Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

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Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby Ben » Tue Nov 12, 2013 4:39 am

An interesting article for your perusal

Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

The idea is that, for this reason, it is harder to make positive experiences stick neurally. So simply prescribing positive thinking or faking it until you theoretically make it is like sprinkling sugar on the surface of a reality that remains essentially the same.
"I know a lot of people who have this kind of positive, look on the bright side yappity yap, but deep down they're very frightened, angry, sad, disappointed, hurt, or lonely. It hasn't sunk in. Think of all the people who tell you why the world is a good place, but they're still jerks," Hanson told The Atlantic last week.


Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/po ... z2kP2RGEsN
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 12, 2013 4:51 am

Greetings,

From a Buddhist context, it's more profitable to think of what is "kusala" than to use a positive/negative dichotomy...

AN 2.19 wrote:"Abandon what is unskillful, monks. It is possible to abandon what is unskillful. If it were not possible to abandon what is unskillful, I would not say to you, 'Abandon what is unskillful.' But because it is possible to abandon what is unskillful, I say to you, 'Abandon what is unskillful.' If this abandoning of what is unskillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, 'Abandon what is unskillful.' But because this abandoning of what is unskillful is conducive to benefit and pleasure, I say to you, 'Abandon what is unskillful.'

"Develop what is skillful, monks. It is possible to develop what is skillful. If it were not possible to develop what is skillful, I would not say to you, 'Develop what is skillful.' But because it is possible to develop what is skillful, I say to you, 'Develop what is skillful.' If this development of what is skillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, 'Develop what is skillful.' But because this development of what is skillful is conducive to benefit and pleasure, I say to you, 'Develop what is skillful.'"

If something is "positive", yet is in some way rooted in delusion, greed or aversion, then it is no good.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby Ben » Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:03 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

From a Buddhist context, it's more profitable to think of what is "kusala" than to use a positive/negative dichotomy...



Hi Paul,
As a Buddhist, I find it profitable, indeed skilful, to look at things from a variety of approaches.
Kind regards,
Ben
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:10 am

Yes, good article, Ben.
Good point, too, Retro ... but maybe not totally appropriate. To me, kusala/akusala overlaps with positive/negative although they don't neatly align.

:thinking:
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby lyndon taylor » Tue Nov 12, 2013 6:50 am

Actually positive thinking is not wasted on the brain's chemistry, without positive thinking and outlook quite few of us might suffer from depression, a brain chemistry imbalance, so my guess is positive thinking positively effects brain chemistry, as well as being one of the more effective ways to deal with suffering.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby cooran » Tue Nov 12, 2013 6:55 am

Hello Lyndon,

Are there any links for scientific studies to support your statement?

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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby lyndon taylor » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:05 am

Well we might be able to agree that negative thought patterns can contribute a lot to suffering, and in fact suffering is a negative way of dealing with situations, in some sense. It would seem that the reverse is true also, certain positive thought patterns can contribute to reduced suffering, I'm not talking about delusions that everything is peachy when obviously its not, but rather looking on the bright side of things and focusing more on the positives than the negatives in one's life.

Cooran, I'll leave that question to you and your google function. But I think scientists would say that your prevailing mood is both a function and a cause of your brain chemistry.here's one link for you though; https://www.google.com/#q=positive+thin ... +chemistry
Last edited by lyndon taylor on Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby greenthumb » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:11 am

What good is positive thinking if you don't do anything but just think positively? An example, you have a horrible job, it's killing you or you are in a horrible relationship, it's making you depressed, or you have habits that are making your life miserable….from my experience, thinking positively without action to improve your circumstances is like a bandage on a pus pocket.…I've tried it. I think positive thinking can give you some idea on how to get out of the ditch you are in… regarding depression, for me the fix was like a three legged stool, you need diet, exercise, and getting out of the habit/relationships of being depressed. The only way I found to improve my thinking and life is to replace bad habits with good habits and try to catch some proper samadhi… I couldn't open the link on my computer to read the whole article, so I hope I haven't hijacked the thread again. I think equanimity in the 4th jhana would come in handy too. I am kinda kidding and kinda serious as well.

Edit: isn't faith positive thinking?
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby Doshin » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:33 am

Ben wrote:An interesting article for your perusal

Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

The idea is that, for this reason, it is harder to make positive experiences stick neurally. So simply prescribing positive thinking or faking it until you theoretically make it is like sprinkling sugar on the surface of a reality that remains essentially the same.
"I know a lot of people who have this kind of positive, look on the bright side yappity yap, but deep down they're very frightened, angry, sad, disappointed, hurt, or lonely. It hasn't sunk in. Think of all the people who tell you why the world is a good place, but they're still jerks," Hanson told The Atlantic last week.


Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/po ... z2kP2RGEsN


I don't think the headline describes the message of the article. To make two citations:
...
This is where Hanson makes the distinction between having a superficially positive thought and "installing" a positive experience.

"When people are having positive thinking or even most positive experiences, the person is not taking the extra 10, 20 seconds to heighten the installation into neural structure."

By pausing to connect with and take in the beautiful, joyful moments, we begin to bring equilibrium back to the neural experience of life and how satisfying it can be at a deeper level. This, in turn, can help us cope with the tougher stuff life inevitably throws at us.


Here the message is, that positive thoughts/experiences is important, to "bring equilibrium back to the neural experience of life and ...". But positive experiences takes a little attention/time to stick on the neural network. Upekkha.

And the "executive summary" at the end:
"The problem with privileging the positive is that life is going to throw everything at you and to be a fully functioning, well-rounded human, you have to have the full spectrum of emotion," Mackay says.

"Realistic thinking means to see it the way it is and deal with it, then when something good happens, enjoy it."


