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The positive effects of positive thinking

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Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking, was first published in 1952. It not only remained on the New York Times bestseller list for a whopping 186 consecutive weeks but the ideas in the book have worked their way into popular culture. For example, General Bullmoose, one of the characters in the Broadway musical Li’l Abner, is reminded to take his “Norman Vincent Peale pill.” But Bullmoose declares, “I’m not taking those Peale pills anymore. They make me think too positive.”

Whether or not anyone can be too positive might be up for discussion. But what it not arguable these days are several studies proving the positive attributes of having an optimistic approach to life.

A University of Notre Dame study, for example, found that freshmen that were randomly paired with brooding and gloomy roommates were likely to “catch” that negativity within three months.

I know exactly what they are talking about. When I lived in New York City, I would walk my dog everyday. During those walks, I would meet a woman who lived down the street from me. She was the most negative person I had ever met. Almost everyday she would tell me some story about the robberies, fights, fires and other awful things that happened in our neighborhood. I guess I was a slow learner, but it took me months to realize that I didn’t have to walk my dog in her direction. I could cross the street, go in the opposite direction and not hear about all those depressing things. The study cited above wasn’t done at that time but it clearly shows the importance of not hanging around negative people.

Another study, done by researchers at Harvard and the University of California, San Diego, showed that positive feelings, like negativity, rub off too. They discovered that when you feel happy, a friend living within one mile of you is 25 percent more likely to feel happy too. And amazingly, your neighbors are 34 percent more likely to feel happy.

Lastly, if you are someone who is not fond of vegetables, take heart. Popular Science magazine reported that having a positive memory about vegetables can make the ones you are currently eating more enjoyable and… you’ll probably eat bigger portions too.

And if you need help finding some positivity, I’d like to suggest that you check out David Mezzapelle’s book, Contagious Optimism. It is not only filled with inspiring and uplifting stories, but, as the subtitle says, lots of motivational advice for positive forward thinking.

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