Much research has been published on the benefits of positive thinking. Barbara Frederickson, a professor of psychology at UNC and a leading scholar of positive psychology, has led many NIH supported research projects on the benefits of positive thinking. She asserts that people’s experience with positive emotions accumulates over time to become a resource in the future. The more time we spend depositing into our “positive” bank the more it will accumulate with interest over time. This yields downstream outcomes such as improved sense of purpose, improved social support and marital satisfaction, fewer depressive symptoms and improved health as well as financial wealth. Her research found that “positive emotions momentarily broaden people’s attention and thinking, enabling them to draw on higher-level connections and a wider-than-usual range of percepts or ideas”. These broadened outlooks help these individuals to discover and develop cognitive, psychological, social and physical resources that help with being mindful and finding solutions in the present. This can help us gain a sense of mastery over environment challenges, the ability to give and receive emotional support and the ability to fend off a cold. Sounds vague but also promising.
Society Keeps A Frenetic Pace
My husband and I were watching a 50 year old news clip showing Martin Luther King on Meet The Press a few days ago. I remarked how slowly and calmly each person spoke in the group. There was no interrupting, or sense of impatience. Each person took their time forming and stating their thoughts as each participant listened and in turn spoke. Today the show is fast paced with smaller, less in depth interviews, more interruptions, less listening and more focus on getting the message across. This is a symptom of our culture.
Today we are constantly bombarded with technology. Work doesn’t stop when you leave the office. There are emails, late meetings, and texts to continue into the evening. There are more societal pressures to get our children involved in sports, dance, theater, or music at a very young age in order to catch the wave of success. Between work, family and other demands it is hard to fathom making positive deposits!
How To Create Positive Thinking Deposits on a Shoe String Time Budget
1. Find a group in your community that does guided meditations and learn how to quiet your mind. Contemplative time helps us to connect with our thoughts and dispel false assumptions about the sources of one’s happiness. Suffering really comes from distorted beliefs about our reality. Being still and focusing on the breath helps us to look beyond our fingers and to the spaces between them. Barbara Frederickson also found that meditating in groups significantly augmented positive outcomes versus just doing personal meditation.
2. Practice Loving Kindness Meditation. Take 15 minutes before the day or at the end of the day, go to a quiet room, disconnect from all electronics and sit upright in a chair or on a pillow on the floor. Make sure you are comfortable so that discomfort does not become your focus but make sure your back is straight so you can remain alert. Focus on your breath and state the following loving kindness mantra:
- Let me filled with loving kindness.
- Let me be well.
- Let me be peaceful and at ease,
- Let me be happy.
Start by saying this several times, and then gradually extend it to a loved one, your family, a friend, a coworker, an acquaintance, a group, the world and then the universe. Research indicates that when loving kindness is broadened this way it helps shift people’s basic perspective to themselves in relation to others, increasing empathy and compassion. At a minimum it gives us a break from worries, concerns and moments of anger.
3. Foster gratitude. At the end of the day write down three things you are grateful for that happened that day. It can be as small as a smile someone gave you or a random act of kindness. Keep a journal of these things and see how it changes over time. Notice how your outlook changes.
4. As you fall asleep at night review a scenario that did not go as well as you had wanted that day and replay it in your mind changing it to a more positive scenario. Reworking through challenges to find a more positive approach changes neural pathways in our prefrontal cortex, creating stronger more creative approaches to problems in the future.
We Are What We Think
How we fill our emotional bank can lead to either profits or losses. By taking the time to make positive thinking deposits through group guided meditations, personal meditation, being grateful and reworking challenges with a positive twist will help us to reap rewards in the future with greater sense of purpose, life satisfaction, and success in all our relationships as well as improved health and wealth! Now that is a deposit worth making!