Think Happy Thoughts: How Positive Thinking Affects Your Health

What Negative Thoughts Do to Your Brain

Consider this: you’re on a nice hike in the great outdoors like I suggested in my previous post.  While you’re out and about, you encounter a bear, fear overtakes you–you run away as fast as possible without considering any other possibilities.  Of course, there’s nothing obviously wrong with this scenario, you’re (hopefully) saving your own life.  The problem, however, lies in our instinctual reliance on our emotions.  Negative emotions narrow the human mind.  We instinctually block the outside world and limit our perception of the options around us.

Think about it.  When we are in an argument with someone, it consumes our every thought and a lot of our energy.  Sometimes, we have a hard time moving forward on our to-do lists because of how stressed and overwhelmed we become about the volume of to-dos.  In any case, negative thoughts paralyze our thoughts and narrow our minds.

Positive thoughts, on the other hand, broaden our perspectives and allow us to consider more options.  Beyond making us feel happy, positive emotions enhance our ability to build skills and develop resources for use later in life.

Psychologist Barbra Fredrickson refers to this experience as the “broaden and build” theory as positive emotions can broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind.  This, then allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life.

Like I previously wrote, negative emotions do the opposite because there is no instinctual use for building skills as the future is irrelevant when there is an immediate danger or threat (such as the bear on your hike or the endless tasks on your to-do list)

How can habitually negative people apply “broaden and build” theory in their lives?  Pursue joy!  What activities make you happy?  I personally love taking a nice hike, painting, hanging out with my kids, reading, and the following possibilities:

1. Meditation, prayer, and Yoga: Research demonstrates that taking the time to be quiet in meditation or prayer increases happiness and healthiness.  Yoga has a similar effect on the psyche as it raises endorphins (happiness hormone) and feelings of peace within you

2. Writing: This study examined 2 groups college students.  This first group wrote about positive experiences in a happy perspective while the other group wrote about negative topics chosen by the researchers.  Months later, the positive group experienced happier emotions overall, fewer health center visits, and had fewer sicknesses.

3. Play: It’s vital to your health and happiness to schedule “playtime” for yourself amongst your endless appointments and commitments.  As kids, we alleyways planned playdates–times were simpler, we were happier and more carefree.  Give back to yourself and do something silly or something you enjoy every week.

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