How Having a Positive Attitude Can Help You Better Handle Stress

Negativity keeps you focused on the problem, whereas positivity helps you find solutions to it.

Momo productions/ Getty Images
Momo productions/ Getty Images

To say that you’re not going to worry, that you’re just going to be happy, doesn’t do justice to the scientific underpinnings of positivity’s depth and power as an antidote to work addiction. Scientists have discovered that positivity stretches your mind open to take in as much as you can, widening your span of possibilities. 

In one study, researchers assigned 104 people to one of three groups: group 1 experienced positive feelings (amusement or serenity); group 2 experienced negative feelings (anger or fear); and group 3 experienced no special feelings (neutrality). Then the researchers said, “Given how you’re feeling, make a list of what you want to do right now.” The positive group had the longest list. Why was that? A positive outlook leads you toward more possibilities than negativity or neutrality does. 

When you’re dealing with a stressful situation, positivity showcases the range of possibilities. It helps you focus on a positive outcome that negativity hides from view. Simply put, negativity keeps you focused on the problem, whereas positivity helps you find solutions to it. 

Positivity acts as a stress buffer when you’re mired in workaholism, broadening your mind and range of vision. When you’re under the gun with looming deadlines or overloaded with work tasks, your mind is designed to constrict and target the negative threat. If you’re searching for a solution to a work crisis, your negative emotions keep you focused on the problem. Without knowing it, you focus on the stressful event and block out the big picture. But positive feelings like lightheartedness, joy, curiosity, gratitude, love, and hope expand your range of vision.

Excerpt from Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them with permission from the author and publisher.

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