Positive Thinking: It's All in the Mind

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Positive thinking can actually strengthen your brain's ability to experience happiness.

Is positive thinking achievable, or are cheery people just born that way? According to research from Neuropsychologist, Dr. Rick Hanson, positive thinking is simply the stretching a brain muscle. Since experiences physically alter the brain, repeated pleasant events and positive thinking actually shapes the brain to experience greater happiness more often. This raises the question, does the brain change a person's state of mind or does a person's state of mind change the brain? The answer: Both.

What Is Positive Thinking?

Positive thinking is not ceaseless joy. Rather, positive thinking is the way in which someone thinks in response to thoughts and events. Negative thinkers tend to focus on negative aspects and possibilities of events, while positive thinkers focus on the upside. For example , in response to losing a job, a negative thinker might blame others and focus on feelings of failure, whereas a positive thinker feels positive about finding another job, tries to learn from the experience and may time off to take a community college class to learn new career skills.

Benefits of Positive Thinking

Positive thinking leads to happiness, increased personal satisfaction and healthier relationships, says Professor Ann Chastain from Michigan State University. It's physical benefits are astounding — it's associated with longer lifespans, increased resistance to the common cold, lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and lower levels of depression.

Strategies to Increase Positive Thinking

To increase positive thinking, people must learn to think positively in each situation. Strategies that help promote positive thinking include: - Set aside a time each night to think about the day's events in a positive manner - Replace negative language, like"I can't," "I failed" and "It's impossible," with positive language, like "I can," "I am able" and "It is possible" - Challenge yourself to see positive outcomes in difficult circumstances - Make a list of positive things — successes, goals achieved, good experiences, compliments — and hang the list to serve as a reminder It takes practice to change a way of thinking. Fortunately, with practice, continued positive thinking alters the brain, making positive thinking a habit instead of work.

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