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Positive thinking and health

 
steward
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I invite you to join in having a discussion on how thinking positive to stay healthy, especially during covid, can benefit us. I’d like to share my thoughts and a turning point in my life. I think most of us are aware of things like eating right, staying hydrated, getting some amount of exercise, and doing things like washing our hands and even choosing to wear a mask, not only for ourselves but for others too. But I believe there’s an oversight that hasn’t garnered much attention, and it’s health related to how we think. If we look around and pay attention, there’s a lot of polarizing issues and divisiveness occurring in countries across the globe, and here in America we have an election year along with covid. People unfortunately are taking sides such as red or blue, mask or anti mask, each side creating an us v them mentality, and each one believing they’re right with few stopping to think about the greater whole instead of just the individual self. There seems to be a growing divide and conquer thought process. I think this is largely fueled by fear, bad news and deliberate fear mongering by media with consequences that are not limited to dividing communities and destroying friendships and families.

I think in todays world we need calmness and sensibility, thinking and acting from a place of centeredness and calm that is rooted in positive thinking, instead of reacting with emotion and the ego. I imagine there are at least a few out there who would agree with me.

Negative thinking, especially the continuous, daily worry not just from problems from each owns personal life but also “news” and the spillover that occurs in non-traditional internet news sources like youtube or reddit. Negative information and bad news is everywhere regardless of whether it's credible or fake. It can be difficult to avoid and it can be stressful, and mental stress can cause physical health problems aside from having a poor outlook.

Fear, worry and despair are mind poison. Are you familiar with the old saying don’t worry yourself sick, or you’re gonna worry yourself to death? I think there’s a reason old cliche’s stick around and I think there’s something to it. I believe the solution, dare I say cure, is love.  Thinking positive and from a place of love can have many benefits, including health benefits, and often without trying it can spread to others, benefiting them, and it’s not difficult. Simple things like thinking about how great next seasons garden is going to be instead of whatever worrying thought of the moment. Smiling and waving to a neighbor manifests love. Taking a few seconds to write I love you on a scrap piece of paper and giving it to your spouse, child or parent will manifest love and positive thinking. Try it, it may make you smile, and I think most assuredly will make the recipient smile. Spontaneous things like these interrupt autopilot thought processes like worry for both people. Perhaps even deliberately start a conversation with a friend, housemate, child or spouse to talk about something positive and get the mind off the hamster wheel of worry.

We are often creatures of habit, and I think the first step to changing how we think is awareness. If we notice the negative thinking, then we are aware and suddenly a choice presents itself. Now it’s up to each of us to willfully keep thinking negative or to change and choose to think of something positive. And when we slip back into negative thinking, soon we will notice again and have a choice again. And each time we notice, awareness builds. As we consciously choose positive thinking when our idle minds want to wander into the negative space, positive thinking displaces the negative. And if we visualize a pie chart, with time the positive slice grows and one day, it will be greater than the negative slice. And as days grow to be joyful, the negative will continue to decline. Thinking positive from a place of love nurtures not only the person doing the positive thinking, but it also has positive effects on others that interact with them.

Not too long ago I had an epiphany of thought. I imagined myself old and dying, reflecting back on my life. And I thought about a lifetime of negative thinking, worry and fear and realizing that I squandered a lifetime in mental suffering and all the self-inflicted limitations that comes with it. Then I imagined myself reflecting back on a life of having positive thoughts, having days of learning and creating and doing things that are joyful and benefit not only myself but others as well. And I then realized I couldn’t go back, and began to consciously choose to think positive and my life has changed forever. I can say it’s amazing, and I feel great. Change your thinking, change your life.

I hope this post inspires at least one person to choose to change how they think.

