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 Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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