What Do They Mean By Positive Thinking
What do they mean by positive thinking? I’m not just talking about the “glass half empty – glass half” full cliches. I talking about how to put into practice the paradigm of positive thinking and experience the real health and psychological benefits that you get from positive thinking. Thinking positive is much more than just putting on a smile and bearing through whatever you’re are going through, although there is some evidence in cases to support the idea of the physical effort of being positive leading to the internal or mental state of thinking positive. Positive thinking doesn’t mean you ignore bad things when they happen it just means you react to them differently and approach them in a more positive and productive way.
Health Benefits Of Positive Thinking
According to the Mayo Clinic, the health benefits of positive thinking include.
- Increased lifespan
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
The Science Behind Positive Thinking
Thinking negative thoughts is not entirely bad and did serve an evolutionary purpose. It is part of the flight or fight response. It forces the brain to narrow its choices of response so that we make a quick decision. For instance when we were on the savannah and came across a lion, the stress and negative thoughts caused us to focus and make a quick decision which could save our life.Fortunately in modern day life we don’t have to worry about coming across a lion but these negative emotions prevent us from seeing the other options and choices that surround us.
Barbra Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina did a study on the effects of positive and negative thinking on the brain and what she found was fascinating to me. She did an experiment where she divided her research subjects into five groups and had them look at film clips. One group looked at clips that brought feelings of joy and another saw clips that brought about feelings of contentment. A third group just saw neutral images with little emotion. The last two groups saw clips of negative emotions with one seeing images that produced fear emotions and the other seeing images that produced anger.
After the viewing, each person in each group was given a sheet of paper with the instructions to imagine themselves in the images they viewed and to write down the actions they would take in response. The people in the last two groups who saw the negative images wrote down the fewest actions on their list. The folks in the first two groups that saw images that brought out positive emotions, wrote down considerably more actions then any of the other groups.
The takeaway from this study is that thinking positive thoughts and having positive emotions like joy, contentment and love you have a tendency to see more options and more possibilities in your life. This could get you through and possibly turn into a success any problems you’re having in life.
Steps You Can Take
- Redirect – When you find yourself in an endless cycle of worry stop yourself and remind yourself that it is only a thought and not reality. Redirect your thoughts to positive outcomes or at least distract yourself from the negative ones. It will be hard at first but with continued practice it will get easier and even become second nature.
- Meditation – The practice of mediation can calm the brain down and reduce the instances of anxiety or racing thoughts. This is also a habit that needs to be practiced regularly to get the benefits, but it is well worth the effort.
- Be open to humor – Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult or anxious moments. Sometimes the physical action (smiling or laughter) can influence the mental response.
- Exercise – A healthy exercise regimen has been shown to have a positive effect your mood and reduce stress.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Be sure the folks around you are supportive and are not bringing you down.
Resources For You:
- Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life
- Brain Changer: How Harnessing Your Brain’s Power to Adapt Can Change Your Life
- Ted Talk – Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness
- Trying to be happier really can work: Two experimental studies
- Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
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