‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…” – Hamlet

Happier people live longer, are healthier and are more successful in life. Instead of searching for what or who can make us happy, take a scientific approach to happiness. If we learn how to supplant negative, hopeless thoughts with positive imagery or feelings, we increase our chances at happiness. This may sound like pop-psychology, but it is in fact steeped in scientific proof. I’ve found five studies published in peer-reviewed journals that prove the power of positive thinking.

1. Study proving the power of positive visualizations

In this positive thinking study, published in March 2016 in the Journal of Behavior Research and Therapy, researchers from Kings College in London tested 102 subjects diagnosed with anxiety disorder. They asked one group to visualize an image of a positive outcome to each of the three worries they’d had in the past week, another group to think of verbal positive outcomes and the last group to visualize any positive image whenever they started to worry. The two groups that visualized a positive image, whether it related to a specific worry or not reported greater happiness, restfulness and decreased anxiety.

2. Study proves that happiness makes you successful rather than success makes you happy

This review, published in the December 2005 issue of Psychological Bulletin, examined studies of over 275,000 people and found that the happiest people owe their success, in part, to their optimism and positive outlook. Dr. Lyubomirsky, head researcher from UC Riverside concluded, “When people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic and energetic and others find them likeable and sociable. Happy people are thus able to benefit from these perceptions.

3. Study that proves that short-term stress strengthens the immune system, but long-term stress ravages the body.

 Researchers, led by Dr. Segerstrom at the University of Kentucky, analyzed over 300 separate studies done in the previous 30 years within the psychological community of the effects of stress on humans and concluded that when people face a stressful situation, they get a burst of adrenaline that boosts their immune system and helps them to better deal with the immediate situation. But, over time, if they continue to stress about an event, their immune systems break down, causing illness, depression and anxiety disorder. If you can’t change your situation, change your thinking about it…or else.

4. Penn Resilience Program works for school children, college students and now soldiers in the U.S. Army.

 This program, based on several decades of research, successfully helps people become more resilient to stress and anxiety by increasing their mental fitness. Students learn coping mechanisms and how to increase their levels of positivity in the areas of emotional, social, spiritual and family wellbeing. This helps them better cope with stress or trauma at work or school. It has now being taught by the Army as a preventative measure against PTSD.

5. The Nun Study proved that positive thoughts lead to longer life.

 Researchers from the University of Kentucky examined autobiographies written in 1930 by nuns living together at the same convent in their early years, between the ages of 18-32 years old and rated them on a scale of positivity. Sixty years later the researchers contacted the surviving nuns, now aged 75-90. Of those that were still alive, half had lived beyond average life expectancy. Of the longest living survivors, all of had them scored high on positive thoughts or feelings about life in their journals written back in 1930, regardless of the circumstances!