More reading for those so inclined:
Positive Thinking in Coping with Stress and Health outcomes: Literature Review
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950
https://jamesclear.com/positive-thinking


 
pollinator
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I agree that getting mastery over our thoughts and emotions can be a huge thing for our health and happiness.  Your post made me think of this recent blog by Chris Martenson.  It's not exactly on the same topic but strongly related I think.  He's talking about the difference between depression and demoralization, how this can be caused by your cognitive map no longer aligning with the actual circumstances of life.  Ways to help this are to work to align what you know with what you do.  He also introduces a term for the anxiety so many of us are feeling right now, zozobra.  Here's a short quote from the conclusion section of the blog post:

If you are feeling nervous, angry or fearful – congratulations! – there’s nothing at all wrong with you.  In fact, your senses are operating normally, and your cognition is on the mark.  You are having an adjustment reaction, your cognitive map has a better grasp on reality than your culture, and zozobra is par for the course.

The most valuable part of naming and understanding these things is that they lose their ability to paralyze you with dread.

Our emotions are not “the truth”, but rather uncomfortable sensations that serve as an early warning system.  They are like a quantum processor able to parse through massively complex systems and situations way before our cortex can offer any guidance.

There’s also a comfort – a relief – that comes from understanding that our reactions are both perfectly normal and perfectly healthy.



For myself I do try to limit exposure to mass media.  I tossed the TV out decades ago and have never missed it.  I quit listening to commercial radio around the same time.  These days the vile mental poisons tend to get in via the internet.  I need to do a better job at controlling that.  Even more so though I do try to be aware of my thoughts and observe when they drift to being overly negative.  Then it's a matter of trying to observe what the specific trigger for that was so I know what to be wary of in the future, or do my best to cut out if need be.  
 
David Huang
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Well, just this morning I got an email from the Food Revolution Network with a link to this article about the neuroscience of gratitude.  It has links to some of the different studies supporting the claims.  Here's a short quote from it:

People who express more gratitude have:

   Fewer headaches, gastrointestinal difficulties, and respiratory infections — and better sleep.
   Improved mental health and happiness.
   Reduced stress and cortisol levels during pregnancy.
   Better health outcomes for people with chronic diseases like heart disease.
   Less emotional exhaustion, more happiness, and better work-life balance.


 
James Freyr
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Great article David. I think that positive thinking encompasses many things and gratitude is one of them. Thank you for sharing!

 
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Years ago when I worked at a Psychiatric Hospital in Ontario, Canada, I had access to all the articles the hospital library had access to. Following a comment in a staff meeting about "The Placebo Effect" I did some hunting. I found one double blind study that suggested the "Placebo Effect" could be as high as 60%. Personally, I took this a *very* different way than most people. To me, it confirmed my belief that many patients could heal themselves, partially or wholly, by having compassionate caregivers helping them believe in themselves and doing *exactly* what James Freyr says in his OP - gaining health and comfort through positive thinking and love.

People will then claim things like, "but the placebo effect doesn't last" - think how hard it is to keep thinking positively when surrounded by so many negatives in our lives and so much fear mongering and sensationalism? So yes, many of these people will take repeated helping over time, but I've seen on a number of occasions how each new input actually helped take the person higher than they'd been before. Getting well and thinking positively frequently aren't straight-line events, but if we as individuals and as communities can work on a zigzag line that heads upward, with us supporting each other and ourselves when something triggers a slide downward, I can see a growth in positive thinking that leads to positive outcomes.

Personally, it can be a big struggle when anger and frustration and weakness and pain combine to frustrate any effort at positive thinking. I find that I need to focus on a positive thing I did or a small project I successfully finished, or even finishing the first step in large project, and try to get my brain back on track!
 
