Positive and negative thinking are contagious. We affect and are affected by the people we meet, in one way or another. This happens instinctively and on a subconscious level, through words, thoughts and feelings, and through body language.
Is it any wonder that we want to be around positive people, and prefer to avoid negative ones? It’s a proven fact that we are drawn to good energy and positive people. If we exhibit a more positive vibe, others are attracted to our energy and are more inclined to help us, yet those same people are inclined to avoid us, or anyone, when we broadcasting negativity. Negative thoughts, words and attitude, create negative and unhappy feelings, moods and behavior. When the mind is negative, poisons are released into the blood, which cause more unhappiness and negativity. This is the way to failure, frustration and disappointment.
In the business world, “positive thinking” is sometimes dismissed as non-scientific fluff. In a professional context, positive thinking has traditionally been trumped by concepts such as “work ethic” or “persistence.” But even the business world is beginning to acknowledge the bottom line benefits of being more upbeat and promoting a culture of positive thinking. Research is mounting that our attitude not only affects our health, but our overall productivity and prosperity. The World Health Organization is calling stress and negativity the “health epidemic of the 21st century.” Workplace stress costs U.S. businesses an estimated $200 to $300 billion a year because of absenteeism, employee turnover, decreased productivity, and legal, medical and insurance fees.
Research reveals that positive thinking is about much more than just being happy or upbeat. Positive perspectives and attitudes create actual value in your life and help you develop talents that endure beyond a simple smile. Honing positive consistent behaviors may very well be the key to a thriving, prosperous life. Barbara Fredrickson is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina who studies the impact of positive thinking on your work, your health, and your life. Fredrickson published a landmark paper that provides surprising insights about positive thinking and its impact on your skills. Her work is among the most referenced and cited in her field, and it is surprisingly useful in everyday life.
Fredrickson tested the impact of positive emotions on the brain through a focused experiment in which she divided her research subjects into five groups and showed each group different film clips. The first two groups were shown clips that created positive emotions. Group 1 saw images that created feelings of joy. Group 2 saw images that created feelings of contentment. Group 3 was the control group. They saw images that were neutral and produced no significant emotion. The last two groups were shown clips that created negative emotions. Group 4 saw images that created feelings of fear. Group 5 saw images that created feelings of anger.
Afterward, each participant was asked to imagine themselves in a situation where similar feelings would arise and to write down what they would do. Each participant was handed a piece of paper with 20 blank lines that started with the phrase,
“I would like to…”
Participants who saw images of fear and anger wrote down the fewest responses. Meanwhile, the participants who saw images of joy and contentment, wrote down a significantly higher number of actions that they would take, even when compared to the neutral group.
In summary, when you are experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, you will see more possibilities in your life. These findings were among the first that suggested positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to more options.
Decades-long studies indicate that workers with a higher positive-thought ratio have better health, increased productivity and more creative thinking. Positive thinkers tend to be better problem-solvers and are more engaged in their professional lives. Besides simply putting on a brave face or presenting an upbeat demeanor, research has proven that thinking positively has an actual transformative effect—and literally evolves the composition of our brain and redirects us toward success. Literally a ying-yang effect, magnetic opposites with push and pull, positive and negative thoughts can either open our mind to opportunities and possibilities while negative thoughts reduce our ability to feel hopeful and optimistic, and recedes our tendency towards success.
Genetics VS. Attitude
Is it truly possible to coach ourselves to be happier? Of course. Scientific measurements of happiness recognize a complex formula of interacting genes, habits, and life stages and events. Everyone has a genetic disposition, but the powerful takeaway from the studies is that, regardless of genetics, we each have the ability to take charge of our happiness by choosing our thoughts, actions and reactions. We can train our thoughts, we can practice positivity, and we can develop or redirect our habits. Behavior and attitude research is producing successful, simple exercises and learned skills designed to promote positive emotional qualities, such as optimism, thoughtfulness and kindness. Just as practice improves our abilities in fields such as athletics and musical talents, positive thinking is a skill that can be trained, learned, developed—even perfected. The profound bottom line of all of this research is that positivity can be practiced, and optimism can be developed, and the results produce real value—personally and professionally.