Change your attitude, change your life: One writer’s take on the power of positivity.
From the Dalai Lama who has said, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”, to Oprah Winfrey: “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.”, the world is starting to understand, embrace, and share the power of positivity. Many people credit their great fortune and happy lives to little more than having changed their way of thinking to reflect a more optimistic point of view. While positive attitude and optimism have long been employed, they are beginning to become more mainstream. It is no longer a secret that we keep in our back pockets, but a tip we pass out at will, much like a business card.
Alvin Law is a man who lives in Alberta, Canada. His birth mother was one of thousands in the 1960’s who took the anti-nausea drug, Thalidimide during her pregnancy. As a result of the drug, Alvin was born without arms. His parents, not able to care for him, bravely gave him up for adoption. Alvin’s adopted mother chose to teach him to use his feet as hands, and to send him to normal school (a rare occurrence with handicapped children in those days) She showed him that he was different, but not broken. He graduated from both high school and college with honors. He is now a motivational speaker, meeting with high school students to spread his own special brand of optimism and happiness with teenagers all over North America. He has created a list, called “Alvin’s Laws of Life”, the first among them that “Attitude is more than just being positive…it’s a way of looking at life, ours and everybody’s. It is said to be Everything because it is Everything. It defines who we are and what we become.” Mr. Law is yet another shining example of one who could have curled up into a ball of negativity and been content in his misery, but chose to overcome through positivity.
An exciting trend for those of us who embrace a life of optimism and positivity is the respect being given to attitude by the medical community. More and more, we are finding studies that indicate that attitude and optimism can have a positive impact on one’s health. A German and British based research team conducted an experiment to demonstrate the effect of positive vs. negative expectations in regard to pain relief. Subjects were given sequences of four pain stimuli and asked to rate their pain. During the first sequence, there was no pain killer administered. For the next three sequences, pain killer was introduced, and the amount remained constant. The only thing that changed was how much (if any) of the drug the participants were told they were receiving. The subjects reported significant pain relief after receiving the drug, but when they were told that the pain reliever had been taken away, they reported pain again. “When we told them that we’re going to stop the (drug) infusion, that pain relief is going to stop, just by manipulating that expectation in a negative direction, they actually rated that all the way back to baseline. We actually overrode the fundamental effect of the drug”, study co-author, Irene Tracey, of Oxford University reports. (p.2) The fascinating thing about this study is that it was not just psychological. The pain stimulation was combined with MRI brain imaging. The study confirmed that the subjects were indeed experiencing biological and physiological pain relief.