I have read many books on positive thinking. Perhaps the reason for this is that I find myself dwelling back to negative thinking or at least neutral thinking; if there even is such a thing, so easily. They say that repetition is the master of success, and therefore I probably will continually need my regular fix of positive thinking reminders going forward. Luckily there seems to be an unlimited source of literature out there on the topic when doing a quick Google search.
The power of positive thinking is a popular concept, and sometimes it can feel a little cliché. But the physical and mental benefits of positive thinking have been demonstrated by multiple scientific studies.
Positive thinking can give you more confidence, improve your mood, and even reduce the likelihood of developing conditions such as hypertension, depression, diabetes (wish I knew this ages ago) and other stress-related disorders. All this sounds great, but what does the “power of positive thinking” really mean?
You can define positive thinking as positive imagery, positive self-talk or general optimism, but these are all still general, ambiguous concepts. If you want to be effective in thinking and being more positive, you’ll need concrete examples to help you through the process. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, first published in 1952, gives many examples.
The three most powerful points I took from the book were;
With self-confidence, you have the power to shape your life the way you want it.
By shifting your focus from yourself to others, you will soon become more loved and appreciated.
Teachings from the Bible can build a foundation for your thoughts and actions, helping you in your quest for positive thinking, and consequently change your life much more radically
The book basically aims at ensuring that the reader achieves a permanent constructive and optimistic attitude through constant positive influence of his conscious thought and consequently achieves a higher satisfaction and quality of life
Believing in yourself.
Peale starts with saying that feelings of anxiety and inferiority are like a modern plague. Many people feel as though there are problems everywhere they look, then get overwhelmed before trying to shift the blame for their situation onto others or their circumstances, rather than actively fighting to change it. In some ways, this is true, he says: if you feel inferior, or suffer from negative thinking, then you’re more likely to experience negative outcomes. Peale gives an example; if you start your new job thinking that you’ll never fit in and that no one will like you, then you will have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once your feeling of inferiority has been vindicated, you’re more likely to have negative feelings about the future, which only leads to a vicious circle that feels impossible to escape.
If you have self-confidence, then you have the power to shape your life the way you want it. Peale gives an example of a man he knew a man who had lost everything but was able to regain his energy and the willingness to continue living simply by making a list of all positive things he still had in his life. By focusing on these aspects, he proactively changed his perspective to a healthier one.
So, if you want to change your circumstances, then you have to change your thinking instead of passively accepting your situation. Peale goes on to say that we too can use the power of focusing on the positive and believing in success in order to overcome any obstacles in our lives. One way to do this is by visualising the possible positive outcomes that you want for yourself, and then visualising your problems. By comparison, they seem smaller and more easily solvable.
The desire to be appreciated is fundamental to our human nature, says Peale. We are social animals who need companionship, and yet so many care only about themselves. As a consequence, many also suffer from the feeling of not being wanted or needed by others.
Firstly, says Peale, you must realise that the reason other people don’t like you lies within you – it’s your attitude. Thankfully, you can actually change your attitude in order to be appreciated by others by learning to become a comfortable person.
Think for a moment about the people you really like, asks Peale: do they talk about themselves all the time, or do they show an interest in you? They probably show interest in you, and you should do the same. When you think positively about others, show them that you care about them, what they do and who they are. Then they will want to be friendly with you in return. The author once counselled a man at his clinic who felt as though everyone disliked him. He realised eventually that this was caused by his exhausting love for himself and self-centred attitude. So he made a list of all the people he met every day and made a concentrated effort to talk to them and notice them as individuals.
By shifting his focus from himself to others, he soon became loved and appreciated. You will, of course, find some individuals who are not easy to like. Even they have hidden positive qualities you can discover if you put in the effort. Just be patient.
Peale askes; do you ever feel like you can’t ever truly take a break because no one could do your job as well as you can? That without you, everything would fall apart? For many, the consequence of this attitude is the heavy burden of mounting problems and depression, he says. And when you feel depressed and burdened by your problems, do you ever think: “No one in the whole world ever had the same problems as me”? While it certainly might feel that way, this kind of thinking is actually an illusion; millions of people out there have the exact same problems.
There is wisdom in this bit of truth, says Peale, no situation is hopeless. Just imagine – there are people who have overcome “every conceivable difficult situation,” and even when they felt hopeless, they found a way to carry on. On the other hand, negative thoughts, hopelessness and isolating yourself lead mostly to unhappiness and failure. You can combat this with reminders to focus on the good, by doing things like keeping motivational notes that highlight the power of your positive thoughts.
What’s more, sometimes our sense of self-importance can make us feel as if we are carrying the world and all its problems on our shoulders. But if you make every problem your own, then you’re less likely to solve any. This is because we have only limited time to solve seemingly infinite problems. Trying to solve everything leads to haste, tension and a lack of concentration.
Ultimately, if you accept that you, your abilities and your problems aren’t totally unique then you’ll experience better outcomes and a healthier life. However, you can combat this stress with prayer or meditation to reduce tension, says Peale. In addition, you can delegate tasks and organise yourself in order to achieve better results and better health.
Master your own thoughts.
Peale goes on to ask; have you ever felt totally overwhelmed by all your problems? While some of them might be real and pressing, such as debt or disease, it’s your attitude toward those problems that is of the ultimate importance. Debts take time to pay, and diseases don’t disappear with the wave of a wand, but you can change your attitude in an instant.
