Health Maintenance Through Positive Thinking

Paper presented in National Seminar on Positive Perspectives of Health and Behaviour, Department of Psychology, M.D. University, Rohtak, February, 1&2, 2008.





THE ALIGARH MUSLIM UNIVERSITY                                     




Psychological resources such as hope, optimism, personal control, sense of meaning, and subjective well-being are known to exercise a protective influence on health. The Greek physician Hippocrates anticipated that positive emotions and health outcomes may be linked through multiple pathways. In the developed and developing countries, health is seen as the most valuable asset for a good quality of life, particularly in later years of life. Good health of the citizen is key facilitator to contribute to society. Smith (1990) said, “In the past, good health meant the absence of disease.” Today the definition of health is high level wellness that goes beyond the absence of disease toward one’s maximum potential which includes mind, body and sprit. High level wellness is the integration of health component, i.e. emotional, physical, social, spiritual and mental.

The common origin of the word health from “hoelth”, an English word meaning safe or sound and whole of body (Dolfman, 1973). There is no one contemporary meaning for the term. A nursing oriented definition of health consistent with the theme that the health is a subjective phenomenon that is operationalizable has been proposed by the Lynn. Lynn, 1990 defined health as a subjective representation of a person’s composite evaluation of somatic sense of self (how one is feeling) and functional ability (how one is doing).As such, health is manifested in the subjective judgment that one is experiencing wellness or illness. These subjective experiences are dynamic and are an outgrowth of person and environment interactions. As long as a person is capable of evaluating how he/she is feeling and doing at some level, the person has health.

The World Health Organization (WHO, 1948) defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Thus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has very clearly indicated that the absence of disease is not enough for health. This, definition emphasizes on positive and negative dimensions of health. Negative health or ill health has a subjective component expressed in the concept of illness and discomforts and an objective component express in concept of disease, injury, handicap or deformity. Positive health has two components: wellbeing and fitness. This state entails an appropriate balance of the physical, mental, social ingredients. Fitness can be considered as the objective physical components, where as, wellbeing can indicate the psychosocial component of positive health.

Lau (1995) found that when young healthy adults were asked to describe in their own words “what being healthy means to you?” their beliefs about health could be understood within the following dimensions:-

Ø     Physiological/Physical- good condition, having energy.


Ø     Pathological-happy, energetic, feels good psychologically.


Ø     Behavioural-eat and sleep properly.


Ø     Future consequence-live longer.


Ø     The absence of, e.g., sickness, disease & symptoms.

Kasl and Cobb (1966) states that health behaviour is any activity undertaken by a person believing himself to be healthy for the purpose of preventing disease or detecting it at an asymptomatic stage. Therefore, positive health can be defined as activities that may prevent disease, detect disease and disability at an early stage, promote and enhance health, or protect from risk of injury. Thus, “positive health can be defined as any activity undertaken by individual with a frequency or intensity that increases health or reduces disease”

As, we all know that the good health is a gift of God, but having good health is not sufficient but to maintain it also equally important. For this reason one should also focus on healthy lifestyle and positive thinking.




Exercise regularly. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week. Nothing beats aerobic exercise for releasing pent-up stress and tension.
Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day.
Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind.
Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.


The positive aspect of health is reflected in the Arabian proverb, “A man, who is healthy, has an optimistic view and who has an optimistic view, has everything” (Husain, 2005).



Happy people are always focusing on good events and worthy quality of life; they have optimistic view of life. Positive thinking can help people to gain peace of mind, obtain better health and attain an unceasing stream of energy. Positive thinking can have a beneficial effect on people’s health by increasing a person’s intellectual, physical, psychological, and social resources. Positive thinking leads to opportunity, Positive thinking is healthy. By practicing positive thinking one can enhance positive emotions, feeling and positive mental attitude which improve the quality of peoples lives and heal their bodies from illness and stresses.

According to Frederickson (2001) Positive emotions increase people’s physical, cognitive and social resources, which in turn help them cope more effectively with stressful experiences and live healthier.

   According to Nudel and Nudel, positive thinking is an effective way to achieve mastery of bio-energy healing. Maintenance of a positive energy level in a healer’s own bio-energy field reduces stress and emotional tension in the healer and in others positive emotions and feelings and a positive mental attitude can improve the quality of people’s lives and heal their bodies of illnesses and stresses.

