The science behind positive thinking…and why negative thinking ain’t always that bad!

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Upbeat, cheerful, optimistic, positive, enthusiastic – all the traits we can admire in others and aspire to in ourselves.

Perhaps you’re naturally an optimistic person? Or are you more inclined towards caution and pessimism?  Despite everything you might read, there is good in both!

Negative thinking has had a bad press… but it’s there for a purpose. In a nut shell it’s a vital survival mechanism.  When our forebears were faced with a sabre-toothed tiger their “hind brain” immediately puts them into “fight or flight” mode.

Fear, as a ‘negative’ emotion, narrows the mind and focuses your thoughts.  Nothing else matters except escaping or fighting for your survival.

Our brains are still programmed to react in this way – but without the sabre-toothed tiger, we now face stress at work, with our finances and within the family, a constant to-do list that never seems to end, and fear or anger can sweep into our lives for multiple reasons.

All these things trigger our hind brain, and negative thinking.

But negative thinking or pessimism can help you too.   Watching out for risks to your children is inbuilt, and has saved many from walking into the path of a car!  Getting anxious about a work project gives you the opportunity to consider risks and have a back-up plan.  Having a “worrier” on your team can be a real bonus as they can see possible dangers where the more laid-back, ever-sunny person sings out, “It’ll be fine!”

Of course, we know that positive thinking is good for us too, and scientific research backs this up.  Barbara Fredrickson is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, and her studies have shown that the impact of positive emotions on our brain helps us to have a broader, more open and creative outlook on life.

The feelings of contentment, calm, joy, or love literally open our mind to new possibilities, choices and options. It boosts our immune system, creativity, relationships, resilience (our “bounce-back-ability”) and life quality.

So, as I said at the start, negative as well as positive thinking are both essential to us. But, like all things in life, it’s a question of balance…

Top Tip!  At the end of each day write down “What Went Well”.  We so often focus on what went wrong, or what we didn’t get done, that we can feel stressed and downhearted.   Boost your mood naturally through a simple, but highly effective daily practice – do this for 10 days and notice the difference!

This is just one of many highly effective tools that you’ll learn how to use in the “From Surviving to Thriving” evening course which starts on Wednesday 7th February in Axbridge, nr Cheddar, Somerset.

Watch this space for more helpful blogs!