Last week we explored the benefits of positive thinking. Positive emotions are less intense than negative ones and last a much shorter time, however they help us learn new skills that stay with us and help us achieve greater success. Although being “positive” is a simple idea, it does not mean it’s easy. Positivity is a muscle that needs regular exercise and time to grow. If you’re not used to exercising this muscle by seeing the brighter side of things it may seem like a hard battle in the beginning. Don’t despair though, the more your exercise this muscle the stronger it becomes and the greater the benefits.
It is important that your positive thinking exercises are flexible and fresh to avoid what scientists call the hedonic treadmill affect. What this means is that by partaking in the same positive experience over a range of time the positive affects wear off. This would be the same as watching your favorite comedy so many times that it is not funny anymore. Taking this into consideration the below exercises were tested and designed to keep the positive emotions flowing.
Exercise 1 - Mindfulness Meditation:
Mindfulness is about bringing your thoughts to the present and when meditating on loving and positive moments the exercise is active and personal. By clearing your mind of worries, focusing on your breath and body and then connecting to thoughts of positive experiences and loving people we bring positivity centre stage in our lives. During meditation participants often report gaining insight into personal problems and sometimes even find possible solutions.
The benefits of meditation were analyzed in an 8 week study where volunteers meditated daily for 1 hour focusing on emotions of love. After the study concluded participants reported anxiety levels were greatly reduced immediately after the study and even 4 months later. Evidence also showed participants had greater ability to self-regulate stress and chronic pain, greater immunity to influenza, and helped battle various illnesses.
Exercise 2 – Gratitude Journal:
Gratitude is all about being mindful of present experiences, people or things that fill us with joy and love. Journaling your feelings of gratitude daily reminds us to be happy in the moment and although life is not perfect, it reminds us that it is not all bad. In a study of 90 undergraduate students half of the group practiced gratitude journaling for three days. Students choose five profoundly positive things and wrote a sentence about each, where the control group wrote about an assigned subject. After the study concluded the students who practiced gratitude reported a significant increase in feelings of happiness and greater satisfaction with life.
It helps to be specific about why you are grateful. Acknowledging the value these experiences brought to your life helps strengthen the positive experience. Through practicing gratitude it lessens feelings being threatened by other people’s success and what you do not have.
To start your gratitude journal spend a couple minutes each day to write down three to five things you are grateful for and why it has a positive impact on your life. There is a lot to be grateful for so do not repeat any item listed for at least 1 week. If you have a hard time remembering then enlist the help of a loved one and send each other a text each day about what you are grateful for.
Next week we will explore how Reiki can help you break up negative thought patterns and bring your focus into the positive.