The author once had a breakfast meeting with two people who had both had very different experiences the night before: one watched the news and slept poorly, the other read the Bible and enjoyed a wonderful sleep.If you live your life with a focus on positivity and the search for inner peace, you’ll have enough energy to overcome your perceived problems. In fact, you can easily organise your life in a way that leads to inner peace.
While this might seem trivial, our sleep is of the utmost importance because it refreshes our energy. Sleeping with “an earful of trouble” – for example, by watching the news while dozing off – will lead to a restlessness that prevents you from tackling your problems. Luckily you have the power to positively influence this vital source of energy.
In contrast, most people think that their situation is determined by outside circumstances and luck. But in fact, your world is nothing more than the thoughts you have about your life experiences. Says Peale.
If you think positively, you set up positive forces that bring with them positive results. Thinking negatively, on the other hand, brings negative results, and this negative thinking can even affect your physical health by making you ill.
It’s only natural to feel worried or insecure, says Peale. However, while worrying about things like your finances or health is understandable, it is also unhealthy, and can lead directly to illnesses and undesirable changes in your personality. Thankfully, says Peale, worrying is a merely a “habit,” and habits can be overcome. This particular habit is one that is especially worth ridding ourselves of, as it is the source of many physical and psychological diseases. Peale gives an example, saying that stress from worrying can lead to higher blood pressure, lower life expectancy, or even arthritis.
And yet, breaking the habit of worrying is surprisingly easy: simply believe that it is possible to free yourself from it. If you can imagine a worry-free life, then you can live it. There are a variety of techniques that you can use to get a hold of and ultimately break your habit.
All of these techniques will have one thing in common: they involve the practice of draining your mind, ridding your mind of oppressive, negative thoughts. This is especially important before going to sleep, as that’s when our thoughts sink deeper into our subconscious. Fears, worries, and other negative thoughts can “impede the flow of mental and spiritual power” if you don’t drain them before they have a chance to sink into your subconscious.
However, it’s not enough to simply drain your mind, says Peale; you must fill it back up again, this time with positive thoughts to replace the negative ones. These are thoughts that inspire feelings like hope, courage and faith. It may be difficult at first, but you must keep at it by practicing every day if you want to achieve positive change.
Is all about the choices you make.
It’s no secret that modern life can often be hectic and over-stimulating. As a result, sleeplessness, stress and headaches have become common for many, says Peale. Most feel unhappy under these conditions, but they just can’t seem to find a way out of them. In fact, many people destroy themselves emotionally and physically in their attempts to keep up with the swift tempo of modern life. Today’s “feverishly accelerated” pace can lead to serious emotional illnesses, such as chronic fatigue and frustration.
Ultimately, the unhappiness that we experience because of these conditions is not a given; it is a choice that can be made, or reversed. Indeed, there are real social conditions, such as poverty or unemployment, that can lead to unhappiness.
These conditions are not as important as our attitudes towards them: they have the power to further throw unhappiness into our lives or help us choose happiness despite negative conditions. If unhappiness is chosen it can lead to a loop: seeing everything negatively will again produce unhappiness.
Children are the living proof of this concept: they are “experts in happiness,” and because they are not “super-sophisticated” they have not yet learned that society expects them to be unhappy.
You and your faith.
Peale, a minister, is saying that the Bible and Christianity are often seen as offering abstract advice or general guidelines for how to live life. But the teachings of the Bible can build a foundation for your thoughts and actions, helping you in your quest for positive thinking, and consequently changing your life much more radically. In fact, biblical lessons are quite practical, and they can help solve many problems if you follow them. Peale goes on to say that the Bible teaches us that we should avoid becoming angry, and instead view others in the most positive light possible. Doing so will lead to a healthier and happier life.
However, your faith can only help you to succeed if you first know what you want, where you want to go, and whether it is right to want it.
Mind and body.
We know that the mind and the body are intricately related: that when you experience stress, it can manifest as physical pain. Sometimes, too, our body’s “complaints” offer no clear medical explanations. In these cases, it’s not the body at all that’s the problem, but the mind: not only must we take care of the body, but also mind and spirit.
While we shouldn’t rely upon faith alone to heal our physical ailments, a combination of “God and the doctor” will lead us to true health, says Peale
In fact, the author even ran a clinic in New York City together with a psychiatrist, where they cooperated with one another to combine their therapies. By pooling their knowledge, they recognised their own unique roles and skill sets as well as the importance of the other, they were able to achieve the strongest results.
The reason that they could work so well together is related to the power of the subconscious mind. While the conscious mind “may suggest sickness, even death,” the vast majority of your mind lies within the subconscious.
This is why faith is so important: by trusting in a higher power, you’re more able to truly believe in your positive convictions about your health, says Peale. Positive thoughts can lead to healing and health, but only when those thoughts are genuine. You have to believe in your own physical and spiritual healing, and that requires faith.
What I took from it.
No matter how insurmountable they may seem, there are no problems in your life that cannot be overcome by the power of positive thinking. By staying calm, gaining perspective, nurturing your faith and focusing on positive outcomes, you will have the power to create a happy, healthy life. Remind yourself to stay motivated. Write a note to yourself such as: “The difficult times are only mental. I think victory – I get victory” and “This too shall pass”