The Power of Positive Thinking!

The Power of Positive Thinking!

The ancient Greeks used to think that the mind was physically located in the heart. While they were wrong about that, there is a strong mind-body connection that is finally being scientifically proven.

There is a great quote that goes something like this, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t—you’re RIGHT!” The idea is that what you believe to happen will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. BUT is it true? Can faith, belief, or kind thoughts impact your actual physical health? Here are 4 recent scientific studies that demonstrate just that:

1. A recent meta-analysis (combination of multiple smaller studies) demonstrated 2 interesting findings.

  • Something as simple as having a sense of purpose is associated with an absolute 10% reduction in the risk of DEATH.
  • Optimism, in various studies leads to a 10 to 73% reduction in cardiovascular events. The largest study of over 97,000 patients showed a 24% reduction. Pessimism on the other hand leads to a 32-42% increase in cardiovascular event rates.

So just having a reason to live, i.e. a mission in life, and looking on the bright side helps keep you healthier and live longer!

2. Another study demonstrated that not only happiness, but more importantly, WHY you are happy, makes a difference in your immune system. Fredrickson et al. did an amazing epigenetic study. Baseline inflammatory and antibody gene expression was measured and then measured again after one group did something ‘fun’ for themselves, such as buy a purse versus the other group which did something ‘fun’ for someone else, i.e. donate money, work at a soup kitchen, etc.

What they found was that while both groups reported being ‘happier’ after their activity, the group that did something for themselves had an increase in pro-inflammatory gene expression and decreased antibody production. In contrast, the group who had done something for others had no change in inflammatory markers, but increased antibody production—possibly making them less likely to get sick! Helping others actually helps you too!

3. Acute physical performance can be improved by positive feelings as well. Zheng et al. in a 2014 article studied people after doing a forgiveness activity or not. People were asked to think about an unpleasant past experience and then try to forgive (all in writing). Right after that they were asked to judge the grade of a slope. The group that did the forgiveness exercise thought the slope was LESS steep then the ones that did not.

In a similar experiment in the same study, another set of subjects did or did not do the forgiveness exercise and then had their vertical leap measured. The people who did the forgiveness exercise were able to jump higher than those that did not! The authors postulated that, “It was as if a weight was lifted off of them.” Isn’t that how it really feels when we forgive and let go?

4. Finally, there was a recent study showing how powerful the mind is. Runners were told that they were going to receive OxyRBX, which they were told was a weak analog to epogen (which increases red blood cell production). What they were actually given was a saline placebo to inject. Incredibly, the group that injected the saline placebo had a 1.5% increase in performance and reported less effort in just 2 weeks compared to the other runners who were training with them! Just thinking they were getting a competitive edge (when they weren’t) made them faster and made it feel easier as well!

So what do all these studies teach us? One is that the mind is a powerful tool and that we should use it. Second God made our minds to use. Finally, if we use our minds to have faith in Him there is nothing He can’t do through us! It’s true, I read it in book…

I can do all things through CHRIST whom strengthens ME. Phil 4:13



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Harvey Hahn, MD, FACC

Dr. Hahn graduated from Loma Linda University in 1994. He is currently the director of the Cardiovascular Fellowship Training Program at the Kettering Medical Center in Kettering Ohio.

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