I’ve been doing a little bit of research on the powers of positive thinking. You know what I mean. We have all been there. You get out of bed and stub your toe on the dresser—instant mood changer. To top your morning off, your spouse used all the hot water, you’re out of milk, and not to mention you’re running late after having hit the snooze button approximately 6 times in the past hour. If your morning looked like this you might be tempted to think that the rest of your day is going to be horrible. Don’t do it!
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.”
Philippians 4:8 (NET)
Just say no to negative thinking. According to Dr. Lissa Rankin, founder of the Whole Heath Medicine Institute training program, you can think yourself sick. This is known as the nocebo effect which increases the existence of cortisol and epinephrine in your system and shuts down your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms. These are good for your fight-or-flight response but not so much for total body health. If you have high levels of cortisol in your system you can have problems sleeping and even become more susceptible to illness. If our cortisol levels are too high when they should be at their lowest, AKA when we are sleeping, our body will not be able to repair itself.
It can be hard to think positive when all you see are the negatives. Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:8-9 (NIV), “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Though he is referring to the infilling of joy through the belief in Christ without seeing him; I believe the concept is true about what we believe about our bad situations.
Though joy is not the end cap it is the byproduct of positive emotions. An article created by the Center for Spirituality and Healing and Charlson Meadows associated with the University of Minnesota has posted an article which states that forgiveness and gratitude help to increase emotional resilience and overall joy. Brene Brown gave this quote as a relationship between gratitude and joy. “It’s not joy that makes us grateful, but gratitude that makes us joyful.” This is what I believe Peter was talking about in 1 Peter 1:8. It is when we acknowledge and express our gratitude to Jesus for the price he paid for us on the cross that we are filled with an inexpressible joy – a thankfulness that goes deeper than surface level emotions.
Rankin wrote of a personal experience. She mentioned a peculiar condition known as “medstudentitis” which is brought on by the continual study of numerous illnesses. She said that one study showed “79% of medical students report developing symptoms suggestive of the illnesses they are studying.” This is a casual case of paranoia thinking that they will get sick. This sort of thing happened to Rankin. Her heart rate was 230 so the attending physician hooked her up to an EKG and she was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia which plagued her with heart palpitations.
“From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Proverbs 18:20-21 (NIV)
It is hard to change your mindset once the walls have been built. Some people are taught that a certain sickness or disorder is hereditary so they will eventually develop the disease. It’s been proven that if you dwell on the negatives you can make yourself have symptoms of a debilitating disease. You’ve heard the saying you are what you eat? The same is true about what you believe.
You can either develop the traits of that which you fear to become, or you can develop the traits of what you prefer to become. Rankin gives us an example using the placebo effect. She writes that patients in clinical trials that receive a placebo will get better 18 to 80% of the time. It starts with what you say which is an admission of what you truly believe.
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)
Do you remember where we get our joy? We derive our joy from our gratitude. That is our thankfulness. According to the Mayo Clinic there are some benefits that we can receive when we think positively:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
Doesn’t that make you want to think positively? Who doesn’t want to have an increased life span? According to the Mayo Clinic it is unclear what links positive thinking with these traits, but people who are wired to think positively typically have better coping skills when it comes to stressful situations.
You can change your thinking. The Mayo Clinic gives us some tools to change our thinking:
- Identify areas of change and approach them in a positive way.
- Periodically, evaluate what you are thinking and make changes as necessary. (Philippians 4:8)
- Be open to humor. (Proverbs 17:22; Psalm 126:2-3; Job 8:21)
- Follow a healthy lifestyle. It is recommended to exercise at least three times a week.
- Surround yourself with positive and supportive people. (Proverbs 22:24-25; 1 Cor. 15:33)
- Practice positive self-talk. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. (Acts 26:1-3; James 1:1-4)
Help yourself. You have something to say which can either be positive or negative. Encourage yourself with positive self-talk, find a partner and encourage them to do the same. God is the author of your story and he has given you an expected end. Take time today to think about your life, your story, if you see a problem then look past it to the solution.
Peace, Love, and Christ because you know HE died for you.