Much of your behavior depends on your attitudes. If your attitudes are negative, you can expect to be vulnerable to addictions and psychosomatic disorders, and the resulting lack of focus and concentration may degrade every area of your life. A positive attitude can be developed by monitoring and disciplining your thoughts on a moment-by-moment basis.
Hara Estroff Marano, editor in chief of "Psychology Today" magazine, reports that the average person generates 25,000 to 50,000 thoughts per day. Beginning in 1952 with Norman Vincent Peale's book, "The Power of Positive Thinking," a large school of thought has developed around the idea that happiness and unhappiness are largely byproducts of thoughts and that "negative thinking" results in a variety of psychological and physiological disorders. The remedy, according to these thinkers, is to exercise control over your thoughts to achieve health, serenity, an enhanced sense of well-being and increased personal effectiveness at work and at home.
Attitudes are organized collections of thoughts about a particular issue. To think positively, you need to eliminate certain negative thinking patterns that nearly everyone indulges in at least some of the time. These include the four major types of negative thinking identified by the Mayo Clinic: filtering, personalizing, catastrophizing and polarizing. Filtering refers to psychologically screening out the encouraging aspects of complex scenarios. Personalizing means automatically blaming yourself every time something bad happens. Catastrophizing is expecting the worst possible outcome in any situation, and polarizing is a type of black-and-white thinking that defines failure as any result short of perfection.
Misconceptions about positive thinking abound, probably because of its misleading name. A more accurate name for the type of positive thinking espoused by psychologists may be "constructive thinking." Positive thinkers reject groundless optimism in favor of brutal realism, yet approach unpleasant realities with a problem-solving attitude rather than a "don't look for a match and simply curse the darkness" mentality.
The Mayo Clinic says positive thinking can result in longer life, elevated moods, lowered stress, a boosted immune system, a stronger sense of well-being and better coping skills during stressful events. Because of the connection between the body and mind, the psychological benefits of positive thinking tend to reinforce its physical benefits, and vice versa.
Ways to Change
To change a significant portion of your 25,000 to 50,000 thoughts a day to positive thoughts, you will have to train your mind. The first step is to know that you have the ability to seize control of your mind, according to Marano. You will then have to train yourself into a moment-by-moment awareness of your own thinking patterns by frequently asking yourself, "What am I thinking right now?" Once you develop awareness of your own thinking, you should identify negative thinking patterns and replace them with encouraging, realistic and constructive thoughts--redefining a near-perfect job as a success rather than an imperfect failure, for example.