Until recently, psychological interventions commonly focus on the negative aspects of people’s lives, such as depression and anxiety. However, there’s an increasingly popular area of interest in what makes people happy. Positive psychology is a mode of therapy which focuses on the positive aspects of people’s lives – specifically teaching clients how to achieve inner wellbeing and make the changes they need to lead happier lives.
A key aspect of positive psychology is positive thinking. How you feel is not governed by your looks, by how much you earn or the material goods in your life, but instead by how you think. By actively thinking positive thoughts you can rid your mind of negative thinking, a common symptom of depression .
There are four main characteristics of negative thinkers:
Finding the negatives in a situation and focusing solely on them, completely ignoring any positive.
Making every problem about you – personalising negative events and think they occurred because you’re unlucky, or because you did something wrong.
Always anticipating the worst. A small inconvenience is seen as something much worse than it really is. The overreaction generally makes the situation worse, in turn validating any negative assumptions you are already making about yourself.
Seeing things as black or white, good or bad, with no grey in between.
These negative thinking patterns affect every aspect of a person’s life, both physically and psychologically. By practising positive thinking, you can actually protect yourself from medical conditions as well as gain a more positive outlook on life.
Depression is a complicated condition with both physical and mental health symptoms, and it would be inaccurate to suggest that someone with a positive outlook will not experience depressive feelings. Nonetheless, positive psychology can help in the treatment of depression. It provides sufferers with tools to avoid negative declines in mood when they arise, and helps them recognise the positives in their lives. Positive psychology can also disrupt the negative thinking habits that are common in depression. 
Scientific studies have provided evidence for a direct link between stress and the immune system. If a person is experiencing stress and negativity their immune system is weakened, and unable to respond effectively to bacteria and viruses. This results in a higher risk of infections such as colds and cold sores . Maintaining a positive outlook on life also better prepares you for dealing with serious illness. Maintaining an optimistic outlook and believing in one’s ability to recover has been found to have a beneficial impact on treatment and recovery in cancer patients.
Positive thinking won’t stop bad things happening
Having a positive mindset won’t stop bad things from occurring in your life, but it will enable you with the right skills to overcome negative situations. Often, your coping skills come down to simply refusing to give in to your fears. This can come naturally for some, but for others professional support is required to get on track. Positive psychology is becoming more and more popular as a recognised form of therapy used by counsellors.
 Miller, G. E. & Cohen, S. (2005). Infectious disease and psychoneuroimmununology. In K. Vedhara & M. Irwin (Eds.). Human psychoneuroimmunology. NY: Oxford University Press
Joanna Fishman is a Director of Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney, N.S.W. (www.counsellingsydney.com.au), a large network of independent counsellors and psychologists catering to clients in Sydney and surrounds.