Writing a weekly column has been enjoyable. It has been great to examine a variety of issues that are important to the muscular dystrophy community. It also provides a way for people to share ideas.
I’ve done a dozen columns so far, and this is my lucky 13. This has significance because I want to talk about the power of positive thinking. There are books, talks, and courses focused on this topic, so it has received attention by many. But is positive thinking really effective? Can we really feel better and be more productive through positive thinking?
The second part of the equation is whether we can actually learn to think in a positive way. If there are benefits to being a positive thinker, how much can we learn to increase these thoughts? If we can’t learn to think positively, we are resigned to living with our negative thoughts.
Those of you who have followed my columns may have a sense of where I’m headed. My very first column talked about starting something new. Positive thinking begins with that passion. My subsequent columns on goal setting and creative living also had a strong focus on positivism.
In these columns, I mentioned that positive thinking is important and attainable. This theme also comes through in my most recent column about the power of words. The reality of positive self-talk is that the words we choose fuel positive emotional changes.
One of the strongest studies on positive thinking was done by Barbara L. Fredrickson back in 2004, at the University of Michigan. You can see the entire study here, but I want to quote its powerful conclusion:
“The theory, together with the research reviewed here, suggests that positive emotions: (i) broaden people’s attention and thinking; (ii) undo lingering negative emotional arousal; (iii) fuel psychological resilience; (iv) build consequential personal resources; (v) trigger upward spirals towards greater well-being in the future; and (vi) seed human flourishing.”
The study goes on to say that positive emotions produce a good feeling about oneself. Furthermore, spreading positivity throughout the community makes a positive change in others’ lives, which has a lasting effect on their health.
During my graduate studies in psychology, I learned about the form of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The Mayo Clinic website makes these important points:
- “CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.”
- “CBT can be an effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations.” (Meaning not just individuals with mental health conditions).
The biggest challenge for people is breaking out of the cycle of negativity. I know it isn’t easy to achieve positive thinking and leave behind the negative thoughts.
The first step is learning that meditation can be invaluable. It takes time to achieve, but I can say that this way of influencing your mindset can help you throughout the day. Start the day with at least 15 minutes of meditation, following a guided routine.
Focus on setting small but achievable goals, and after each success, take time to absorb the feeling of accomplishment. My column on setting goals can guide you.
The most important action when you catch yourself in a negative thought is to stop it immediately. Stop the negativity and go back to the thoughts of success. Think of things you enjoy, plans you have ahead, or even dreams and fantasies of the future.
All this takes time, and you may occasionally feel that you are failing. But doing this for 21 days will begin to make it more automatic. This thinking process must be learned, and you will have a learning curve, but each month you will be better.
Remember, positive thoughts are attainable. And positive thoughts create real emotional and physical strength. Let’s start this today. As always, I want your input, and I would love to hear from you about a month after you start your routine.
Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.