Shifting your mindset: The power of positive thinking

A CDC study looked at the mental health of 800,000 Americans, starting in the summer of 2020 through earlier this year. The study found nearly 2 in 5 adults – about 42% -- had symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Posted at 6:53 AM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 07:53:39-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Studies show how the pandemic is increasing depression and anxiety. We often hear about the power of the mind when it comes to negative emotions.

Author of "Focused Positivity," and psychologist of four decades, Dr. John Tholen says one of the main sources of our distress is what he calls "dysfunctional thoughts."

The difficult part is, he adds, we don't have control over the negative thoughts that pop into our minds. Often they're just automatic. However, once we learn to recognize the negative emotions, we can work to find alternatives — which is certainly easier said than done.

Tholen says it's really your perspective that affects your mood.

A study showed that bronze medalists in the Olympics tend to be much happier than silver medalists because they compare themselves to the person that finished behind them. But the silver medalists focus on the fact they didn't finish ahead of the athlete who won gold. Interesting perspective as you focus on your positive thoughts.

"One of the problems with positive thinking is that people think it's like a fairy tale... you know, you just focus on sugar plums, and you'll be better," Tholen admits. "You have to find a balanced and reasonable alternative thought that is more reassuring, more inspiring of hope that motivates self-assertion."

He added if you can shift your attention to that more functional thought, then you can start to change your emotional life and improve your motivation.

Dr. Tholen says the first truly effective step toward a much more positive mindset is as simple as creating a list. He encourages making a list of all the things you're grateful for and reviewing it at least once per day, or whenever we're feeling upset.

The psychologist and author insists that a single step like that has been shown in several studies to improve mood throughout the day. People who spend just five minutes each morning reviewing what they're grateful for feel better the entire day.