It's no secret - the very real power of positive thinking

Put simply, if you think and feel negative thoughts and emotions, you will attract negativity to your life. If you think and feel positive thoughts and emotions, you’ll attract positivity. Believers of this idea claim that they have been able to improve their wealth, health, and relationships – among other things – using this method.

‘The Secret’

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last eight years, you’ve likely heard about the phenomenon that is ‘The Secret’. This self-help program – which is based off the 2006 best-selling book and earlier movie of the same name – hypothesis that the use of positive thinking and the power of intention can link us to a universal frequency and stimulate the ‘law of attraction’, in order to manifest positive outcomes in our life.

The book itself has sold over 19 million copies in 46 languages and the resulting self-help courses, manuals, seminars, talk show segments and other spin-offs purchased or attended by the concept’s cult-like followers have certainly created wealth for the writer, Rhonda Byrne! It has also created a lot of controversy, with detractors claiming there is no proof whatsoever that the concept works.

Whether or not you yourself believe that ‘The Secret’ works, or that it’s a load of bovine excrement designed to suck in rich yuppies and gullible hipsters, one thing is for sure – the act of positive thinking CAN improve your life, regardless of how ‘lah-dee-dah’ you think it is!

The Power of Positive Thinking

Researchers of this concept have started to show that – far from just making you feel or appear happy – positive thinking can actually create a significant positive impact in your life and help you to build soft skills and traits that will last into the future. University of North Carolina psychology researcher, Barbara Fredrickson, is renowned in her field and has recently published a breakthrough paper offering some amazing insight into the power and skill-building effects of positive thinking.

Positive emotions and its effects

Fredrickson investigated how positive emotions can affect the brain by dividing her research subjects into five separate groups and showing teach group a different type of video clip. Group one was exposed to joyful images, group two saw images of contentment – both were designed to trigger a positive response. Group three – the control group – were shown neutral images. Groups four and five saw fear and anger images respectively, designed to trigger a negative response.  

After viewing these video clips, the participants were asked to imagine themselves in a situation that would elicit the same response from the videos. Then, each person was asked to write down what they would do (actions) in response to their imagined situation; however, they were given a sheet of paper with 20 lines, beginning with ‘I would like to…’. Interestingly, the people who experienced the negative videos and imagined scenarios ended up writing down the least number of responses, whereas the positive group wrote significantly more – even in comparison to the control group.

This aspect of the experiment seemed to indicate that people experiencing positive emotions (such as contentment, joy, love etc.) can see a greater number of possibilities when making a decision. Those experiencing negative emotions find it difficult to think clearly, which narrows their range of possibilities. It is thought that this is because negative emotions make a person experience a similar state of mind as those experiencing fear (which – of course – is also a negative emotion). Because of this, a type of ‘fight or flight’ response occurs, and the focus of the person is narrowed down to thinking about the cause of their negative feelings, rather than the bigger picture.

Positive emotions and skill building

Another extremely interesting finding in this study was that positive emotions and actions also build skill sets. As an example, a negative-thinking person is more likely to be withdrawn, antisocial and concentrating on the circumstances or feelings that are causing them to feel negativity.

In contrast, a positive-thinking person is more likely to be social and communicative (which increases social and communication skills), more likely to participate in group activities, such as sport (physical skills), as well as take a much broader interest in what’s going on in the world around them (creative skills). All of these skills are valuable soft skills that can be used in the short and long term and will continue to develop in strength the longer the individual remains positive.

The Power of Positive Thinking

Fredrickson posits that this effect – which she dubs the ‘Broaden and build’ theory – is an extremely valuable asset for all aspects of life and for people of all ages. So, as you can see, the act of positive thinking opens your mind and broadens your ability to see possibilities, allowing your skills to thrive and improve all aspects of your life!

The CFS Team
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