Metaphorically speaking, cold hands, warm heart seems a good way to sum up how we can choose to focus on either the positive, or negative in any situation and experience a burst of good feeling, or a gloomy negative feeling as a result. The impact of our thoughts is more powerful than we might realise.
Positive thinking is a bit of a buzz word that can summon up ghosts and ghoulies of the' new age' as well as a more general understanding and acceptance of this phenomenon. Yes, it is scientifically proved that you can actively affect your future and live a longer, healthier, happier life by choosing to think positive thoughts but could there be a downside too? I am outlining three studies I came across that have rather different angles and conclusions. I hope you find them interesting too.
The Film Clip Study
The first study I looked at divided participants into five groups and showed them film clips that were either showing joy, contentment ,neutrality, fear or anger.
Afterwards, the groups were asked what they would do if a similar feeling were to arise in them. The two control groups who were shown the negative images wrote very little. The neutral group wrote a medium amount but the people who had seen the two positive film clips wrote significantly more than the other three groups. The psychologist leading the experiment explained that this was because when faced with danger the brain responds by focusing down to deal with the threat.
Less Capacity to Find Solutions
This means limiting the broad functioning of the brain to give more power to the immediate situation such as heightening the functioning of the reflexes. Even though the danger was not real as it was only a film clip the participants saw, the brain cannot tell the difference, and the same types of responses occur internally.
Fear leads to bodily changes
Every time we choose to focus on fearful outcomes thinking ahead in our lives, we force our brains into reduced capacity, at the same time receiving the physical effects that would be needed in a real-life 'flight or flight' scenario. Bodily responses like reduced capacity to digest food, emergency elimination of food, heightened adrenaline and cortisol ,leading to higher blood pressure and more, all kick in. Eventually, and increasingly frequently, we fail to hear the inner prompts to relax, the before we know it our stressed brain and body states become our norm..
Do we have the power to change our thinking?
We forget that we have choices in our thinking but we really do have the power to change our thoughts by just noticing where our thoughts are leading us and focusing instead on the positives in the moment and bringing awareness to the messages we feed ourselves about ourselves in order for us to be able to take steps to change beliefs we have that really don't serve us at all.
What constitutes positives?
To put yourself in a space where creative possibilities for positive future outcomes come to mind you need to be able to switch off from the fear state so feed yourself with positives: find positive articles to inspire, get out in nature and appreciate its beauty. Find gratitude for small things, even being grateful for our senses: sight, hearing, touch, etc. Take time to be still.
These tactics are ways of seeing I have identified that have changed my life. I have also chosen to actively get to the roots of learned patterns of response, which has brought noticeable changes to my energy levels and ability to maintain a positive mood.
All in all, this year in particular, has been such a difficult year for so many, and for many just the thought of choosing Christmas presents might be stressful, as jobs are threatened and people are worried how far the money will stretch, but we can benefit each other and ourselves in a way that brings a different kind of gift, - a gift that is probably much more valuable than the gifts you can buy in a shop.
We can bring the gift of presence to ourselves and let the consequences of that spread to our environment and all those we come into contact with.
In real terms, more peace means less arguments, more positivity attracts better future outcomes, better health as a result of taking control of one's thoughts will bring all sorts of benefits, both to oneself and others - fewer digestive issues means less 'farts' which has got to be a good start ho ho - and more gratitude leads to a softer, kinder way of being in this world, which spreads ripples far and wide.
More Effects of Positive Thinking
There have been many studies over the years that demonstrate the positive effects of optimism on health and wellbeing but for the purpose of the blog I have chosen three rather different studies that I think consider the question from rather interesting angles.