I have been ruminating on positive thinking, and on particular, on whether it is better to express anger (vent!) or not, and so loved this article in The Atlantic by Emily Esfahani Smith: The Benefits of Optimism are Real.
Here are a few ideas from the article
1 “Having a positive outlook in difficult circumstances is not only an important predictor of resilience — how quickly people recover from adversity — but it is the most important predictor of it. People who are resilient tend to be more positive and optimistic compared to less-resilient folks; they are better able to regulate their emotions; and they are able to maintain their optimism through the most trying circumstances.”
2 Dwelling on anger and anxiety makes you feel worse
“For many years, psychologists, following Freud, thought that people simply needed to express their anger and anxiety — blow off some steam — to be happier. But this is wrong. Researchers, for example, asked people who were mildly-to-moderately depressed to dwell on their depression for eight minutes. The researchers found that such ruminating caused the depressed people to become significantly more depressed and for a longer period of time than people who simply distracted themselves thinking about something else. Senseless suffering — suffering that lacks a silver lining — viciously leads to more depression.”
3 Venting makes you feel worse
Counter-intuitively, another study found that facing down adversity by venting — hitting a punching bag or being vengeful toward someone who makes you angry — actually leads to people feeling far worse, not better. Actually, doing nothing at all in response to anger was more effective than expressing the anger in these destructive ways.
4 In another study, those who try to find meaning from trauma grow wiser, and experienced better health than those who simply vent about it. The stories people told themselves as they searched for a silver lining healed them.
5 Positive people are more resilient physically and emotionally. They a “revealed more happiness, interest, and eagerness” toward solving their worst problems.
“When your mind starts soaring, you notice more and more positive things. This unleashes an upward spiral of positive emotions that opens people up to new ways of thinking and seeing the world — to new ways forward. This is yet another reason why positive people are resilient. They see opportunities that negative people don’t. Negativity, for adaptive reasons, puts you in defense mode, narrows your field of vision, and shuts you off to new possibilities since they’re seen as risks.”