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I thought about this thread today while I was on the treadmill. I *greatly* dislike exercising, but I do it because I know I will be glad afterward (right now, I feel like a million bucks). It takes some effort to talk myself into it every. single. time. (i'm not even kidding). But I do it because it makes my life better.
Positive attitude is also something I had to learn how to do. In my case, I had an excellent therapist some years ago when dealing with post-partum depression who taught me that it is just like physical training, you can learn (I am by no means naturally a sunny, positive person by nature!). Instead of "I can't" you can say "I can do this for 10 seconds, then we'll re-evaluate." "It didn't kill me last time, maybe I'll live." Instead of listening to the nasty voice I used to hear telling me it was useless to even try changing things, I could say, "hm, that's not necessarily true. Let's give it a try". Instead of falling into despair when I got bad news about my health, I was able to say "I'm really lucky to have found out early enough to have surgery and not have to do chemo".
Sometimes, sure, I feel like the biggest Pollyanna, faking it til I'm making it. Like laughter therapy. But if you've ever tried laughter therapy (which I suggest highly, it's ridiculous in the best way), you find that by the end you are laughing for real, with a real smile on your face (and there are supposedly clinical results).
The way I see it is I want to enjoy the time I have here, and I'll use whatever tools work. Self-care has a bad rap as being all bubble baths and bat-poo-facials, but caring for your mood makes everything easier to deal with.
 
pollinator
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Many years ago when finances were an immense challenge (self employed/feast or famine) I adopted the attitude of "have I done EVERYTHING I possibly can to make (car insurance, mortgage, cell bill, power bill...) the payment?". When the answer was yes, despite being just days away from a missed payment, I simply "let it go". There was no point "stressing" over something I could not change and had done my absolute best to meet.

Oddly, it almost always worked out - whether a job came in at the last hour, or a donation was made for assisting someone with a wildlife issue, or a loan suddenly got repaid... There is no real explanation for HOW these things came at just the right time, but somehow they did.

It just made no sense to me to wallow in the negativity; to waste time "worrying" or to beat myself up - so I let it go. I am very fortunate to be a "glass half full" type of person, able to literally find the silver lining in ANY mishap or "bad" thing. So yes, I do feel very strongly that attitude deeply affects our health and well being; manifesting negativity WILL "make you sick" - if only from the most basic chemical level of cortisol (stress hormone) flooding our bodies.  

But I also think it goes much further, even to possibly something as serious as cancer being caused, in part, by negativity.  Significant negative thinking about "things" or "actions" or as simple as "hating" a certain body part, thing or action taken, I think can and will manifest in illness such as cancer. The action of a tumour is nasty, aggressive, and angry - potentially and laterally, negative emotions.

I find myself constantly seeking to turn negatives into positives (if something is 90% negative, I will focus on the 10% that is positive), the rainbow in the rain, the light at the end...

I refuse to dwell on shoulda, coulda, woulda's; I chose to term what others call mistakes as "learning experiences". As to the placebo effect, I think it works because it makes the user believe they have regained control with the simple action of "doing" something, is empowering. If you believe the sugar pill WILL make you better, healthier, smarter, whatever, you will FEEL better, healthier, smarter - because you actively DID something to attain this success.

All you have to do is look to religion - in my opinion an ancient placebo - and how a simple "belief" can work literal miracles.  

My suggestion, no matter what the negative thought or issue is, seek the kernel of positivity, and focus on that, instead. If you can't do that, try at least to be grateful for what you DO have and focus on that.

At the end of the day, most of our issues and negativity is, embarrassingly, "first world".  

I venture to suggest that short of lacking the basics of food, water, shelter and health we really have NOTHING to be negative about - most of us are surrounded by an absolute wealth of riches, have our basic needs met, and have access to quality medical care. We are incredibly lucky, and need to live every moment of every day grateful for such abundance.  
 
James Freyr
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Lorinne Anderson wrote:...to waste time "worrying"...



Reminds me of some wise words that have come into my life more than once, at appropriate times it seems. I don't know the exact original or who said it, but it goes something like this: Worrying is like paying interest on a debt never owed.

Like you, I do my best to find the positive in everything, even "bad" events or circumstances as I think there is something to learn there too. I've found it amazing how good life can be, just by thinking how good life can be.

 
This. Exactly this. This is what my therapist has been talking about. And now with a tiny ad:
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
https://permies.com/t/61704/Food-Forest-Card-Game-Game
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