In 1928, sociologists W. I. Thomas and D. S. Thomas put forth what has become known as the Thomas theorem; “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”
“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” – Pablo Picasso
In a paper published by Cognitive Brain Research, musicians that played the piano were studied using fMRI in order to watch what happened in the brain while they imagined practicing very difficult passages, having to visualize complex rhythms and musical nuances that often take months or even years to perfect. In short order, the scientists discovered that what the musicians imagined that they played was just as real as playing the music on a piano – as if they had spent hours practicing on the instrument itself.
Our response to the world around us is a chicken-and-egg conundrum. Our viewpoint becomes our ‘policy on life,’ a world view that directly affects us as individuals. If we continue to imagine a world of chaos and pain, then this is what we tend to experience. The opposite of this is true as well.
Dr. Seligman of the positive psychology movement tells us that typically people forecast their futures. And Barbara Frederickson tells us that optimists get to enjoy real bone and blood physical benefits as well as psychological benefits. She states there is an ‘undo effect’ that can mitigate the physiological effects of stress. In a laboratory study that measured both positive and negative people, there were obvious changes depending on someone’s mental outlook. Negative people experienced increased heart rates, elevated blood sugar, immune system depletion, etc., as if they had actually undergone a stressful event, but when these people focused on positive emotions, they quickly regained a ‘baseline’ reading based on a more even emotional state. People who continued to ruminate on negative outcomes continued to experience physiological changes that were harmful to them.
Our imaginations are so powerful that they can build cities and create art so profound, it affects millions of people. Our imaginations, with a slant toward the positive can also improve our cholesterol levels, and help us to live to be 100 years old or more. For many years, psychologists, following Freud, thought that people simply needed to express their anger and anxiety — blow off some steam — to be happier. This simply isn’t true. While we can’t dismiss our own internal demons – they must be integrated and accepted, we can train our minds to think about things in a more positive way. Our imaginations are powerful things. Thinking positively doesn’t make us a Pollyanna or delusional. It can actually save our lives.
“The most imaginative people are the most credulous. To them everything is possible.” – Alexander Chase
If you have lost your creative edge, and need to spark your own imagination, drive down a different road than you normally do today. Talk to someone you wouldn’t normally talk to. Do something new, even if it means you will feel like a fool. Do something creatively scary, just to realize you can do anything. Your brain is literally begging for some new creative fodder, and finding new experiences while keeping a positive outlook will foster better health, higher happiness and the fortitude to face even the most stressful situations in life.
About the Author
Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World.
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