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Define a Positive Attitude

author image Brenda Hagood
Brenda Hagood has been a writer and speech therapist since 1982, and a nonprofit director. She wrote manuals for Total Learning Curriculum and enjoys health, education and family life research. Hagood holds a bachelor's degree in communicative disorders from California State University, Fullerton, and a master's degree in speech pathology from Loma Linda University.
Define a Positive Attitude
An optimistic woman looking up from her computer. Photo Credit Todd Warnock/Photodisc/Getty Images

A positive attitude can impact every aspect of your life. People who maintain a positive approach to life situations and challenges will be able to move forward more constructively than those who become stuck in a negative attitude. Your mental and physical health can be improved by learning how to hold a positive state of mind.

Having an Attitude

An attitude, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website, "is a mental position with regard to a fact or state; a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state." The dictionary goes on to state that the word "positive" can be used as "having a good effect; favorable; marked by optimism." When you demonstrate a positive attitude, therefore, you are optimistic and expect favorable outcomes.

Positive vs. Negative

In contrast to a person with a sunny, positive outlook on life is the person who has a negative attitude. A person with a negative attitude may be disagreeable, withdrawn, hostile or simply pessimistic, according to the definition of "negativity" provided by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website. People who are depressed often have a negative outlook on relationships and life challenges. However, the American Psychological Association (APA) notes that depression is more than feeling sad. Depression can impact a person's sleep patterns, activity levels, general motivation and work habits, weight and even lead to thoughts of death or suicide.

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Impact on Stress

Maintaining a positive attitude can have a beneficial effect on your mental health and ability to deal with stress. Dr. Charles Raison, the director of the Behavioral Immunology Program at the Emory University School of Medicine, says that when people have a positive attitude they do not perceive stress as intensely dangerous or as difficult as they would if they had a more negative attitude. In short, having a positive attitude provides improved coping skills when you are faced with challenges or adversity.


There are many benefits to creating and maintaining a positive attitude. Optimistic people can envision success and therefore are able to achieve goals. People are naturally drawn to others with happy, cheerful dispositions so friendships and relationships are easier to develop. Positive thinking can even give your immune system a boost. David B. Beaton of the Rochester Institute of Technology has conducted a review of the field of psychoneuroimmunology and how psychopathology may impact the body's immune system. What Beaton found were correlations between a positive attitude and the body's immune system. Optimism can play a part in helping the body fight off illness and disease.

Creating a Positive Attitude

It can take a little time and effort to create the habit of a positive attitude if it is not something you are accustomed to doing. One way is to catch yourself when you are having a negative thought and form a new positive script in response. Dr. Ronald Rubenzer of the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety suggests that you can convert bad stress into good stress through your thoughts. Instead of feeling "stressed out," turn the situation into an exciting opportunity for growth and achievement. Learning the power of a positive attitude can make your life more manageable and fulfilling.

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