Discover the power of positive thinking

A confident, upbeat approach to life can lead to living loger and healthier.

By Bonnie Schiedel

It’s starting to get darker earlier every day. Another factory just announced a month-long shutdown. The news is an endless stream of alarming details about the economy, health crises, global security and the environment. No doubt about it: for many of us, this is a really tough time in a really tough year.

It may seem like it’s only logical to be blue and worried these days, but there is another option: positivity. Defined as a range of positive emotions (including love, appreciation, hope, resilience and gratitude), positivity can help you live a happy, productive and healthy life. “Trying times almost inevitably bring negativity,” writes Barbara L. Frederickson, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, in her new book, Positivity (Crown, 2009). “Unchecked, the narrowed mindsets of negativity can pull you in a downward spiral and drain the very life out of you.”

Frederickson, who has devoted most of her life to studying positivity, says this mindset can loosen negativity’s grip on your mental outlook and open your heart and mind to a broader range of possibilities. “As it does, it sets you on an upward spiral, a positive trajectory that cuts through dark times and leads you back to higher ground, stronger than ever.”

In short, positivity is about your attitude and approach to life: looking for the good in the world around you, hanging on to hope when life gets tough, making a contribution to the world and feeling optimistic about the future. If you embrace positivity on a daily basis you won’t be continually, blindly joyful but you will be receptive to emotions and events that will make you happy.

Read more on the health benefits of being positive and learning how to be optimistic.