For those who want happiness in life, who need to achieve something, or who are searching for confidence and self-healing, the solution that is given is often simple: think positive.
While thinking positively may sound both easy and obvious, what do we really know about the power of positive thinking? Are there times when indulging less-than-positive thoughts isn’t bad for our overall wellbeing? Will thinking positively truly affect the outcome of a situation or our lives?
The Evidence that Backs Up the Power of Positive Thinking
Yep – there is actual evidence, collected via scientific studies, that shows that positive thinking can be powerful. In fact, the effect may be so powerful that it is physical.
Consider a study conducted by Barbara Fredrickson, a social psychologist from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Over six-seven weeks, subjects involved in Fredrickson’s study were asked to focus on increasing their daily levels of positive emotions. In order to do this, the subjects were taught some general positive thinking and wellness techniques, such as meditation accompanied by phrases such as “May you be safe,” and “May you live with ease.”
Frederickson concluded that researchers found that doing the above changed the “fundamental rhythms of the heart.” Frederickson also added that researchers were also able to observe how day over day changes in the levels of a person’s positive emotions change things like social connections and resilience.
So Should We All Start Thinking Positively and Push Away Negative Emotions?
It may be true that positive thinking is powerful, but is negative thinking something we should dismiss entirely? A recent article published in Scientific American suggests not, explaining that “negative emotions are key to well-being.” As the article explains, feeling and accepting negative emotions is good for us, and recognizing that life is complex, and often hard, is part of stable psychological health. In fact, feeling negative things–just like experiencing positive emotions–helps us make sense of the rollercoaster of life, provides us with perspective, and provides us with the basis for evaluating our experiences. What’s more, negative motions are natural and inherent for a reason: they aid in our survival – when we feel bad about something, this acts as a sign that perhaps we’re doing something that is bad for our physical or mental health. For example, if you feel bad about your job, it could be a sign that you should pay your situation some much-needed attention.
It’s About Balance
All in life is about balance. Positive thinking is good, and can assist you in changing your attitude and your energy. But if you don’t feel something positive, learning how to cope with those feelings and make sense of them is important too; don’t be so quick to dismiss negative emotions or feel guilty for feeling something negative.