Positive thinking not only changes your mind, it affects your body. So says Daisaku Ikeda, president of the world's largest Buddhist community, Soka Gakkai International. According to Ikeda, as soon as you decide to achieve a certain goal, every part of you, including your nerve fibers, gear up to help you achieve it. Conversely, says Ikeda on the Soka Gakkai website IkedaQuotes.org, as soon as you think you can't possibly succeed, "every cell in your being will be deflated and give up the fight [and] everything really will move in the direction of failure." Research supports Ikeda's claim.
When life knocks down some people, says resiliency coach Angie LeVan of the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center, they go down swinging and jump back on their feet to keep fighting---often with more power in their punches than they had at first. LeVan calls such people "people in high efficacy." She says they "learn from failure and channel it into success." In life, setbacks resulting from illness, death and countless other realities are bound to happen. But instead of being defeated by them, people in high efficacy use these obstacles to grow stronger.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, untreated clinical or major depression can lead to suicide. Environmental factors, an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, and dysfunctional thinking are potential causes of major depression. Hara Estroff Marano, editor-at-large of Psychology Today, suggests that we train ourselves in cognitive-thinking---thinking about what we're thinking. By doing this we can combat negative self-talk with positive messages and stop a minor case of the blues from becoming a major depression. "The quickest way to change how you feel is to change how you think," says Marano.
Researcher Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D. asked a volunteer group of 334 18- to 34-year olds how often they experienced happy or unhappy emotions. The volunteers then received nasal drops containing a common cold virus. People who reported feeling happier were less likely to catch a cold. The March 2010 issue of Psychological Science, features Dr. Suzanne Segerstrom's study of 124 first-year law students. They completed questionnaires to determine how optimistic they felt. Each student received an injection that made skin bumps appear and become larger or smaller depending on her level of germ immunity. Highly optimistic students experienced higher immunity levels.
Less Cardiovascular Disease
Men who believed their risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease was lower than average were three times less likely to die from heart attacks and strokes than men who believed otherwise found a 15-year study conducted by University of Rochester Medical Center researcher Robert Gramling. In Dr. Karina Davidson's 10-year study of 877 healthy women and 862 healthy men, published in the February 2010 issue of European Heart Journal, participates who reported feeling happier had less heart attacks than those who felt less happy.