There is much scientific evidence to show that the happier, more secure and calmer we feel the better our health is.
Numerous studies have shown that the chemicals and physiological changes our body makes when we feel good support and boost our immune response whereas those that occur when we are stressed, angry or feel threatened in some way, act as toxins to our systems depleting and disrupting that all important self-regulation of good well being.
Given this information you would naturally assume that aiming to have nothing but positive thoughts is the ideal situation, and attempting to banish negative thinking should be part of our good health routine. Certainly much of the advice on how to live a healthier life emphasises the virtues of positive thinking with some therapies, for instance, based purely on this approach.
So is positive thinking the key to good health? Well maybe not!
Positive thinking – a sunny and joyful outlook on everything that life throws our way – could, in some cases, be harming our health more than the negative stuff! Why?
Well it all depends on the ‘nature’ of that positive thought.
It turns out that the one thing worse than negative, anxious or fearful thinking is suppressed negative, anxious or fearful thinking.
When we try to ignore that we’re feeling less than joyful, or worse still, feel guilty that we do (after all we should feel happy all the time, shouldn’t we?) and falsely try to convince ourselves we do feel good with endless affirmations, for example, that we don’t really believe (the ‘I love my job’ one, for instance!), then all that happens is that the ‘acute’ stress response we get from those negative feelings doesn’t resolve itself.
Instead it just gets pushed inwards eventually becoming chronic as the chemicals and physiological changes associated with the stress cause deeper damage to our systems. Suppressed negative feelings over a long period of time can eventually desensitise us to the presence of stress altogether leaving it to continue its insidious campaign of destruction completely outside of our awareness. Not great really!
So am I saying that we should just be angry all the time – that it’s good to shout at everyone, feel grumpy and irritable continually?
Well no, of course not.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, negative thinking releases chemicals that aren’t good for us.
However, what would be a good approach is to try and achieve a little balance in our responses to how we feel (after all balance is everything with regards to health). So simply acknowledging that as human beings there will be times when we feel good and times when we don’t – and that’s absolutely fine, it’s just how we are designed to be – is probably a better strategy. Trying to interfere in the natural flow of how we feel, by forcing ourselves to think positively when we don’t want to, only serves to keep those negative feelings ‘stuck’ with all the problems that can ensue.
So next time you feel negativity taking over, remind yourself that you’re human –
go throw a cushion at something if it helps! – then let it go. If you do you may be surprised as to how quickly positive thinking turns up all on its own without you having to do anything