I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “thinking”—about positive thinking and how it boosts health. What does it really mean to be a positive thinker? And what, then, is negative thinking? In childhood, parents taught us to be glass-half-full citizens, to look on the bright side, and to try making lemonade out of lemons. But why? What’s the practical benefit of positive thinking?
Research on positive thinking
“Research is beginning to reveal that positive thinking is about much more than just being happy or displaying an upbeat attitude,” said the author of a 2017 Huffington Post article on the topic of positive thinking. “Positive thoughts can actually create real value in your life and help you build skills that last much longer than a smile.”
In 2011, a team of scientists conducted a landmark study on the effects of positive thinking over time and how it can boost health. The results were sobering and powerful. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to discover this life-changing information. The following potent portion of their abstract sums things up quite well:
The authors tested 139 working adults:
“half of whom were randomly assigned to begin a practice of loving-kindness meditation. Results showed that this meditation practice produced increases over time in daily experiences of positive emotions, which, in turn, produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms). In turn, these increments in personal resources predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms.”
Let’s dissect this a little. Did you catch all of the wellness benefits of positive thinking?
Decreased illness symptoms
Reduced depressive symptoms
The abstract mentioned that participants practiced loving-kindness meditation (LKM), which begins with quiet, self-affirming positive thinking. Once you establish good vibes about yourself, you then expand the vibe-circle to try and view others with the same positive feeling. Practiced regularly over time, LKM has the power to transform the way you live. You’ll be happier, others around you will be happier, you’ll find more opportunities in the world, and you’ll probably live a longer, healthier life.
Wow. Sign me up!
How do I begin?
So you may be wondering, “How do I begin?” Might I suggest looking up a good yoga studio? As I read all about LKM in the scientific study, I couldn’t help but think how similar many of those principles were to the philosophy of yoga. In fact, as you read the entire study, you begin to understand that LKM is drawing mediation ideas from all around the world. A simple google search of the phrase “Yoga loving kindness meditation” brings up a treasure-trove of content about this.
Read up on what others are saying about this transformative, life-changing mind-set. Then put it into practice for 1 month. It will be much easier to keep this commitment if you regularly-attend a yoga studio. The act of physically going into the studio will be a major reminder of your quest to find more positivity in your life.
The world is in need
The world is in desperate need of more positive people, and it can begin today with you and me. Please join me on this quest and fuse yoga with the practice of loving-kindness mediation. Doing so will make you such much happier, . . . and healthier.
LKM is a technique used to increase feelings of warmth and caring for self and others (Salzberg, 1995). Like other meditation practices, LKM involves quiet contemplation in a seated posture, often with eyes closed and an initial focus on the breath. Yet whereas mindfulness meditation involves training one’s attention toward the present moment in an open-minded (nonjudgmental) way, LKM involves directing one’s emotions toward warm and tender feelings in an open-hearted way. Individuals are first asked to focus on their heart region and contemplate a person for whom they already feel warm and tender feelings (e.g., their child, a close loved one). They are then asked to extend these warm feelings first to themselves and then to an ever-widening circle of others. Thus, LKM may well cultivate broadened attention in addition to positive emotions. According to the broaden-and-build theory, these two experiential consequences go hand in hand.
In LKM, people cultivate the intention to experience positive emotions during the meditation itself, as well as in their life more generally.