Cold hands, warm heart!

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.

Choosing presence

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.

 

 The Nun Study

One study, that took place at the University of Kentucky. looked at autobiographies written way back in 1930 by nuns . The documents were written while the nuns were between the ages ages 18-32. Sixty years on  the surviving nuns were contacted. The researchers found that, half were still alive and all the longest living survivors had  been amongst those rated highest on positivity. The researchers are careful not to draw a  simple conclusion  as there are other factors that may have predicated the outcome such as the linguistic ability of the  high scoring subjects that enabled them to creatively describe their lives in the glowing terms that they did.  Still,  it leaves food for thought...

The College Students' Study

This study is interesting because it shows that the common thinking put forward by advocates of the creative visualization 'what you focus on you will receive' movement, may not be a good model for success after all. However, it also demonstrates that by not having an expectation of success, but still believing one has the ability to succeed  as a result of capability and effort,  there is more likely to be a positive outcome.

In this study, devised by psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen,  83 college students in their last year of studies, were asked to fill in a questionnaire detailing how likely they felt they were to succeed in getting a job, how positive or negative their thoughts/fantasies were  when they visualised the outcome, and how often they thought these thoughts.  

Two years later

They found, following up the study two years later, that the college students who spent most time fantasizing they would do well tended to  put in less effort and actually did less well, getting fewer job offers and overall having lower salaries than their counterparts,  who were concerned that there may be more obstacles to their success, but who were willing to apply more effort and believed that their effort would eventually pay off.

Positive or negative?

The researchers noted also that as blood pressure drops when thinking relaxed and happy thoughts, so too does physical energy, which is normally considered to a plus but which also makes  it less easy to find the physical drive to keep pushing forward,. 

The  conclusion was that positive thought that works the best to provide results does not assume that the positive thought alone will produce the desired outcome, but that believing that one has the capacity to succeed may well influence the outcome, although it is possible that the students who believed they would do well were the high achievers in the first place. The uncertainty, determination, self belief, and a certain amount of stress,  provided the fuel to help the students achieve their goals.

Different kinds of positive thinking?

Note, I would say it is  important to differentiate between the kind of positive thinking that leads to goal orientated success and the positive thinking that leads to daily wellbeing. The author of this study did not discuss this, but though being goal orientated can indeed lead us to achievements which in turn may bring us comforts that support us in life materially, bringing benefits of their own. as well as the feel good factor of success,  if too much time is spent worrying about our next steps, could the result l be counterproductive to wellbeing, as we know our minds need time to relax and be in the moment in order to switch the stress hormones off? Many chronic diseases are the result of an accumulation of imbalances, many of which stem from the inability to 'switch off'. Let us not forget to take action to reconnect to the current of peaceful positivity as we push forward in life, making sure we take time to keep bringing the body and mind back to balance so taking care to avoid the mental, physical and emotional overload and eventual 'burn out' that can so easily make life a misery. 


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