Let me start off by saying that I am a skeptic. There – it is out. Or perhaps I should say “My name is Shaya and I am a skeptic”. I have been hearing about the law of attraction in various forms for almost 10 years. And while I believe it is true, I am skeptical. Now a portion of the law of attraction has been proven through a scientific study.
Barbara Fredrickson and Thomas Joiner did a study to see if college students who were happier would remain happier and if they would think more novel and creative thoughts. The students did! Basically, the study says that if you are happy, you will think more creative and novel thoughts, which will give you more opportunity to be happy and get happy and then you will think more creative and novel thoughts, etc., etc. It creates what they call an “upward spiral” so rather than “the rich get richer”, it is “the happy get happier”. But wait, since the “happier” think more novel and creative thoughts, they will also have the opportunity to act on those ideas and create wealth and abundance. So perhaps the rich do get richer?!
The researchers even have an idea about why this happens. Our ancestors lived in a world in which their survival depended on making good decisions quickly. When they felt fear, they usually chose one of two reactions – either fight or flight. They would either fight the tiger that was attacking or run like the dickens to get away. Those of our ancestors who spent 10 minutes considering options or perhaps even hesitated for 10 seconds did not get to pass on their genes and, therefore, are not really our ancestors. This, of course, is Darwin’s idea of “Survival of the Fittest”. This whole “fight or flight” thinking did not exactly lead to really broad thinking and did not lend itself to building an array of problem solving skills.
So what exactly happened? The researchers – Fredrickson and Joiner – had college students fill out a survey about whether they had felt positive or negative emotions during the previous two weeks. This gave the researchers an idea about how positive each student was. The researchers then asked the students how they had solved their most important problem during the past year. They took those answers and rated them on what kind of thinking the students used. So, for example, if the student wrote that they stepped back and looked at options, they were considered to be using “broad-minded”, creative thinking.
And the results? – Well, sure enough, those students who showed more positive emotions also used broader, more creative thinking. And the researchers also showed that it worked the other way around. Those students who used more broad-minded thinking also had more positive emotions. This proves their idea of an “upward spiral”. The happy get happier and the creative get more creative.
So how can you get happy? Well, Fredrickson, in a 2003 article, wrote that she just showed the students short movies with joyful scenes of penguins waddling around or serene scenes of nature. People who watched these short movies were more likely to see the “big picture” and have more broad-minded thinking.
What can you do? What simple steps can you take to get this effect? You can have joyful and serene images on your screensaver or quotes that make you think happy, joyful thoughts. Another idea would be to have fun, upbeat music playing in the background. You can also avoid negative and fearful thoughts. You might do this by avoiding the news when they are showing scenes of war or crime. You can also avoid movies with gory or violent scenes.
Will these steps help? Well, they certainly can’t hurt. And if they helped students think more creatively, there is no reason it wouldn’t work for you as well.