The Power of Positive Thinking: How a “Glass Half Full” Can Change Your Life

At AdventureWomen, we believe in staying positive. While sometimes it is easy to get overwhelmed and start dwelling on the glass half empty, we know that our attitudes are under our own, powerful control. We always want to choose how to react to life rather than let life control our attitudes.

Why is maintaining a positive attitude so important?

Research from Dr. Lisa Yanek M.P.H. and Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine shows that maintaining a positive outlook can dramatically improve your health. Her 2013 studies with cardiac patients demonstrated that those people with a family history of heart disease who also had a positive outlook were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within five to 25 years than those with a more negative outlook.

Clinically, the relationship between higher longer-term stress levels and reduced immune system resistance could be the link between these mind-body associations. Additional studies have found that a positive attitude improves health outcomes and life satisfaction across a spectrum of conditions—including traumatic brain injury, stroke and brain tumors.

Another branch of research has examined the power of positive thinking to influence skill building. A landmark study conducted in 2004 by Barbara L. Fredrickson at the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan showed that while negative emotions (fear, anger, stress) narrow your mind and focus your thoughts, positive emotions (joy, contentment, love) cause people to see and explore more possibilities and options for themselves. Even more importantly, positive emotions experienced early in life (early childhood play, teambuilding, rewards) have a long-term lasting impact in terms of an enhanced ability to build skills and develop resources for use later in life. Fredrickson refers to this as the “broaden and build” theory because positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life.

Being more positive in outlook can be a self-fulfilling prophecy for success. Researchers cite a compounding effect or “upward spiral” that appears to be associated with happy people. When people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic and energetic and others find them likeable and sociable. People who are more positive have a stronger mental foundation to step up to develop new skills. Learning new skills leads to success (resulting in more happiness) and so on and so forth.

Tips for Being More Positive and Less Negative

So how can we all practice new habits which increase positivity and reduce negativity?

Here are some useful tips to help you “think positive”:

  • Smile more. Smiling tends to produce the same from those around you reducing apprehension and stress, bringing you naturally together and relaxing the atmosphere.
  • Re-frame stressful situations (i.e. a traffic jam) into something pleasurable ones (e.g. an opportunity to listen to music).
  • Build resiliency by improving your relationships, taking action and problem solving and accepting changes outside of your control.
  • Write positive experiences in your life down.
  • Insert more play and less work into your schedule.


Keep your thoughts positive,

because your thoughts become your words.

Keep your words positive,

because your words become your behavior.

Keep your behavior positive,

because your behavior becomes your habits.

Keep your habits positive,

 because your habits become your values.

Keep your values positive,

because your values become your destiny.

-Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)