Is Positive Psychology Helpful?


I have heard enough about positive psychology to be convinced that a happier person is generally a healthier one too.  Ever since I have taken an interest in neuroscience, I have expanded my reading materials to include psychology.  I am no expert but I like to share my interest and findings.  If you are like-minded, you may enjoy this little tit-bit.

I am reminded of this when I read a quotation by Amy Arnstern as mentioned in David Rock’s “Your Brain At Work”:

“The loss of prefrontal function only occurs when we feel out of control.  It’s the prefrontal cortex itself that is determining if we are in control or not.  Even if we have the illusion that we are in control, our cognitive functions are preserved.

What that essentially means is that we cannot function at our best when we do not feel we have control.  The operative word is “feel” and having the illusion of feeling in control can help us preserve our ability to think better and therefore function more efficiently.

When we are in control of our feelings – being happy is a feel-in-control state – we would be in a better position to deal with all things and that aligns everything to create a healthier  body, mind and soul.  So the trick would be to delude the brain by consciously choosing to think positively to transform your state of being.  Since the brain cannot differentiate what is real or not, your positive thoughts would ultimately become strongly held beliefs taken as the truth.  Isn’t this fantastic?  You can then become who you choose to be.  You have a choice.

Just like anything else, correct application is key.  Beliefs can either save or destroy you and hence what you think of is very critical.  Inappropriate thoughts lead to inappropriate beliefs that can lead you astray.  That’s is how cults operate; they are playing with the mind – if you allow them to.

The power of belief is best illustrated by the story told in the book “Why We Believe What We Believe” by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman.  I will tell you more about this book in another article but for now, I just want to rehash this story about Mr. Wright whose body was riddled with tumors and there was nothing else the doctors could do for him.

Mr. Wright, believing that a much publicized potential new drug would help him, pleaded his doctor for treatment.  His doctor, Dr. Klopfer, was involved in its research for cancer.  Mr. Wright miraculously recovered within 10 days of the treatment in spite of results from other test subjects showing no positive effect.  Two months later, Mr. Wright, discovered that the drug given to him had proven to be ineffective in research, immediately went into relapse and was hospitalized again.

Dr. Klopfer believed that it was the patient’s belief in the treatment that actually cured him the first time round.  He then decided to test his theory by applying a placebo – nothing more than sterile water. Mr. Wright agreed to the treatment believing that the treatment contained twice the dosage of the previous drug would help him.  Again Mr. Wright’s recovery was dramatic.

It was not until it was published in the American Medical Association that the drug in question was worthless in its treatment for cancer that Mr. Wright fell ill again.  This time, he died within two days after being admitted into the hospital.

This story demonstrated the influential impact of beliefs and how it can affect the physical condition of a person.  This story has greatly affected me,  reinforcing my determination to cultivate positive thinking, something that has caught my attention over ten years ago.

What about you?  Do you consider yourself a positive thinker?  Is this story talking to you and if so, what is it saying?
If you are interested to find out more about positive psychology and it benefits you may want to look out for the seminar “Courage & Resilience” to be held on 9-10 June 2010 in Singapore organised by Philip Merry Consulting Group (PMCG).  Check out the details on this website: http://philipmerry.com/pmcg/ .
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