 On the other hand, negative emotions and feelings bring poisonous toxi

ns to the organism. Strong negative emotions such as anger, spite, envy, jealousy, and fear make the endocrine system accumulate poisons in the blood. Anxiety, depression, and doubt can also cause poisoning of the blood. Passive and lengthy negative emotions are even more dangerous for health than for active, sudden and momentary negative emotions. Negative emotions shorten the span of life. Treatment of physical symptoms with positive thoughts and statements was popularized in France a century ago, and it still has the power to overcome unwanted states (stress, tension, and unhappiness). Thoughts and feelings make up reality and add color to it. So, unhappiness brings a gray world and reality. To change a gray world and to overcome the feeling of unhappiness, anxiety, or tension, one needs to refocus the mind on positive, healing thoughts. When people predict that something wrong is going to happen to them, it is more likely to happen because negative thoughts will be reflected in their unconscious. Moreover, the person may develop psychosomatic illnesses (about 70% of all illnesses are psychosomatic, or caused by mental stress). Psychosomatic illnesses worsen when given special attention. Instead of paying direct attention to pain or illness, every time a negative thought occurs, say something like, “It will be better than I think.” When a wish of any desired condition is established in the mind, somehow the unconscious mind leads the wish to realization-not magically, but through mental programming. Besides healing illnesses, positive attitudes help one to withstand troubles and problems, make correct decisions, and overcome obstacles. Do not focus on negative events; try to discover a positive perspective. For example, individuals should understand that they need to read more or think more of others in order to find the ways of perfect communications. Because the thoughts of individuals are either positive or negative, they are reflected in their social or asocial behaviors. People should observe and conceive the world around them, as well as their inner worlds, with positive perceptions. Healers should have “a positive mind state” before they begin practicing bio-energy healing. Healers communicate with other people giving them energy. “Negative” energy cannot bring healing; only damage and it is destructive for both a healer and a healee. Healing energy is “a positive energy” sent by “a positive mind.” Your thoughts are in your control, and they can be very powerful.

Positive thoughts can motivate healthy behaviors, such as eating healthy food and being active. It’s simple really. If you believe you can take 10,000 steps a day, you will be more likely to take an extra walk to meet your goal. If you know you can avoid holiday weight gain, you’ll feel great when you pass the tempting dessert buffet, and fit comfortably in your winter clothes. If you set your mind to do something, you can do it. Positive thinking can also help you achieve and maintain healthy behaviors, such as becoming more physically active or limiting your sugar intake.

Peale (1996) has measured the success of positive-thinkers and found that those who think positively they can lose weight, or increase their physical activity, these people are more successful than people with less faith in themselves. The confidence you have in performing a certain behavior is called self-efficacy; and self-efficacy is a key in successful behavior change.

A “can-do” attitude may be just what it takes to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle. Best of all, your attitude is something you can control. You have the choice to have a positive outlook. Chances are when you choose to think positively, you’ll feel better about yourself and be able to perform better in whatever you do.


Positive thinkers admit when they feel frustrated or depressed. They don’t ignore it. But they also don’t blame themselves. Instead, they try to understand the negative thoughts and feelings and counter them with more positive ones. So how do you stay positive, maintain momentum and sustain healthy behaviors? Here are few tips given by Peale (1996):-

 Ø     Look for a good role model. There is always someone who seems to be doing just what you want to be doing. Maybe they’ve scheduled exercise into their workday and switched from coffee to herbal tea. Learn from a successful friend, family member or colleague. Ask them how they keep healthy and follow in their footsteps.

 Ø     Try some positive self-talk and avoid negative-talk. Take a minute to give yourself an ego boost. Repeat some motivational words out loud or to yourself. Negative talk, “I can’t do it,” “I’m fat,” is dangerous for your well-being and healthy goals. Try to avoid the negative self-talk before it harms you. Remind yourself that you deserve happiness and can make positive changes.

 Ø     Get support. Tell your friends and family about your healthy habits. It helps to have an encouraging network.

 Ø     Reward yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back for your healthy efforts. Take a nice bath, get a massage, and enjoy a new DVD or CD.

 Ø     Have a plan. Making a plan to exercise or eat healthy lunches with a friend can mean the difference of sticking with your goals or falling off track. If you’ve planned for an activity, you’ll likely stick with it. You may even find that writing down your goals and steps to achieve them can help you stay on track. Take it day by day or week by week. The process of writing down your personal action plan is a good way to keep you honest and watch your progress or pitfalls.

Positive thinking is mental attitude that enters into the mind through words and images that are conducive to growth, expansion and success. It is mental attitude that expects good and favorable results. A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health and a successful outcome of every situation and action, whatever the mind expects, it finds.

