The power of positive thinking: Proof?

the power of positive thinking: proof?
image via getrefe / Tomas Laurinavicius

Can you afford the luxury of negative thoughts and emotions? More importantly, if you’re charged with nurturing the development of another person, can you risk such negative effects — for their sake and yours?

Dr. Masaru Emoto doesn’t think so. Dr. Emoto first became widely known for his water molecule experiments demonstrated that human thoughts and intentions can alter our physical realities. His experiments were presented in the 2004 film “What the Bleep Do We Know?”

In his experiments, Emoto revealed the effects of positive, negative and indifferent treatment of three containers of rice and water. Check out this short (1 min.) video here to see how it works.

Emoto’s conclusions are straightforward and probably fairly harmless: Positive thinking will help lead to more positive outcomes in life. Neglect and abuse — particularly of children — will lead to negative outcomes.

Skeptical? S’alright.

You can be forgiven if you suspect this might fall into the category of “pseudoscience.” Dr. Emoto’s experiments are lauded by millions that are part of a consciousness movement. They are equally decried by scientists of different disciplines.

Regardless of your own take on Emoto’s findings, two things are certain: 1) Many of us are stressed out and we need relief from that stress, and 2) formal science also extolls the virtues of positive thinking.

In fact, the Mayo Clinic has this to say in their “Healthy Lifestyle: Stress Management” online resource section:

“Negative thoughts can feed pessimism and create unnecessary stress. You can learn to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. The process is straightforward, although it’s challenging, especially at first. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Throughout the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about yourself.”

… And religions

“You do not need to be defeated by anything … you can have peace of mind, improved health, and a never-ceasing flow of energy.” You are probably familiar with the Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s book, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” While Peale’s best-selling book may be more anecdotal and spiritual than scientific in its orientation, it has endured over the past several decades as a guide for more than 20 million readers in 42 languages. Paraphrasing an old saying … can 20 million people all be wrong?

Perhaps the enduring sales of Peale’s book point to the larger truth: we need positive energy in our lives. Our appetite for positive energy is vast.

The power of positive thinking has a strong pull, admittedly. Certainly, one won’t go broke proffering positive ways of thinking as solutions to our stressful lives. Science, pseudoscience, religion, psychology, business practices, athletic training … all reach for positive thinking and visualization as techniques for greater accomplishment and/or greater satisfaction.

The opposite: living in fear, negative, defeatist, self-denying talk … does anyone want to take this side and make a case for it as a life philosophy? The human machine goes farther on positive energy than on negative energy. Positive thinking without grounded, practical steps toward self-improvement won’t get you where you need to go, but it will light the way for your first and next steps. Tough day ahead? Soak up some positive energy early on: sunshine, meditation, gratitude — whatever you can get. See how it adds to your energy levels. Take the daily fix that delivers a few extra percentage points of energy.

Don’t forget comedy

“You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time — of anything. If you’re laughing, I defy you to be afraid.” I’ll tell you who said this in a moment. Hint: He’s funny, almost always smiling, rich, smart, talented and doing exactly what he wants.

Perhaps the greatest examples of the powers of positive thinking come from those that have turned their lives into examples of positivity. Cynicism can infect anyone. It is the practice of constantly saying “no” to life. I’ll point the finger at myself, first of all. We probably all can relate to cynical tendencies and the self-talk we’ve given ourselves. How many life opportunities have we missed because we told ourselves “no” or deemed ourselves “unworthy”? Have you ever been too cool for school?

My positivity hero? That would probably have to be Stephen Colbert (author of the quote above), who in addition to the years of brilliant comedy and commentary he (and his writers) have bestowed upon American culture, he also (in an interview) once admitted to consciously deciding to be more optimistic “because it’s just a better way to live.” You can be cynical and judgmental. But why not be happier?

To conclude, here is a little more Colbert-ian wisdom, from “It Gets Better,” a project aimed at counseling gay and lesbian teens facing discrimination and bullying. Colbert notes that the advice he has is really for anyone bullied for any reason. I’ll extrapolate its worth even further and say it’s for anyone that feels bad about themselves for any reason.

“If you don’t give power to the words that people throw at you to hurt you, they don’t hurt you anymore — and you actually have power those people. … So, if you can, realize that the things that people say about you — they don’t really matter — it’s who you are. And the older you get, the more you’ll understand that — because it gets better. And people get nicer too.”

Watch Stephen Colbert’s segment (2 min.) for the It Gets Better Project:

The words that hurt can come from others or from ourselves. The next generation is watching. Let’s keep it positive, WiseTribe.


Julian Rogers is a writer, editor, community manager and marketing communications consultant for high-achieving businesses. He is the senior communications consultant for Juju Eye Communications. Find out what he’s thinking about on his blog:, or connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

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