Anecdotal or Scientific?
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The Italian sculptor Agostino d’Antonio was originally commissioned to create art using marble that was very difficult to sculpt. After an exhaustive period of time working with the marble he exclaimed “I can do nothing with it.” (Janson & Janson, 2001) Agostino and several other sculptors declared that the marble was too difficult to work with and for forty years the marble remained a block of stone.
Michelangelo happened upon this same exact stone and planned to use it for a commissioned statue despite being told that the marble was too difficult to sculpt. Michelangelo positively believed that the stone could be used and after intense work and effort the product of his labor was the masterpiece known as “David”. When questioned as to how he created the stature, Michelangelo replied, “It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David” (Janson & Janson, 2001).
Stories of the power of positive thinking such as in the case of Michelangelo are common anecdotes in society. Many people tell these tales for inspiration and the purpose of motivation. There are many stories of this nature that date back hundreds if not thousands of years, expressing the belief in the power of positive thinking. Today, science reveals that there is a great deal of truth in these stories. There is a great deal of evidence to support the idea that positive and negative thinking can significantly impact a person’s health, relationships, and ability to be successful.
The patterns by which people think are often cited for being causal to specific outcomes. Specifically, positive and negative thinking are commonly blamed for the types of outcomes that occur. There is a significant amount of research which reflects how thinking patterns can affect outcomes in a variety of situations. One area of research that shows how positive and negative patterns of thinking can impact outcomes is in the area of personal health.
Positive thinking can impact individual health in a variety of ways. Research has shown that positive thinking can impact health by promoting healthier behaviors, increasing recovery, and slowing rates of disease. In studies of cancer patients and other life-threatening diseases, people who thought positively could were significantly slow their rates of death and the progression of their diseases (Conversano et al, 2010).
One of the ways that positive thinking impacts health in this manner is because positive thinking increases individual initiative. People who think positively are more proactive with health concerns reducing their risk of illnesses (Conversano et al, 2010). Individuals who think positively believe that they can affect change with their health and as a result act in a way which promotes better health.
In contrast to individuals who think positively, negative thinking leads to poor health habits and less ability to recover from illness and injury. The same studies of cancer patients and other life-threatening diseases, it was revealed that people who thought pessimistically had slower rates of recovery from trauma, injury, and disease (Conversano et al, 2010). Pessimistic thinkers showed less ability to deal with stress and avoided health issues rather than trying to deal with them (Conversano et al, 2010).
Another area of life that positive and negative thinking can impact is one’s personal relationships. Optimistic thinking impacts personal relationships by increasing their quantity and quality. According Baumgardner and Crothers (2009), individuals with positive dispositions concerning life tend to gravitate to social interacting more than solitary activities, indicating that positive attitudes may increase one’s desire to be in the company of others.
Positive thinking people typically have healthier and longer lasting relationships then people who think pessimistically (Baumgardner & Crothers, 2009). It is believed that negative thinking impacts personal relationships by diminishing the number of relationships and their quality because pessimism seems to breed isolation. Simply speaking people tend to avoid negative thinking individuals.
As well as having fewer relationships, the relationships that negative thinking individuals maintain typically are extremely unhealthy and the effect on happiness is worse than if they had no relationship, e.g., increased stress, unhealthy behaviors such as drinking, and diminished ability to be successful (Baumgardner & Crothers, 2009). Negative thinkers tend to see their relationships as fleeting and less meaningful than positive thinkers. This thought process most likely impacts the way that relationships and issues within them are handled. There is less effort placed on making the relationship work.
One of the largest areas of impact can be seen in the manner in which positive and negative thinking impacts one’s ability to be successful. A significant amount of research has been done in this area and the results consistently show that one’s pattern of thinking will affect his or her success. Overwhelmingly, positive thinking provides for greater degrees of personal and professional success.
Research shows that positive thinkers are more motivated, ambitious and proactive because they believe that their actions will lead to positive outcomes (Carver & White, 1994). It has also been observed that positive thinking leads to continual effort when dealing with problems. This continuous effort is caused because bad situations are seen as temporary, thus leading to greater chances of completing a task or objective (Carver & White, 1994).
In contrast, research shows that negative thinking undermines personal and professional success. According to Carver and White, (1994) negative thinkers are prone to give-up on a task or goal because they see bad situations or setbacks as permanent rather than temporary. Negative thinkers were found to be less capable of creative problem solving because they see problems or challenges as impossible or permanent (Carver & White, 1994). As a result of negative thinking, individuals are less apt to receive promotions and raises were much more likely to be fired from jobs.
The impact of positive and negative thinking on individual health goals, relationships, and success is insightful. Understanding these differences in thought patterns can be beneficial to all individuals. The positive and negative impacts of these thought patterns shows that more personal study should be committed to understanding the way individuals think about their life.
Baumgardner, S. R. and Crothers, M. .K. (2009). Positive psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Carver, C. S., & White, T. L. (1994). Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: The BIS/BAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 319–333.
Conversano C, Rotondo A, Lensi E, Vista O. D, Arpone F, Reda M. A. Optimism and its impact on mental and physical well-being. Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health. 2010;6:25–29. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894461/
Janson , H. W., & Janson , A. (2001). History of art. (6 ed., p. 86). New York, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Vincent Triola. Mon, Feb 01, 2021. Positive vs Negative Thinking Retrieved from https://vincenttriola.com/blogs/ten-years-of-academic-writing/positive-vs-negative-thinking