Always look on the bright side of life. While that might make a great song, it’s often difficult to practice positive thinking in our daily lives – and often harder to incorporate into our businesses. But the science of positivity tells us that increased optimism isn’t just good for your mental and emotional health. It’s also beneficial to your business dealings.
We’re examining the science of positivity and helping you learn more about the benefits of positive thinking, both in your personal and professional lives.
What is Positive Thinking?
Optimism – or positive thinking – is about much more than seeing the glass as half full. Being an optimist doesn’t mean you never encounter problems or that you’re always happy. But it does mean navigating challenges with a different mindset. Positive thinkers still encounter difficulties, but the difference comes in the way they tackle those challenges.
The Science of Positivity
Scientists have long known that optimism increases both mental and physical health in adults. However, research also tells us that positive thinking can help your professional life, too.
A 2014 study revealed that professionals who see the world more optimistically tend to have higher rates of success in their careers. “[T]he available evidence points toward correlations with two indicators of socioeconomic status: education and income,” the study finds. Additionally, those subjects who displayed optimism earned more money than their pessimistic counterparts.
The concept of positive thinking isn’t new. Researchers published findings in 1985, showing that optimists tended to be healthier, more satisfied in their relationships, and more successful in their work. Even back then, scientists knew that actively seeking out and anticipating positive events could lead to more success, both personally and professionally.
In the past decade, we’ve seen an incredible boost in research. The science of positivity has created an entire subgenre of books, podcasts, and other media outlets. All of these are designed to help professionals hone their positivity and bring optimism into the workplace.
How Positive Thinking Makes You Better at Your Job
Many researchers and medical professionals praise positive thinking for its role in keeping people physically and mentally healthy. But the science of positivity also suggests that optimism can benefit your professional life, too.
1. Improves Problem-Solving Skills
Practicing positive thinking helps you foresee and identify multiple possibilities in the workplace environment. This skill comes in particularly handy when a deal doesn’t go the way you planned or when the market experiences a slowdown.
Where the pessimist might see every missed deal as devastation, the science of positivity tells us that optimism helps us see these setbacks as temporary. Each challenge is an opportunity to assess the situation, identify a problem, and develop multiple-pronged solutions to move forward.
2. Increases Resiliency
Resiliency is defined as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.” Humans don’t cultivate resiliency overnight, and they don’t often cultivate it naturally.
It’s in our very biology to look for danger and to activate our “fight or flight” response when something goes wrong. However, positive thinking can help us reframe our adversity and overcome our challenges.
The science of positivity indicates that optimists tend to have an easier time adapting to change and overcoming obstacles when things don’t go as planned. In our professional lives, resilience can help us “go with the flow” and adjust to new and potentially difficult circumstances.
3. Reduces Stress
Positive thinking can reduce cortisol levels in your bloodstream. Cortisol is a hormone associated with stress, often causing us to feel agitated, sluggish, and overwhelmed. Increased cortisol could also be a factor in heart disease and other illnesses.
However, the science of positivity indicates that those who practice positive thinking have more stable cortisol levels in their bloodstreams, leading to increased feelings of relaxation, calm, and level-headedness.
4. Increases Energy
A reduction in cortisol (see above) means less stress. Less stress means increased energy. Those with higher energy levels tend to work harder, stay focused longer, and be more productive than those with lower energy levels. Therefore, greater personal success might be as simple as practicing some positive thinking.
If you feel like you’re dragging each afternoon (as many of us do), try to add the science of positivity into your daily routine. It’s amazing how a positive outlook can boost your energy better than that afternoon cup of coffee.
5. Helps Manage Conflict and Negative Feedback
Confrontation is never fun, even for the most optimistic worker. But having a positive mindset can help reframe those workplace conflicts and make them more productive for everyone involved.
Optimistic people tend to view negative feedback or complicated professional relationships as an opportunity to improve on their skills. For instance, negative feedback might feel hurtful, but it’s also a chance to see honest opinions from other employees, leadership, or clients. Using that feedback can help you address those issues, which will lead to a more positive outcome in the future.
6. Positivity is Contagious
Think of the last time you spent an entire day with a nay-sayer. Chances are, by the end of that day, you felt a little more defeated or annoyed. You probably started to see flaws in your business, your building, or others that you overlooked before.
The science of positivity tells us that emotions are contagious. But that’s also true of positivity. Therefore, if you focus on the good, it’s likely others around you will begin to do the same. Practicing optimism can change your workplace’s entire culture, encouraging your team members to be optimistic, resilient, and forward-thinking.
Tips for Increasing Positive Thinking
Are you ready to embrace the science of positivity? Do you want to cultivate optimism in your business and your life? It’s not going to happen overnight. However, making small, incremental changes – and being intentional about how you view the world – can revolutionize the way you work, live, and love.
1. Retrain Your Brain
Our brain is a fascinating and powerful organ. Many of our thought patterns and behaviors are the results of years-long habits. However, we can change the way our brain processes information, which then changes how we interact with the world around us.
Start by recognizing your thought patterns. Are you focusing on the negative during your business meeting? Being pessimistic about next quarter? Worrying obsessively about what might go wrong? Try to change your thought patterns and flip those thoughts to the positive. Over time, your brain will get the message: you don’t want negative thoughts. Only optimism and positivity from here on out.
2. Focus on Others
One of the best ways to cultivate an attitude of positivity is to reach out and help others. Practicing kindness increases the “feel-good” chemicals in our brains, making us feel happy. Therefore, make it a point to do something kind for someone each day. It might be as simple as an encouraging text message, or as significant as donating to a local charity.
3. Practice Gratitude
Part of retraining your brain is learning to see the good in the world around you. Gratitude is a vital piece of the positivity puzzle. We’ve talked about the importance of gratitude before, which you can read here.
4. Remove Negativity
Being in a toxic work environment doesn’t just breed negatively. It can also lead to burnout. Protect yourself by stepping back from people and things that increase your pessimism. Instead, surround yourself with others who look on the bright side. As we said, positivity is contagious. So make sure you’re around those who might give it to you.
Following the science of positivity can lead us to a more successful and fulfilling life. What are your tips for staying optimistic? Share them with us in the comments below!