The Power of Belief and Positive Thinking

image18The word “belief” is defined in the dictionary as “confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptive to rigorous proof.”[i] But this word can be broken down into two separate terms: “be” and “lief.”  “To be” simply means to exist or to live. The word “lief” originates from an Indo-European word “leubh,” which means love.  The combined word “belief” now takes on a whole new meaning, which is simply “to be in love with.” Belief used to define faith in God or “to be in love with” God. And one cannot love without using the heart.[ii]

Beliefs do not necessarily represent what’s true or factual. Our beliefs are based on perceptions of reality, which are shaped by our experiences and culture. The power of each belief or thought stems from the individual believer. [iii] In this sense, whatever you believe from your heart to be true could be a reality in your life. As a result, you then attract events, experiences, and people in your life to match your “loves” or “beliefs.”[iv] This is demonstrated even in my parents’ relationship with each other. My mom always states that what attracted her to my father was their shared belief in meditation, God, and spirituality.

Coming from a background in engineering and medicine, I was taught to question every belief, even the proven theories in medicine. So, how can I believe in the idea of a soul, in a God that has never been scientifically proven, and in a system of heartfulness? Well, it’s simple. It’s my conviction that these aspects of spirituality exist, thus making them real and alive.  However, it’s not sufficient to just think the thought with the mind; it must be felt in the heart for positive effect. This is the concept behind prayers, meditation, and positive thinking: a simple thought that is felt by the heart.  A true belief or prayer resonates both in the heart and mind.

Imagine how the world could be positively changed if we all prayed for each others’ well-being? This concept was actually studied on a smaller scale by medical researchers in San Francisco, California.  Forty patients with advanced AIDS were randomized to two groups: one group that received prayers from strangers and another control group that received no prayers. The subjects enrolled in the distant prayer group benefitted from a reduction in AIDS-defined illnesses and illness severity and a decrease in the number of hospital visits.[v] Even though this is considered a smaller study in the world of medicine, its scope is still very powerful, for it suggests that heartfelt prayers can alter disease courses.  Perhaps prayers and peaceful vigils conducted in masses can alter an entire country’s consciousness.

The study discussed above is just one recent investigation; in fact, more than 6,000 articles have been published regarding the topic of prayer or faith, and health. Research is also being published by scientists about the biological changes caused by certain perceptions or beliefs. One such scientist, by the name of Dr. Bruce Lipton, has discussed the effects of positive and negative thoughts on the genomic code.[vi] Simply stated, his concept is based on the simple paradigm of the laws of attraction: like attracts like. If ideas in the mind send certain vibrations, and everything in the universe, including the brain, the heart and the human genome, emanate a certain vibration, then changes can occur if vibrations match.

Taking that paradigm one step further: if beliefs are simply ideas that are loved by one’s heart, then the vibrations for such beloved thoughts should be even more potent to have a causative effect. The difference between a thought and belief is not only love but certainty. A thought implies that something is possible and “could” happen. A belief surpasses that possibility and makes it certain: it “will” happen. It is then the marriage of feelings, emotions, and ideas that will make a mountain move upon request. Since every type of idea emits certain vibrations, thoughts should be pure and positive in nature.

To many individuals, the phrase “positive thinking” sounds nonsensical, as how can sheer optimism make a poor, uneducated, jobless man rich. Just outlandish thoughts of “I will be rich, I will be rich,” without any attempts to find a job, might not work. Rather, that jobless man should say, “I will find a great job that utilizes my level of education and will help support my financial needs.” So even positive thoughts must be reasonable and, of course, genuine. Optimistic thoughts can become optimistic beliefs, leading to an optimistic attitude even during dire circumstance in life. This then triggers a chain reaction: the man finds a job, and he is well-liked for his optimistic attitude and hard-work; he believes he can succeed; he then attracts more people surrounding his job as a result of his positive attitude, affording him more opportunities for success.[vii]

In the past twenty years, positive thinking has been integrated into psychology and is termed positive psychology, which focuses on enriching the lives of ordinary human beings. This concept complements traditional psychology, as the emphasis is placed on personal growth and happiness instead of on the negative aspect of psychology, i.e. mental illness or phobia.[viii] It’s a more scientific approach to the integration of positive thinking into one’s attitudes and beliefs, thus attracting positive outcomes. Breaking this concept down, it again reiterates the paradigm of the laws of attraction and heartfelt beliefs. It’s not enough to just think the thought; one must feel it, believe it, love it, live it, and even transcend it.

Positive thinking, transformed into positive beliefs, can be powerful in shaping one’s life, mind, heart, and character; thus, science in many fields – genetics, medicine, psychology, biology, and quantum mechanics – is studying this concept. A mere two-page article cannot even begin to summarize the efforts of these fields and the myriad of research publications that investigate the above-mentioned, yet intangible concepts. How do you measure the power of belief or positive thinking? But surely enough, we are finding ways to study it, measure it, and then integrate it into our lives. This is just the tip of the iceberg…


References:

[i] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/beliefs

[ii] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=belief

[iii] The unbelievable power of belief. http://uncommonsense.is/post/19867557991/the-unbelievable-power-of-a-belief

[iv] Kluger J. The Biology of Belief. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1879179-2,00.html

[v] Sicher F, Targ E, et al. A randomized double-blind study of the effect of distant healing in a population with advanced AIDS- report of a small scale study. West J Med. 1998; 169: 356-363

[vi] Lipton B. The Biology of Belief. https://www.brucelipton.com/books/biology-of-belief

[vii] What is positive thinking? http://psychology.about.com/od/PositivePsychology/f/positive-thinking.htm

[viii] Positive psychology. https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/positive-psychology

Dr. Swati Kannan, MD

Dr. Swati Kannan, MD is a dermatologist at University of California Los Angeles, CA USA

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