31 Dec The unrelenting power of positive thinking
I get good parking spots. Usually up front, almost every-time. Why? Luck? (I don’t believe in luck), or:
- am I more patient to find the good spot
- have better timing to find the spot
- take the leap of faith to look in the front row
- am opportunistic to see people about to leave
Probably all over the above! The other thing, is I don’t get disappointed if I get a crappy spot and sometimes I even give a good spot away to someone else. Perhaps it all boils down perspective.
Perhaps it’s all about positive thinking.
I read a self-help book years ago that boosted making “dream boards”, exuding positive energy and imagining the “win”…all stuff any good football, Olympic or life coach speaks. Imagine the win, now work the process backwards. How do we get there? A major part of it asides (talent, hard work) is positive thinking.
Our brains are giant jerks most of the time. We have bad thoughts, make assumptions based on historical experience, belittle our value or opportunity and perhaps judge others unfairly.
Barbara Fredrickson is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, published a landmark paper that provides surprising insights about positive thinking and its impact on your life skills.
Fredrickson tested the impact of positive emotions on the brain by setting up a couple of experiments. During this experiment, she divided her research subjects into five groups and showed each group different film clips.
- The first two groups were shown clips that created positive emotions. Group 1 saw images that created feelings of joy. Group 2 saw images that created feelings of contentment.
- Group 3 was the control group. They saw images that were neutral and produced no significant emotion.
- The last two groups were shown clips that created negative emotions. Group 4 saw images that created feelings of fear. Group 5 saw images that created feelings of anger.
Afterward, each participant was asked to imagine themselves in a situation where similar feelings would arise and to write down what they would do. Each participant was handed a piece of paper with 20 blank lines that started with the phrase, “I would like to…”
Participants who saw images of fear and anger wrote down the fewest responses. Meanwhile, the participants who saw images of joy and contentment, wrote down a significantly higher number of actions that they would take, even when compared to the neutral group.
In other words, when you are experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, you will see more possibilities in your life. These findings were among the first that suggested positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to more options. There were also similar experiments with meditation. Imagine people who watch a lot of negative news…and their perspective? Turn that crap off and watch something happy.
Perspective and a positive outlook can open your imagination to possibility…like always getting a good parking spot.
How to Start 2017 more Positive:
Meditate —People who meditate daily display more positive emotions that those who do not. As expected, people who meditated also built valuable long-term skills. For example, three months after Frederickson’s experiment, some people who meditated daily continued to display increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, and decreased illness symptoms. I get my fill in yoga.
Writing — The Journal of Research in Personality, examined a group of 90 undergraduate students who were split into two groups. The first group wrote about an intensely positive experience each day for three consecutive days. The second group wrote about a control topic. Three months later, the students who wrote about positive experiences had better mood levels, fewer visits to the health center, and experienced fewer illnesses. Keep a journal…Blog (HELLO?, that’s what I do when I have time) and get away from internet negative conversations (topic for another day)
Fun — Schedule time to have fun. We schedule meetings, doctor appointments, conference calls, weekly events, and other responsibilities …schedule FUN!, PLAY! Whatever brings you joy. I schedule my yoga and friend time.
Which came first? Happiness vs. Success? Good Parking vs. Positive thoughts?
There’s no doubt that happiness is the result of achievement. Winning the Gold Medal, landing a better job, finding someone you love, getting the RSP (Rock Start Parking spot) — these things will bring joy and contentment to your life. But so often, we wrongly assume that this means happiness always follows success (or weight loss, just saying)
How often have you thought, “If I just get ___, then I’ll be happy.”
In other words, happiness is both the precursor to success and the result of it.
In fact, researchers have often noticed a compounding effect or an “upward spiral” that occurs with happy people. They are happy, so they develop new skills, those skills lead to new success, which results in more happiness, and the process repeats itself. I mean it’s a crazy awesome way to live.
I am witness to my own good fortune of becoming more positive minded this year as well as the benefits of that positive energy. Weight loss, new friendships, self-love, forgiveness….it’s not all rosy and perfect, but I have gained so much more in love and happiness than loss or negative.
So think positive, retrain that jerk brain in 2017 and maybe you can park next to me in the front row.
Happy New Year, I know it’s going to be great.
And always, Peace.