It’s the Thought That Counts

idea Photo: Idea by George Hodan

“Change your mind – your thoughts, your emotions and beliefs – and you will change your life”. David R. Hamilton PhD

Having recently read ‘It’s the Thought That Counts’, by David Hamilton, not only does Positive Thinking work, but also there is a huge amount of scientific data to back it up – it’s not just wishful thinking. The key message I took from this book is that our thoughts have the power to change ourselves, other people, and the world around us. Either positively or negatively.

Our mind and emotions can influence the health and well-being of our body and even the structure of our DNA. The author uses his background as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry to provide extensive medical evidence to back up his claims. But it is his own positive attitude and faith in human potential that really brings this book to life.

Many people are familiar with the Placebo Effect. Thinking that a course of treatment will make them better, is more likely to produce that outcome in a person, even with no active medication involved. But it goes further. The more a person believes in the whole process, the more positive the results tend to be. Receiving medication and reassurance from a convincing “man in a white coat” can lead to improved medical outcomes – if that fits with the patient’s view of professional medical care.

Studies have shown that even people affected by dementia can regain cognitive skills. By engaging with them in ways that stimulate brain activity, neural pathways can be created and strengthened – with tangible results. In simple terms, if people are treated as being “younger” than their age, they act “younger”. Having a positive outlook leads to positive changes.

The book also explores the idea that with our thoughts we can all connect with what renowned Psychologist Carl Jung termed the “Collective Unconscious” – a Universal source of knowledge.

David Hamilton isn’t suggesting that we ignore traditional medical treatments, but he believes that we should view the patient holistically, and promote positive thinking and lifestyle changes. The book is a fascinating read and gives a medical and scientific view on the power of Positive Thinking.

Positively Negative!

old-camera Photo: Old Camera by George Hodan

If you’ve read the same books on “Positive Thinking” that I have, they make it sound so easy:

  1. Really focus on what you want.
  2. Sit back and let the Positivity flow.
  3. Live Happily Ever After! 

Or something along those lines. Is it working for you? No, me neither! Because we live in the real, physical world. And we need to act on our dreams, and move a little closer to them.

So, where to begin? If you feel that you’re not moving forward with your life, inspiration isn’t that easy to come by.  The good news is that motivation can come in one of two forms: positive – moving towards what you want, or negative – moving away from what you don’t want. And if ‘negative’ is closer to what you are feeling right now, that’s where to start. Tap into your negative feelings.

For instance, if you’re overweight and you don’t like the way it makes you feel, be honest about it to yourself. Say why you’d like to lose those pounds. I know we’re told to focus on the Positive, but if you’re not in that place, it’s easier said than done. So, begin the process from where you are. Later, once you’re motivated, you can switch to the positive, and focus on why you want to be healthy, rather than why you don’t like being overweight.

You may want to try this:

  1. Make a list of what isn’t working in your life.
  2. Look at each point on the list, and write down what you don’t like about it. And why you’d like to move away from it.
  3. Focus on the “energy” of the list, and notice how different it feels, compared to being unmotivated. Use the negative energy of dislike to motivate you.
  4. Pick an item on the list and look for a small action you can take in connection with that goal. Add that onto the list.
  5. If the small action seems too daunting, break it down into even smaller tasks.
  6. Once you’ve completed a mini-task – celebrate, bask in the warm glow of satisfaction, and then pick another.
  7. Keep adjusting the list, so you gradually replace negative “moving away from” goals with positive “moving towards” goals, and keep including those practical steps. Leave your successes on the list.
  8. Once your list becomes more positive, check it and make sure that ‘Smiling’ and ‘Having Fun’ are included somewhere!
  9. Relax. You’ve earned it.
  10. Don’t quit on your dreams. Ever.

 

Black and White Thinking?

ying-yang-symbol

 

“If you can dream – and not make dreams your master; if you can think – and not make thoughts your aim; if you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.”

“If” – Rudyard Kipling

 

I’ve always found this to be an intriguing section in Kipling’s wonderful poem, “If”. He seems to be suggesting that we should do more than just dream and think – we should put our plans into action. But why does he say we should treat triumph and disaster just the same?

To me, one answer can be found in the Chinese concept of Yin-Yang. It describes how apparently opposite forces are actually interconnected and naturally dependent on each other. Night/day, male/female, hot/cold are just a few examples – complementary parts of the same system. They each can’t exist without the other. Like two sides of a coin.

You can’t experience failure without the seeds of success being present. An apparent victory will carry the potential for defeat. Consequently, attaching yourself too much to any extreme is to miss the big picture. Many of the most successful figures in history suffered huge setbacks in life before their triumphs. Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln being two such examples.

Equally, being too attached to success may lead to arrogance, conceit and resting on your laurels. Churchill himself said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Success is not final because once we have achieved our goal, we naturally reach for the next. Failure is not fatal, because it often leads to new perspectives or opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have been considered.

If we’re less attached to an outcome, which will only be temporary anyway, we can be more focused on our self-development during the process. In that way, we are always moving forward, always gaining experience.

It’s great to have inspiring dreams, but most aren’t achieved overnight, if at all. How often do we reach a goal, and after the initial glow has worn off, find ourselves strangely unimpressed? I think it’s the sense of challenge, and the little victories along the way, that ultimately give us satisfaction.

It’s often the journey, and not the destination, that is the real prize.

Placebo or Nocebo?

medical-pills

Photo: Medical Pills by Vera Kratochvil

Placebo (Latin: “I will please”) Nocebo (Latin: “I will harm”)

Most people are familiar with the “Placebo Effect”, positive health benefits brought about purely by a person’s belief in the healing effects of their medication. A placebo, or “sugar pill” contains only an inert substance that has no independent healing properties.

It is purely the person’s belief in the medication, often coupled with the reassurance of a trusted medical professional, that kick-starts the healing process.

The effects of this process are so significant that it is commonly factored into the testing of new drugs, before they are released onto the market.

Less well known is the “Nocebo Effect”, where people receiving a placebo report negative effects – worsening of their symptoms. This is not through any chemical side effects, but purely through their belief that the tablet will not be effective in treating their condition.

The evidence shows that the key to our physical wellbeing lies with our mental attitude, brought about by our thoughts and feelings. If we don’t direct our thoughts, they may drift between positive and negative, or be predominantly one or the other.

We can choose our thoughts by practice and repetition. No matter what our current circumstances, the answer lies within us.

Which effect do you choose to nurture: placebo or nocebo?