Positive Thinking

The silver lining

Your guide to positive thinking

Positive thinking is a mental attitude that does not mean simply looking at one thing in a positive light but having a more wide-ranging view of optimism. By contrast, pessimism is a state of always – or mostly – looking at things in a negative light. Many situations are obviously bad and looking at them positively can mean being creative and putting some effort in. That said, even very dire situations will often have some aspect where positive thinking can make a difference. Think of it like seeing the silver lining on a rain cloud or considering your glass to be half full rather than half empty. As such, it is about altering your mental habits to make a deep-rooted difference in your whole life as well as those around you.

Can positive thinking heal you?

There is no scientific study that demonstrates that simply being positive about a condition will cure you of it. That said, positive thinking has been shown to help people deal with their symptoms better and even to reduce levels of pain, for example. Positive thoughts also tend to alleviate the worst effects of certain mental health conditions, such as stress and anxiety. Interestingly, a predisposition to positivity is something that has been found to have a biological and inherited root, so more studies into its physical effects are bound to follow, allowing us to know more.

Does positive thinking release serotonin?

According to neuroscientists, all thoughts cause some form of chemical release to occur in the brain. Therefore, serotonin, which is known to counterbalance cortisol, is often produced by the human brain when positive or joyful thoughts come to the fore. Cortisol is associated with stress, so producing more serotonin can help to alleviate bad moods, for example. In other words, you can think yourself into a more positive frame of mind.

What does philosophy say about positive thinking?

Optimism has long been a subject of Western traditions of philosophy. It has often been studied alongside concepts like realism which it is sometimes contrasted against. Gottfried Leibniz wrote about positive thinking and optimism, famously saying that the best of all possible worlds is the one that actually exists, to paraphrase his writings somewhat. Blaise Pascal was another philosopher who built on Leibniz's thoughts, saying that people should embrace the whole universe rather than being overwhelmed by it.

How does positive thinking improve bodily health?

As well as the aforementioned ability to help with physical symptoms and certain mental health conditions, positive thinking has been shown to correlate with good health. People who have a positive mental outlook are merely less likely to suffer from certain conditions in the first place. Among them are heart disease and stroke. You may still be affected by these ailments, but being naturally positive makes them more unlikely to occur.

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Positive psychology is a branch of the conventional psychological theory which has a big focus on well-being. Sometimes described as the study of what makes a life good, it aims to deal with individuals and societies on an equal footing to ensure that positivity is maintained in all situations. It is often seen as a reaction to psychoanalytical techniques and so-called behaviourism which tend to have much of their focus applied to psychological problems and mental health conditions. Instead, the principle is to find out what makes people happy and content and to place much more of an emphasis in such areas. To some, it is the study of eudaimonia – a Greek word – that roughly translates as happiness or welfare.
At its most basic level, philosophy is the study of wisdom. In fact, the word itself derives from the Greek word for wisdom. However, it is not the study of all things, despite it having this connotation some time ago. Modern philosophy is now regarded as the pursuit of answers to the most fundamental human questions. In this regard, of course, it is often compared to religion. Typically, philosophers will pose questions on subjects like existence, values, the mind, will and language - among others – which they then attempt to answer. Some philosophers specialise in critical questioning, whereas others focus on rational argument. Others still develop their ideas through group discussions. Various branches of philosophy also exist, such as metaphysics, ethics, political philosophy and logic, to name but a few.
More often than not, neuroscience is used as an umbrella term that covers various branches of biology, including physiology, anatomy and cytology. Other aspects of it include molecular and developmental biology. These days, complex computer modelling and aspects of psychology are just as likely to be included in neuroscience as are studies of the physical and chemical aspects of the nervous system. The earliest investigations into the brain date back to ancient Egypt and many physicians consider it to be one of the last remaining big challenges for medical science.
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