In this article, you will learn about:
- The History of Positive Thinking as a Healing Art
- Positive Thinking vs. Positive Psychology
- Thinking Your Way Toward Health
In many ways, the mind is the gateway to health. Emotions and anxiety trigger hormones that course through the body, directing its long term actions. The gut and mind are intertwined, affecting everything from immunity to nutrient balance. Stress is a key player in countless ailments.
We've all heard that we are what we eat. Nutrition is important, but we are what we think cannot be overlooked.
History of Positive Thinking as a Healing Art
In 1952, author Norman Vincent Peale set the stage for a positive thinking movement when his book The Power of Positive Thinking was released. (1) This, of course, was not the first time someone pointed out the merits of positive thinking.
With as dark as philosophers can tend to be, there have always been a smattering who look toward the light, believing there is good in the world. and turning their hearts toward it.
Still, it was The Power of Positive Thinking that brought these ideas to the forefront, at least for recent generations. Decades later, cynicism seems to be the message of the day, in spite of “law of attraction” speakers, writers, and thinkers, or hits like The Secret. With an inundation of information in 24/7 news machines and social media, it's easy to get mired in the bad, over-stimulated and overstressed.
But the core ideals that fuel efforts toward positive thinking remain, as they have since we were first promised an Abundant Life two thousand years ago.
Positive Thinking vs. Positive Psychology
As positive thinking took flight in our era, the desire to verify and solidify it in science also took hold, resulting in the similar-but-different ideals of positive psychology.
Where positive thinking as a movement and driving force seeks to simply exist in a state of positive thinking – in order to promote health and healing – positive psychology is driven by hard data and selective application of positive thinking and actions.
While both have their merits and at their core promote the same things, it's positive thinking that we'll focus on here and that I like to incorporate in my Abundant Life ideals.
Hurt, sadness, and ailments are part of life, and positive thinking cannot erase or even explain them. But it can help us respond to them, and that can make all the difference.
Thinking Your Way Toward Health
Positive thinking has applications in every area of life, from the way we conduct our business to the way we interact with family, from the way we view our past to the way we dream about the future.
Health maintenance, illness prevention, and healing itself are especially intriguing facets and potential of positive thinking. By acknowledging the role that our mind and emotions play in health and wellness, we can begin to harness the power of intentionality and actually think our bodies healthy!
1. Mind Over Body
“It's all in your head” – you're just imagining it; you're fine! If you've been on the receiving end of such an accusation, you know how frustrating it can be to know there is something going on but lack any hard evidence.
Over the years, we've learned more about what really can be in our heads – not in the sense of fabrication, but as an actual source of illness. Terms like psychogenic and psychoneuroimmunology have emerged, referring to the direct connection between the condition of the mind and its effects on the body, such as when “psychological stressors induce a neuroendocrine response” and directly alter gut health. (2)
As scientists and doctors learn more every day, I hope we are moving closer toward reframing “It's all in your head” with the understanding that what's in your head can actually have a significant impact on the body.
Focusing on the mind is just as important – if not moreso – as direct care for the body, in order to keep our central command center operating at full capacity.
2. Melt Your Cares Away
As we let go of our cares and focus on mindful positivity, our stress levels inevitably decrease. With stress at the root of so many of our modern epidemics, it's little wonder that positive thinking (and, therefore, stress relief) can heal your body.
This, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a prevailing theory as to why positive thinking can be so beneficial. The informative article includes a list of benefits of positive thinking, including (3):
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
Positive thinking that centers on stress reduction can be obtained with meditative practices like yoga or tai chi, mindfulness meditation, and prayer.
3. Prayer Power
Really, I view positive thinking and prayer as partners in healing and disease reversal. If we're focused on God's will in prayer, concerned about others in intercessory efforts, and generally shifting our minds away from ourselves and onto the Big Picture of faith, we have little time to dwell on our own struggles. Our perspective naturally shifts. We can't help it!
Researchers are fascinated with this – one encouraging study tracked women with depression who had prayer incorporated into their therapeutic treatments. A full year later, the benefits had not yet subsided. (4)
While science seeks to boil everything down to predictability and absolutes, we know one thing without a doubt: prayer, mindfulness, and positive thinking are matters of faith.
4. Faith Can Move Mountains
Was this a matter of a formulaic prayer or specific meditation? Is it something we can replicate in a lab or nail down as having positive results 100% of the time, effective every time?
At the end of the day, I believe the answer is that it doesn't matter. An exercise of faith seeks to take us outside of ourselves, relying on God and letting go of the impulse to control. And as we melt our stresses and mind-body related tension away, other facets of health tend to emerge, as well.
Letting go of our stresses and negativity in faith will move mountains of “dis-ease”; whether that manifests as physical healing or simply bolstered faith and minimized stress is up to God in his wisdom. In either case, we have every reason to put our trust in the Lord and cast all our burdens onto Him.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NASB)