Which I think is the real message in the article. That we should not emphasize the positive, but exercise equanimity, and take the time to notice both positive and negative thoughts, with equal priority. Upekkha.

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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby Sekha » Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:15 am

Ben wrote:Hi Paul,
As a Buddhist, I find it profitable, indeed skilful, to look at things from a variety of approaches.
Kind regards,
Ben

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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:00 am

Isn't Right Effort based on "positive thinking"? Or at least skillful thinking?
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:37 am

It's not clear from the article what they take "positive thinking" to be. The term has usually means something like cultivated optimism, the deliberate construction of thoughts which affirm or are thought to be productive of other mental states which are desired. But the article talks about "beautiful, joyful moments", which seems to veer towards the idea of hedonically pleasant experiences. The subtitle of the book is "Contentment, calm, and confidence", which is nicely alliterative but mixes the two.
There seems to be a confusion between active thinking and passive experiencing. Nor is it clear why hedonically pleasant experiences are positive (sunsets yes, adulterous liaisons no) or which active thinking counts as positive ("I can stop drinking", versus "I can win this fight/delude more customers").
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby m0rl0ck » Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:08 pm

Geez. Maybe that guy should do some metta. Find out how to change his mind.
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:14 pm

Greetings,

Ben wrote:As a Buddhist, I find it profitable, indeed skilful, to look at things from a variety of approaches.

Sure, but the distinction is critical in untangling statements like this...

"I know a lot of people who have this kind of positive, look on the bright side yappity yap, but deep down they're very frightened, angry, sad, disappointed, hurt, or lonely. It hasn't sunk in. Think of all the people who tell you why the world is a good place, but they're still jerks,"

... whatever "positive thinking" is being "wasted on the brain", isn't transcending from akusala to kusala.

if "positive" is equated to a superficial "look on the bright side yappity yap, but deep down they're very frightened, angry, sad, disappointed, hurt, or lonely", then isn't the word "positive" a misappellation? It sounds more like a failed attempt at auto-suggestion.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby SarathW » Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:26 am

I agree with Rero.
I was a positive thinking Junkie. I read How to Win Friends and Influence People when I was 13 years old. (I still have a copy of the original publication)
In my Thirties I went to their Public Speaking course.
I summarise the book and read every morning before I went to work and try to apply the principals.
I have read hundreds of positive thinking books available in the market.
I even went to the extreme techniques such as lighting green candles and visualising sports cars and house mansions.
Surprisingly I got lot of the thing, very close to what I need but at a big cost.

The impermanence hit my life and I was unhappy and depressed with suicidal thoughts.

Then one of my close friends gave me a copy of Ven Narada’s Book – Buddhas Teaching.
It was a turning point of my life and I thought I wasted so much of my time chasing the wrong dream.

To me, just positive thinking is building a house without foundation.

Now days I read only Dhamma books
:reading:
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:31 am

retrofuturist wrote:if "positive" is equated to a superficial "look on the bright side yappity yap, but deep down they're very frightened, angry, sad, disappointed, hurt, or lonely", then isn't positive a misappellation? Is sounds more like a failed attempt at auto-suggestion.


But positive thinking isn't automatically superficial.

This, for example, looks very much like positive thinking to me: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .soma.html
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Nov 13, 2013 8:08 pm

:goodpost:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby mahat » Mon Nov 18, 2013 11:37 pm

Ben wrote:An interesting article for your perusal

Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

The idea is that, for this reason, it is harder to make positive experiences stick neurally. So simply prescribing positive thinking or faking it until you theoretically make it is like sprinkling sugar on the surface of a reality that remains essentially the same.
"I know a lot of people who have this kind of positive, look on the bright side yappity yap, but deep down they're very frightened, angry, sad, disappointed, hurt, or lonely. It hasn't sunk in. Think of all the people who tell you why the world is a good place, but they're still jerks," Hanson told The Atlantic last week.


Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/po ... z2kP2RGEsN


How true…huge difference between Dhamma positive thinking which builds the heart force vs. just regular positive thinking.

Before knowing about Buddhism, my family was falling apart and thanks to it my grad education was severely being affected. I kept on telling myself to be positive, "fight, fight, fight!", "Don't let anything get you down!" I had anger of course at what was happening, but I exercised, etc…but than more disasters were awaiting. To admit you were suffering felt like defeat.

Than one day I was on the subway and tears started falling out of nowhere. I wasn't even thinking of anything sad.

I was like, "Why am I crying?"…this happened several times…no reason, just tears started flowing out. It was like I was deny the truth to myself.

It is admission of the 1st Noble Truth. Positive thinking denies the "Truth of Suffering", so it does not stick to the heart. Dhamma positive thinking you are walking on the solid foundation of truth and practices which give life back to your heart. THERE IS AN END TO SUFFERING! Back to victory again! :jumping:
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Nov 19, 2013 2:46 pm

I see the problem here not with positive thinking or not, but with the fact that so many people, especially new-agers, believing in the law of attraction. To think that a positive thought generates a force in the world that will generate good fortune in one's life is foolish (Edit: as Mahat points out, if it leads to denial of the first noble truth, it can actually be harmful). But, as Spiny points out, if the positive thought is used to motivate skillful action or to drive out unskillful action, then it does have benefit for this mind and its actions.
Last edited by Buckwheat on Wed Nov 20, 2013 6:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Positive thinking is wasted on the brain

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 19, 2013 8:03 pm

Greetings Buckwheat,

I concur.

Dhp 1&2 wrote:Mind precedes all dhammas. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.
Mind precedes all dhammas. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.

No need to re-route anything via "the universe" as per "the law of attaction".

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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