We were in the doctor’s office to get the latest news on Lee’s situation. Instead of a medical report, the doctor gives him an emotional and personal thank you. He tells Lee that he is a gift to the entire office, that his positive attitude lifts up the staff. He says Lee helps remind them that their job is meaningful and important.
The doctor goes on to tell us that many patients get upset and in crisis over small things, like their cell phone not working or being 10 minutes late. And they deal with so much sadness. Just this week, he watched a 19-year-old die. Having a patient like Lee reminds them why they are doing this work and makes it worthwhile. He ends by saying that he wishes everyone would remember that every day is a gift. By this time, we were close to tears.
It is a marvel to see how a positive attitude can transform the big and small things in life. I’ve had my own lessons and in my work as a life coach and consultant around social justice reform, I am constantly reminded of the importance of them. What we think and how we deliver our thoughts effects everyone around us. We are powerful in ways we underestimate.
I’d like to review what I consider the four significant features of a positive attitude. In my reading, I was delighted to learn that they are supported by the research of Barbara Fredrickson Ph.D., a psychologist, author and scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her work focuses on the impact of positivity over negativity.
IT CREATES ACCEPTANCE VS RESISTANCE
Consider any stressful situation you may be facing. Because of the stress, you may think about it with dread or fear and what happens? You are going to be afraid and dread going into it and may even become symptomatic with anxiety, panic and depression. You are dragging yourself into it with resistance. It hard for anything good to comes out of a scenario like that. It’s likely to be as bad as you anticipate.
Consider the same stressful situation, now, because you see its potential benefit, you decide to face it with positive anticipation. You may even have the same anxious feelings, but because of your hopefulness, what happens? It offers up the constructive potential you seek. You are looking for that positive outcome and you find it.
Dr, Fredrickson’s work has shown this to be true. With a positive attitude, we are open to new possibilities, ideas, people and experiences. When we approach things with fear and dread, our mind contracts and restricts its ability to be open to new ideas and options. She uses an analogy of a water lily – at night when the sun drops, a water lily closes up, just like our mind when we close off our positive thoughts. (Fredrickson, Positivity, Pg. 55, 2009}.
Your mental anticipation delivers up what you expect – positive or negative.
HELPS YOU SEE MORE POSSIBILITIES
When Lee first faced tough health news, he decided he would get through it just fine. I added we would learn and grow from the experience. We would come out stronger and better on the other side – we were in it together.
When you are optimistic, your mind expands. It considers options and becomes open to possibilities that you’ve never considered. This has become one of the most salient features of Dr. Fredrickson’s research. She calls it the “Broaden and Build Theory”. (Fredrickson, Positivity, 2009)
By broadening your mind to positive possibilities, you actually build inner and outer resources through your experience that can be drawn upon later. You are creating resilience and capacity to take on new challenges that you may face at another time. The opposite effect is true with negative thinking. You close off those options and create an inverse relationship to hardship – it keeps getting harder.
Positivity opens you to more options and give you skills to cope over time.
CREATES CONNECTIONS AND BONDS
One of the unanticipated outcomes of Lee’s situation is that he is receiving positive support from all corners of our life. He has been forthcoming about it with positivity. Others respond in like manner. Rather than a depressing topic that people want to avoid, it has gathered people in. He shares and others share in return. It’s generated deeper bonds with people we care about.
No surprise, in the last few years Dr. Fredrickson’s work has moved from positivity into the area of love. Her research has shown that love consists of 3 intertwined components. There is the sharing of positive emotion, synchronicity in shared behavior and investment in each other’s wellbeing. When these three things are experienced, in one moment after another, it creates the bonds and loyalty that are the foundation for endearing relationships. It is in this manner that positivity generates love. (Fredrickson, Love 2.0, 2013)
Our community of caring compassionate people keeps expanding and deepening at the same time. We marvel as we watch it in action. I have written about it. Now, with the help of Dr. Fredrickson, I see it from a scientific perspective. The positive love we feel and give to those around us is in fact shared, experienced and is regenerating, even in the face of tough times.
Positivity is the foundation for love, connections and bonds at every level.
IS LIFE EXPANDING
When we are positive, we are affirming the very life force within us. Positive thoughts and feelings like love, joy, gratitude, compassion, hope and inspiration expand our mind, opening us to a flow of new ideas and possibilities. These are some of the 10 positive emotions Dr. Fredrickson has shown broaden and build our internal and external resources to create well-being.
When we invest in the well-being of ourselves through positive thought, it expands out into our community of friends as well. We are then investing in the well-being of those around us. Everyone benefits. This is the nature of a fulfilling life – to expand.
When facing difficulty, which way do you want things to go – positive or negative? It’s not overly simplistic to start with this premise. Negativity, fear and dread do not create the fertile ground for growth. It diminishes us. We are not here to suffer, but to expand, learn and grow.
If you want an expansive life experience, focus on the thoughts that are life affirming versus the negative fears that shut down your life force.
Back to the humbling encounter at the doctor’s office. It is a valuable lesson on the power we each have in the choice of our thoughts and how we project them into our life. With a decision to face tough things with positivity vs. negativity, we have created a cycle of influence that raises up everyone around us. We are affirmed and honored in the process, our bonds with one another grow deeper. The expansive richness of life is being displayed through us.
These are the laws of the universe in action – our intentional thoughts (law of mentalism) influence everyone around us (law of correspondence) and will either expand or contract our life experience (law of vibration). The use of these principles underpins the work I do with Transformational Life Coaching. If you’d like to look at how your thoughts and attitude affect the cycle of things that happen in your life, I welcome your inquiry. You can find more information on my website at www.spectrumtransformation.com. Free consultation is offered to see if it would be helpful. I’d love to hear from you.
1. Clear, James, The Science of Positive Thinking: How Positive Thoughts Build Your Skills, Boost Your Health, and Improve Your Work, Huffington Post, blog 7-10-2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/positive-thinking_b_3512202…
2. Malcom, Lynn, Scientific Evidence Points to the Importance of Positive Thinking, All In The Mind, 6-17-2015, http://www.abc.net.au/…/the-scientific-evidence-for…/6553614
3. Books by Barbara Fredrickson:
Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity. New York, NY: Crown.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Love 2.0. New York, NY: Random House.