JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - April 2019
Hope, Heart, and Positive Thinking
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
The old saying about the glass-half-full or glass-half-empty is taking on new meaning with recent research about hope and positive thoughts affecting our health. Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, University of Michigan Department of Psychology, has explored the idea that positive emotions broaden our momentary thought-action repertoire of behavior and build long-lasting personal resources.
Negative thoughts have been studied more frequently as it is easier to look at specific stimuli and its effect on us. When we experience something fearful, our body-mind reacts with fight or flight. We respond quickly, perhaps to save our lives. Positive experiences and our reactions to them are harder to measure.
Dr. Fredrickson theorized that if positive emotions like joy, interest or contentment were evoked then a person would be more likely to play, to be creative, have the urge to explore, and savor life experiences.
People viewing film clips to induce joy or contentment were able to identify more things they would like to do relative to those emotions while those viewing clips of fear or anger could name fewer things. Joy and contentment seemed to broaden their ability to create ideas while fear and anger appeared to shrink those possibilities.
When you are experiencing joy, do you see more possibilities for action? When you are fearful or angry, does that tend to stifle your positive response? You may find that having a positive experience makes you feel more joy or contentment in the moment and has the effect or producing a more long-lasting result in how you move forward.
There is also evidence that these positive emotions helps us to be more resilient in enduring difficult situations and are better able to move forward after a trauma or crisis. A long term Harvard study with seventy thousand participants has shown that those with a more positive or optimistic outlook (the top quarter) had a 30 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, or infection.
Another long-term study showed that those people who have a more positive and optimistic outlook lived, on average, ten years longer than those with negative views.
Think about what you can do to implement this in your life. There is no magic wand to wave or button to press. There are things you can do to change your state of mind and your thought patterns. In a previous Evolving article (Laughter Feeds the Body-Mind, August, 2018) I talked about smiling, laughter and humor as positive tools that can change your outlook and create more joy.
Another powerful tool is the practice of reframing. Think of yourself in a traffic jam. You are impatient, angry and stressed. Think appreciation for being able to own a car, listen to music and decide to enjoy the moment as there is nothing you can do at the moment to change the outer situation.
There are many ways to help you feel more joy and contentment such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness approaches, guided imagery, and breathing exercises, to mention a few. I teach people how to reduce stress and negative emotions (Neurobehavioral Program) When they are in that calm, relaxed state; I ask them to imagine a searchlight illuminating their problems. People say things like, “They are smaller or more distant or not there at all.”
Whether you are by yourself, in a conversation with someone, or working in a group, the positivity to negativity ratio in thoughts, words and behaviors will predict the outcome. The research is in and positive always wins.
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Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to