The power of positive thinking can change and improve your life. Maintaining positive thinking and attitude will drive you to success, healthy life and happiness. Positive thinking is a habit that is right practice. Positive thinking is something you have to do everyday as often as possible and whenever you can. By practicing positive thinking everyday, you create a state of mind where you are constantly positive- it becomes a state of being positive. By doing this at last you will find an amount of positive energy that will create a positive situation for you everyday. Positive emotions and feelings and a positive mental attitude can improve the quality of people’s lives and heal their bodies of illnesses and help to regain health.

One approach to positive thinking given by Martin (1991) is called the three C’s: Commitment, Control and Challenge.

 Commitment: Make a positive commitment to yourself, to learning, work, family, friends, nature, and other worthwhile causes. Praise yourself and others, Always dream of success, Be enthusiastic.

Control: Keep your mind focused on important things. Set goals and priorities for what you think and do. Visualize practicing your actions. Develop a strategy for dealing with problems. Learn to relax. Enjoy successes. Be honest with yourself.

Challenge: Be courageous. Change and improve each day. Do your best and don’t look back. See learning and change as opportunities. Try new things. Consider several options. Meet new people. Ask lots of questions. Keep track of your mental and physical health. Be optimistic.

Martin (1991) has shown that people with these characteristics are winners in good times and survivors in hard times. “……People who begi

n consciously to modify their inner conversations and assumptions report an almost immediate improvement in their performance. Their energy increases and things seem to go better…”

Commitment, control and challenge help build self-esteem, reduce stress, live healthier and promote positive thinking.

Mental and emotional expectations can influence medical outcomes. The effectiveness of any medical treatment depends in part on how useful you expect it to be. As we know that our feeling of ineffectiveness of recourses lead us to stressful situation, we can overcome this situation by maximizing our efforts and our positive thoughts like “I can do it, even with limited resources” “So what, if I am running short of recourses, I can manage this.” This thinking can only be developed through positive thinking.

Positive affirmations are created through positive thinking to counter negative thoughts. These affirmations neutralize negative thoughts and build your self confidence. Positive affirmations give ways to the opportunities that are always present to some degree in a difficult situation.

Positive thinking help one to withstand troubles and problems, make correct decisions and overcome obstacles, stresses, and remains healthy. People should observe and conceive the world around them, as well as their inner worlds, with positive perceptions.

Spiritual strength promotes positive thinking, positive ideas, positive habits, positive attitudes, and positive efforts. There are qualities that promote wisdom, physical and mental well-being. Positive emotions stimulate the nervous system that protects the heart and reduces blood pressure. A realistic assessment of one’s limitations, the development of autonomy, and an ability to cope effectively with stress enable individuals to boost their positive thinking. The ability to recognize, accept and manage our feelings plays an integral role in our emotional development.

Meaning in life is very important for developing positive thinking. Those who are having meaning in their life are more likely to develop positive thinking. It has been observed that people who have meaning in their lives are keener to reduce stress for healthy life.

To develop positive thinking the person should be open to new ideas, activities and doing new things and new innovations, so that they can be more positive in their thinking.

The positive thinking can be developed by positive self talk, healthy attitudes, following effective fitness programmes (healthy diet), financially sound, hopefulness, new ideas, sense of responsibility etc. we can also develop positive thinking by acquiring new knowledge through stimulating mental activities that allows us to create environment in which useful and productive lives can be enjoyed.

Practicing positive self-talk will improve your outlook. When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you’re able to handle everyday stress in a constructive way. That ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of positive thinking. Positive thinking decreased negative stress. As it is very much clear that the people who think positively are more optimistic than the people who don’t.


It is very much clear from the above discussion that the people who think positively enjoy better and healthy life. Positive thoughts can motivate healthy behaviors, such as eating healthy food and being active. Positive thinking is the process of creating thoughts, that creates and focus energy into reality, to bring into creation a positive outcome, which you see as a benefit to yourself or others. This is a powerful gift that we all have but a lot of people are not aware of it.

Thus, we can say positive events are even sweeter when you see them as evidence of more to come, and see yourself as the master of your own fate.  Therefore, we can say those who habitually practice positive thinking tend to experience more success, which can add up to a less stressful and healthier life. The power of positive thinking can change and improve your life. Maintaining positive thinking and attitude will drive you to success, healthy life and happiness.



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9.      Peale, N.V. (1996). The Power of Positive Thinking. {Books available online at Barnes &}, Random House Publications.


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11.  World Health Organization (1948). World Health Organization Constitution. In Basic documents, Geneva: Author.




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