Managing Automatic Negative Thoughts:

The Positive Side of Thoughts

By Sherry Myers

Last month we reviewed Step 2 of our series on step-by-step thinking principles used by Daniel G. Amen, MD in his article on ANT THERAPY (eradicating Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS).)

This month, let’s look at Step 3: Every time you have a good thought, a happy thought, a hopeful thought or a kind thought, your brain releases chemicals that make your body feel good (and cools your deep limbic system). 

Last week's step showed us the impact that negative thoughts can have on us - heating up the deep limbic system and presenting a danger to our overall health.  This week, we're looking at positive thoughts and the effect they can have.  It stands to reason that, if negative thoughts generate negative results, then positive thoughts ought to culminate in positive effects on our bodies.  Negative thoughts can raise our blood pressure, but positive thoughts can calm our breathing and result in more relaxation of the body, reducing tension.

Women actually have a larger deep limbic system which helps them to be more in touch with their emotions, increasing their social connections.  But, everyone can enjoy the health benefits of positive thinking.

In September 2013, an American Heart Association journal published a research paper showing that a positive outlook on life can help people live longer and stronger, and can even help those suffering from serious diseases.  Humor also improves the immune cell function, promoting better health and decreasing the risk of cancer.  Volunteering, and the positive feelings received from helping others, has been shown to have health benefits as well.

Training ourselves to look at things in a more positive light rather than a negative one can go a long way toward improving our health status.  A rainy day can appear to ruin an outdoor plan that had been looked forward to for several weeks.  Or, it can force you to come up with a creative indoor alternative like setting up a tent and watching movies, or having a craft day with friends.  Quality time with loved ones may salvage your rainy day.  So, how can we turn our disappointments into more positive thinking?  Get creative, get positive, and remember - think happy thoughts!