Positive Thoughts Important for Mood Regulation

Positive automatic thoughts (PATs) produce many beneficial byproducts, including increased functioning and elevated mood. But a new study suggests that PATs are also linked to increased life satisfaction which can decrease depression and anxiety and even lower the risk of death. “Along with other positive constructs, life satisfaction has predicted not only lowered risk of all-cause mortality (the number of deaths in a population, relative to the total population, attributable to all causes) and natural-cause mortality (the number of deaths in a population, relative to the total population, attributable to natural causes such as failed physical health), but also unnatural-cause mortality (the number of deaths in a population, relative to the total population, attributable to causes such as suicide, homicide, accidents, and other causes that are not directly attributable to failed physical health) in both younger and older persons,” said Owen Richard Lightsey, Jr. of the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research at the University of Memphis. “Conversely, life dissatisfaction at baseline has predicted increased instances of suicide among Finnish men over a 20-year follow-up. Clearly, ascertaining the factors that augment life satisfaction is vital,” said Lightsey, lead author of a new study examining the relationship of PAT’s on life satisfaction.

For his study, Lightsey interviewed 232 participants and assessed how mood affected PATs and how PATs affected life satisfaction. He discovered that PATs directly increased life satisfaction and indirectly increased participants’ positive feelings towards their life purpose. He believes that these results, which support previous research, have important clinical implications. “Indeed, interventions that replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts have been shown to decrease anxiety and anger and increase self-esteem, and simply rehearsing positive and adaptive thoughts appears to increase self-esteem and decrease depression.” He added, “Furthermore, positive thoughts become more frequent with remission of depression; positive thoughts increase and negative thoughts decrease with cognitive behavioral therapy; and the ratio of positive to negative cognitions increases with other therapeutic treatments.”

Lightsey, Jr., Owen Richard, and Guler Boyraz. “Do Positive Thinking and Meaning Mediate the Positive Affect-Life Satisfaction Relationship?” Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science 43.3 (2011): 201-13. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • steve h

    steve h

    November 10th, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    I see stories that say yeah, positive thinking can influence your moods and feelings; and then there are others that say no, that really has no effect on your mood at all. What gives? How can there be that much disconnect between the information available? If we are studying the same thing, then you would think that at least some of the time the research could give us a clear cut answer. But I guess that even if they say positive thinking works, you can’t make someone who does not feel it really get into that mode of thinking.

  • edmund


    November 10th, 2011 at 11:39 PM

    ^^I have read many conflicting reports too and from my understanding I think the positive thoughts need to come from within…Youcannot force someone else or even yourself to produce positive thoughts…!

  • Gayle Henry

    Gayle Henry

    November 12th, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    Surely you need to have positive thoughts to be in a good mood in the first place? I’ve sure never heard anyone say “I was so happy I smashed the window!” before LOL, but I’ve seen angry people do stupid things often.

  • gus hunter

    gus hunter

    November 12th, 2011 at 11:19 PM

    @Gayle Henry: It depends on the kind of person you are. I prefer to be having realistic thoughts, and I’m happy with knowing how the rest of the day is going to turn out unless life throws me a curve ball. I’ve never been the imaginative type unfortunately. I’m more comfortable with logic than flights of fancy.

  • Robyn Fraser

    Robyn Fraser

    November 12th, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    I can think all the happy thoughts I want. However reality has a habit of kicking me in the teeth which makes that a challenge. Continuing to think happy thoughts is a roadmap to self-denial if the brown stuff is hitting the fan imho. You’re denying your reality, so what’s the point?

  • Zoey Rivers

    Zoey Rivers

    November 12th, 2011 at 11:44 PM

    @Robyn Fraser-the point, since you ask, is that if you want to change that reality, you need to do it consistently. Thinking good thoughts one day and negative ones the next isn’t going to cut it. It’s like taking two steps forward and one step back when you’re not focusing on staying up.

    No half-baked approach will yield results. You have to be conscious of what you are thinking about and keep as many as possible thoughts in a positive vein as you can.

  • Wanderer


    November 12th, 2011 at 11:56 PM

    “From time to time it’s fun to close our eyes, and in that dark say to ourselves, ‘I am the sorcerer, and when I open my eyes I shall see a world that I have created, and for which I and only I am completely responsible.’ Slowly then, eyelids open like curtains lifting stage-center. And sure enough, there’s our world, just the way we’ve built it.” – Richard Bach.

    He’s one author who “got it” long before the New Age movement did and made the concept popular. :)

  • Randall Preston

    Randall Preston

    November 13th, 2011 at 6:27 PM

    Yes, yes and yes! She’s right, Zoey is. Try doing that consistently for one month Robyn and see what difference it makes when you simply release negative thoughts the minute they pop up and replace them with a positive one. You’ll be pleasantly surprised in how life begins to smooth out and obstacles disappear. Your thoughts do create your reality-and they don’t need your permission to do so.

  • Dylan Roach

    Dylan Roach

    November 13th, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    @steve h- Psychology is a very complicated field, and many aspects have been dissected, debated and disputed depending upon which school of thought you wished to follow and/or which century you’re in. About the only thing psychologists will agree on is that no two minds are identical and that’s why there is such dissonance. That’s what makes psychology so fascinating to study. What works for one may not for another. What’s clear is that the layman is yet to grasp the power of the mind can have in reshaping our physical body and mental faculties.

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