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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Essay: Does positive thinking really work?

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Does positive thinking really work?

From the book: Chum for Thought: Throwing Ideas into Dangerous Waters by David Satterlee

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#Goals, #Focus, #Persistence, #Influence
Chum For Thought:
Throwing Ideas into Dangerous Waters


Does positive thinking really work?


Can "positive" thinking affect your life? Our beliefs often seem to be self-confirming, and we commonly believe in self-fulfilling prophecy, a prediction that makes itself come true. Napoleon Hill wrote a best-selling book years ago called, "Think and Grow Rich," which has gained renewed interest from the public recently.

Also gaining in popularity are the books/CD’s by Dr. Wayne Dyer, Dr. Deepak Chopra, and Mike Dooley regarding one’s ability to think one’s way into health, wealth, and happiness. More recently, a book and movie called "The Secret," talk about a person’s ability to "think" themselves rich, healthy, and happy and gives testimonies from "real" people. Does this stuff really work?

The most obvious answer to the power of positive thinking is the idea that
the place you keep looking at is the destination at which you are most likely to arrive.

People naturally seek to have control over the events in their lives and will seize whatever tools their belief system offers to exert that control. Depending on their personal and cultural developmental level, they may use:
Magic power (such as making a lucky sign) to directly influence things;
Mythic power (such as prayer) to influence their God to influence things; or
Rational power (such as a scientific theory) to influence things.
The power of positive thinking can be explained from all of these perspectives. For instance, the new science of psychoneuroimmunology explains how interactions of nervous systems, hormones, and neurotransmitters, act to strengthen an organism that pursues a virtuous cycle of positive reinforcement or weaken one that participates in a vicious cycle of despair. I’m reminded of the advice, “Cheer up, things could be worse. So I cheered up and sure enough, things got worse.” and “I eat a live toad the first thing each morning. Nothing worse can happen after that.”

The things we focus on most feed our mental model of the world and influence the subconscious brain functions in specific directions. This can activate our background cognition to focus on goals, and choosing actions that reinforce those expectations. I have a favorite game. Find someone waiting in a line or sitting alone in a chair. Say something nice and ask a sincere question about their opinion. You will be surprised at the delight this will bring to most people. This often results in the both of us warming up to each other, sharing, and discovering hidden pearls of personality, insight, and experience.
Expectations influence perceptions. Positive expectations can help us to view events more positively. The tone of our interactions influence the type of social responses that we receive. Our positive initiative may help others to feel like doing good toward us. I believe that a positive approach is inherently salutary. Although I catch myself making an initial critical judgment in some circumstances, I try to be introspective and adjust my course when I get off to a bad start. Everyone wants to be appreciated and should be credited with giving a sincere best effort.

The secret ingredient to sustaining happiness is to surround yourself in happiness. There is a line from the song "Officer Krupke" in the film "West Side Story" that has a juvenile delinquent wondering "Am I depraved because I’m deprived, or deprived because I’m depraved?" It suggests that we may be in more control of our situation than we sometimes think.

There is also some research that showed that people who form their facial muscles into a smile, even if they don’t feel happy, actually end up feeling happier. In a course on customer service, we were told to always smile before opening our mouth, and if answering a telephone, keep a small mirror just above the phone to make sure that you always answered with a smile. This suggests that there may be some truth to the saying "fake it until you make it."