Like Magic: The Effects of Positive Thinking on Performance and Results

Like Magic: The Effects of Positive Thinking on Performance and Results

Working hard at that important project, training for that 5k, or gunning for that awesome job, and not seeing your hard work pay off? Your thinking may be the problem.

It’s easy to roll your eyes at the prospect of your thoughts having the power to help you succeed or doom you to failure, but let’s look at the facts—brought to you by cold, hard scientific research.

The Power of Optimism

First of all, a positive attitude actually DOES have a real-life effect on your health. Here’s proof. According to Forbes:

“Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania…worked with researchers from Dartmouth and the University of Michigan on a study that followed people from age 25 to 65 to see how their levels of pessimism or optimism influenced or correlated with their overall health. The researchers found that pessimists' health deteriorated far more rapidly as they aged.”

But that’s not all:

“Researchers from the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville went so far as to inject optimists and pessimists with a virus to measure their immune response. The researchers found optimists had a significantly stronger immune response than pessimists.”

Similar studies were conducted at Yale, the University of Colorado, and the Mayo Clinic, all with the same conclusion: positive thinking has a definite effect on physical health.

Think About It…

Now, it’s hard to say whether positive thoughts produce positive results because:

they prompt the body into a state of relaxation rather than stress, thus boosting our health, immune response, and mental clarity,

they put us in a better state of mind, so we are able to see more options and make better decisions, or

they carry their own unique power, Law-of-Attraction-style.

But does it really matter? If making an effort to steer your mind in a more positive direction creates definitive results, why not try it out? Best-case scenario: your performance improves, you reach your goal, and you walk off into the sunset, trophy in hand. Worst case scenario: your positive thinking allows you to have a slightly better-than-normal day.

OK, So What Do I Do?

Positive thinking seems simple enough, but anyone who’s tried it learns pretty quickly that it’s difficult to maintain for ten minutes, let alone an entire day. It’s extremely challenging to be aware of all your thoughts, notice when they’re getting negative, and pivot to something more positive. When you’re in the thick of it, changing your thoughts can seem more like a course in mental gymnastics than an attempt to be more positive. The exercises below can provide some momentum to incrementally boost you into a better mental state, so the good vibes can start flowing.

Exercise #1: The Mantra

A mantra is a phrase you repeat over and over again to get yourself into a meditative state, or for the purpose of tricking your subconscious into accepting a new belief system. Repeat a mantra to yourself during exercise, at work, or when prepping for that interview. Try things like “I am successful,” “I’ve got this,” or “I’m capable of anything.” Use mantras that are in the present tense, and that state a positive belief rather than denying a negative belief.

Exercise #2:

Make a list of things you’re grateful for about the situation you’re in. If you’re unemployed and looking for a job, maybe try, “I’m grateful I have so much free time to spend with my family.” If you’re training for a marathon, state something like, “I’m grateful all this work is getting me in the best shape of my life.” You’re more likely to achieve your goal when you’re focused on what’s truly awesome about where you already are.

Exercise #3:

Free-write about your ideal outcome. That’s right. Grab a pen and paper or sidle up to your laptop and think it through. Do you want to finish that project a week before it’s due, get kudos from your boss, and watch as your work makes a real difference in your company? Do you want to beat that tough guy at the gym in a lifting contest? Run a mile in under 8 minutes? Score your dream job at an office 5 minutes from home, with great pay and awesome coworkers? Get specific about what you’d like to see, and watch as your performance at work, at the gym, or in the interview blows you, and everyone else, away.

Thinking consistently positive thoughts could be the tool you need to make lasting change in your life. Try out these exercises for two weeks, and let us know how it works in the comments below!

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