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s there really power in positive thinking? Having talent and skills, opportunities

and advantages are all well and good but without positive thinking you can’t really make the most of them. A positive approach and attitude gives you the motivation, energy and ability to succeed in a range of situations. It also enables you to keep going when things get diffi cult. In any one situa- tion, think positively and you’ll believe you can manage and do well. T ink negatively, on the other hand, and you’re likely to feel overwhelmed and have little confi dence in your abilities. What you think and say to yourself

can have quite an impact on what you can and can’t do, as shown by this simple exercise. Try it for yourself, you will need another person to help.

Part 1:

 Ask the other person to stand and extend their dominant arm out horizontally, at shoulder level so that their arm is parallel with the fl oor.

 Ask them to think of a time when they failed at something – a test or exam or job interview for example. T en ask them to think negative thoughts about themselves; “I’m weak. I’m not as clever as other peo- ple. I’m hopeless. I’m pathetic, I’m not good at anything. I can’t do this.”

 Ask the person to continue thinking the negative things. Tell them you are going to stand behind them and attempt to pull their dominant arm down to their side. Ask them to resist you pulling their arm down.

Part 2:

 Now, ask the person to hold their dominant arm up again at the shoulder, parallel to the fl oor.

 T is time, ask them to think of a time when they achieved something; succeeded and did well at something – passed a test or exam, got off ered the job, did well in a sport for example. T en ask them to think of positive things about themselves; “I try my best. I can do well. I feel good about myself. I am a good person. I am strong. I can do this.”

 Ask them to repeat the positive statements to themselves while you attempt to pull their arm down to your side. Ask them to resist the pull.

Typically, in the fi rst part of

the exercise, the person’s arm is more likely to give way to your pull. Negativity overwhelms them and it’s not easy for them to be strong. However, when the person’s thoughts are positive, their body has the ability to resist the force that’s pulling their arm down. T ey are more likely to stay strong and resist your pull. So what does this little experiment

prove? It shows us the power of our thoughts over our bodies. When we think negative thoughts, we tend to sap our strength. When we have positive thoughts, we become stronger and are more in control.

You are what you think. And what you think, you are

Your thoughts can be understood as your self-talk or your inner voice. Your self-talk provides you with a running commentary, rather like the constant text at the bottom of a 24-hour news channel. Your self-talk has a way of creating its own reality. Telling yourself you can do something can help it happen. Telling yourself you can't do something can make that more likely to be true. To a greater or lesser extent,

we simply accept particular beliefs and ways of thinking. T at’s good if those thoughts are helpful and constructive. It’s not so good if those ways of thinking are negative and produce thoughts and feelings that are unhelpful and self-defeating.

Positive intentions of negative thinking

So if positive thinking is the most helpful, benefi cial way to think, why do we think in negative ways? Why do we have, for example, anxious, angry or guilty thoughts? Negative thoughts are an aspect of emotions such as fear and anger, worry and disappointment, guilt and regret. We usually think of these emotions as negative emotions. Why? Because they make us feel bad. And yet, these emotions, like all other emo- tions, do actually have a positive intent. T e positive intentions of negative

emotions acts in the same way as the positive intention of physical pain. If, for example, you touch something really hot, the pain makes you pull away. It feels bad, but the positive

intention of that pain is to protect you. It’s the same with emotional pain; it can prompt you to take positive action. So-called negative thoughts can prompt you to take positive action.

Narrow perspectives ❝

Emotions such as worry anxiety, guilt, fear, anger, sadness and regret narrow your perspective and your thinking. T ere’s a good reason for this; narrowed

Emotional pain can prompt you to take positive action. So- called negative thoughts can prompt you to take positive action

thinking focuses your attention on the negative situation so that it becomes the only thing you can think about and act on; take positive action. Just like putting your hand on something hot, all your attention is focused on it, and your response is positive. And quick! Supposing, for example, you were

worried and anxious about your driving test or an exam. T e positive intent of anxiety in this situation would focus your thoughts on what you need to study, revise or practise. T e anxiety only becomes negative if it overwhelms you and you can’t think straight; you’re too stressed to take positive action to study, revise or practise. Negative thinking limits and

narrows your world; opportunities and choices. In a wide range of situations, this can be a good thing. It’s a good thing if that narrowed thinking is helpful and you take positive action. Let negative thinking overwhelm you, though, and you can become paralysed and helpless.

Broad perspectives

Positive emotions such as hope, appre- ciation, inspiration and happiness come with positive thoughts; and positive thoughts open your mind, broaden your ideas and expand your possibilities and allow you to see further possibilities and options in a range of situations. Positive thinking brings hope; the feeling that what you want can

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