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The Power of Positivity When You Live with Mental Illness

Do you think the power of positivity doesn't exist because you have a mental illness? Learn how to unleash the power of positivity in your life on HealthyPlace.

Most people don't consider the power of positivity when treating mental illness, and it's easy to see why not. While happiness sounds like the perfect tonic for our health concerns, it's hard to prescribe and even harder to conjure – especially if you're not a naturally optimistic person (Positivity and Happiness: The Secrets to Achieving Both).

When practiced regularly, however, positive thinking is a great coping strategy for tough times. Adopting the power of positivity can help you live better with any chronic health condition, including mental illness. So how do you access positive thoughts, even on your worst mental health days?

Is the Power of Positivity Real?

Many people question the power of positivity, claiming that optimism doesn't equip people for real-life stresses – despite scientific research confirming quite the opposite. Treating a mental health condition is more complicated than simply learning to look on the bright side, but we're not talking about adopting a super sunny persona so that your mental illness magically disappears.

You can't think your way out of mental illness any more than you can walk off a broken foot, but that doesn't mean the power of positive thoughts isn't real. Just like physical therapy would help you recover from an operation or accident, exercising your mind to think more positively could – in time – improve your mental wellbeing.

However much of a bad rap the "glass-half-full" approach might get, the power of positivity is backed by science (10 Amazing Positivity Facts to Improve Your Outlook). According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking can reduce negative self-talk and help improve physical – as well as psychological – wellbeing. Those who harness the power of positive thinking are reported to have better cardiovascular health, lower stress levels and greater resilience during times of hardship.

How to Unleash the Power of Positive Thinking

"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." - John Milton, Paradise Lost.

Positive thinking is not just for those living with mental illness. According to Daniel Goleman's book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, learning to see through a positive lens helps promote joy and motivation in all areas of life.

Goleman maintains that you need both a negative and positive focus to survive, but in the right ratio. Those who suffer from depression, in particular, often have a skewed balance of positivity and negativity, or they tend to place more emphasis on negative thoughts; which is why understanding the power of positivity can be life-changing.

Here are some tips to help you unleash the power of positive thinking:

  • Do positive mindfulness exercises: There are plenty of mindfulness resources online these days. You can use an app like Calm or Headspace or listen to a mindfulness podcast.
  • Practice yoga: Yoga encourages you to find positivity and calm in the here and now. It will also help you feel more confident in your physical strength and abilities, which can promote positive thinking.  
  • Try loving-kindness meditation: The inability to "sustain positive effect" has been linked to depression and other mental health conditions. However, you can work on your reward center to help prolong positive feelings. One way to do this is by practicing a specific type of meditation called "loving-kindness meditation."
  • Repeat self-affirmations: Choose an affirmation that helps you feel positive and repeat it to yourself throughout the day – even once in the morning is enough. You can also write the affirmation down or repeat it in your head.
  • Nurture positive relationships: When you feel up to socializing, surround yourself with people that make you feel good about yourself. Distance yourself wherever possible from those who don't.

Power of Positive Thoughts: Taking a Mental Wellbeing Break

Remember that all emotions, whether positive or negative, are adaptive in the right circumstances. The key to unleashing the power of positivity is finding a balance between the two.

That doesn't mean feeling guilty when you find yourself locked in a negative thought spiral or shaming yourself for not being able to think positively. Instead, try to treat positivity as a mental wellbeing break – a chance to restore yourself away from negative influences in your life, even if they arise in your own brain.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2018, October 31). The Power of Positivity When You Live with Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/self-help/positivity/the-power-of-positivity-when-you-live-with-mental-illness

Last Updated: June 19, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD