Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Power of Positive Thought

"If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would
never think a negative thought.

- Peace Pilgrim     

Smile! It's Good for You!

In the fast-paced life in the city, it is hard to see someone who always manage to put a smile on their face, especially if they work two or three stressful jobs while balancing a family and their own personal life (if they manage to have one) on the other end of the scale. It is hard, been there, but through it all, when things seemed to be out of your control, thinking positive can and will make things clear, if not better (yet).

Do you know anyone who seems to always smile and keeps a positive thought? Are you one of the optimistic in spite of the negative goings-on around you? If you see hardships as "learning experiences", and believes that even the most miserable day always holds the promise of a better tomorrow, if you always see the brighter side of things, then you eventually will feel that you experience more positive events in your life than others, you will find yourself less stressed, and will even enjoy greater health benefits. You are not imagining things! Optimistic views in life DO carry certain advantages - and that is based on Evidence-based research!

The Benefits of Being an Optimist

1.) Superior Health: In a study of 99 Harvard University students, those who were optimists at age 25 were significantly healthier at ages 45 and 60 than those who were pessimists. Other studies have linked a pessimistic explanatory style with higher rates of infectious disease, poor health, and earlier mortality.

2.) Greater Achievement: Researchers analyzed the explanatory styles of sports teams and found that the more optimistic teams created more positive synergy and performed better than the pessimistic ones. Another study showed that pessimistic swimmers who were led to believe they’d done worse than they had were prone to future poor performance. Optimistic swimmers didn’t have this vulnerability. Research like this has led some companies to go out of their way to hire optimists -- a practice that seems to be paying off.

3.) Persistence: Optimists don’t give up as easily as pessimists, and they are more likely to achieve success because of it. Some optimistic businessmen, like Donald Trump, have been bankrupt (even multiple times), but have been able to persist and turn their failures into millions.

4.) Emotional Health: In a study of clinically depressed patients, it was discovered that 12 weeks of cognitive therapy (which involves reframing a person's thought processes) worked better than drugs, as changes were more long-lasting than a temporary fix. Patients who had this training in optimism had the ability to more effectively handle future setbacks.

5.) Increased Longevity: In a retrospective study of 34 healthy Hall of Fame baseball players who played between 1900 and 1950, optimists lived significantly longer. Other studies have shown that optimistic breast cancer patients had better health outcomes than pessimistic and hopeless patients.

6.) Less  Stress: Optimists also tend to experience less stress than pessimists or realists. Because they believe in themselves and their abilities, they expect good things to happen. They see negative events as minor setbacks to be easily overcome, and view positive events as evidence of further good things to come. Believing in themselves, they also take more risks and create more positive events in their lives. Additionally, research shows that optimists are more proactive with stress management, favoring approaches that reduce or eliminate stressors and their emotional consequences. Optimists work harder at stress management, so they're less stressed.

A Positive "Cause and Effect"

Optimists explain positive events as having happened because of them. They also see them as evidence that more positive things will happen in the future, and in other areas of their lives. Conversely, they see negative events as NOT being their fault. They also see them as being flukes that have nothing to do with other areas of their lives or future events. For example, if an optimist gets a promotion, she will likely believe it’s because she’s good at her job and will receive more benefits and promotion in the future. If she’s passed over for the promotion, it’s likely because she was having an off-month because of extenuating circumstances, but will do better in the future. 

Understandably, if you’re an optimist, this bodes well for your future. Negative events are more likely to roll off of your back, but positive events affirm your belief in yourself, your ability to make good things happen now and in the future, and in the goodness of life. As for the pessimists and realists, these patterns of thinking can be learned to a degree, though we tend to be mostly predisposed to our patterns of thinking. Using a practice called ‘cognitive restructuring,' you can help yourself and others become more optimistic by consciously challenging negative, self-limiting thinking and replacing it with more optimistic thought patterns. That is the Power of Positive Thoughts for you!

The excerpts above: "The Benefits of Being an Optimist" was originally written by Elizabeth Scott, M.S.
in her column in Guide dated Jan 24, 2012, content of which was reviewed by
Peterson, Christopher; Seligman, Martin E.; Vaillant, George E, of the
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

- Leo Feraer-Oporto     

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