 71
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