by Luke Edward Hays
The phrase positive thinking does come across as feel-good language. Through research it has been revealed that positive thinking is more than just being happy or displaying an upbeat attitude that can create real value in someone’s life. Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, did an experiment to research the different emotional reactions of different groups of people to see how they would respond.
Positive emotions broaden an individual’s momentary thought-action range; these include joy, which sparks the urge to savor and integrate, and love which sparks a recurring cycle of each of these urges within safe close relationships. The second key proposition concerns the consequences of these broadened mindsets. Positive emotions promote discovery of creative actions, ideas and social bonds that in turn builds into that individual’s personal resources. These resources range from physical and intellectual, to social and psychological.
Barbara Fredrickson conducted an experiment where she divided research subjects into five groups. Each group was then show different film clips that created different emotions.
- The first group saw images that created joy.
- The second group saw images that created feelings of contentment.
- Group three was the control group; they were shown images that where neutral and had no significant impact on their emotions.
- The fourth group saw images that created feelings of fear and group five saw images that created feelings of anger. Afterward, participants were asked to imagine themselves in a situation where similar feelings would arise and then write down what they would do.
- The final two groups where shown clips that created negative emotions.
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By the end of the experiment, there were drastically different results. Participants, who saw images of fear and anger, wrote down the fewest responses. The participants who were shown images of joy and containment, wrote down a drastically higher number of actions they would take. These specific results came out even higher when compared to the neutral group.
Barbara Fredrickson refers to the benefits of positive emotions as “The Broaden and Build Theory.” This theory describes the form and functions of a subset of positive emotions. These emotions include joy, interest, contentment and love. The experienced positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind. In turn this allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas in life.
Increasing positive thinking can be accomplished by three different methods. These methods do not only increase your positive thinking, but also results in positive effects on one’s health.
First, take time to write. A study from the Journal of Research in Personality examined 90 undergraduate students. The students where split into two groups. Group one wrote about an intensively positive experience each day for three consecutive days. Group two wrote about a control topic. Following three months of the experiment, the students who wrote about the positive experiences had better mood levels, experienced fewer illnesses and had fewer health center visits.
The second is meditation. Barbara Fredrickson and her colleagues found people who meditated also built valuable long-term skills. It was also revealed that people who meditate daily display more positive emotions than those who do not.
The third may come as a surprise, play. It is important to schedule time to play in your life. It is easy to get caught up in our daily schedule that we can forget to set sometime aside and step back to enjoy a slice of life. Take an opportunity to block out an hour on your calendar or write a reminder to make time for yourself.
Appreciating real value in life begins by thinking positively. The value created helps to build strength that will last throughout your lifetime. When experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love you will see more life possibilities. They may be writing, music, meditation, or anything else that provides more than just a momentary decrease in stress. Once this step is accomplished, our brains will do the work. We need to set time aside to play and seek adventure on a regular basis.
Chopra, D. (2011, December 5). Can positive thinking make you well? Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/05/health/positive-thinking-deepak-chopra/
Clear, J. (2013, July 10). The Science of Positive Thinking: How Positive Thoughts Build Your Skills, Boost Your Health, and Improve Your Work. Retrieved October 29, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-clear/positive-thinking_b_3512202.html
Fredrickson, B. (n.d.). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1693418/
Positive thinking Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2015, from