This week we’re excited to publish 10th grader Kennedy Mikel’s Personal Project. Kennedy created a study to analyze whether doing a few simple tasks every day can improve your positivity.
This post was previously published in February and is being re-shared as part of the personal project virtual expo.
Recently, I’ve noticed within myself, fellow classmates, and highschoolers as a whole, an air of negativity, stress, and anxiety surrounding us. This makes sense, as highschool is a stressful time. But does that mean our highschool experience has to be defined by the stress we face? With all the physical work, personal insecurities, and uncertainties about our futures it is easy to focus on the negatives throughout the day. This caused me to wonder if there is a simple way to force your mind to focus on the positive parts of life. Is it possible to become a positive thinker, and what are the benefits of becoming one? I put together an experiment to fully explore this question.
The human brain is always thinking whether that human is aware of it or not. These thoughts that are constantly playing in the background are called self-talk. Self-talk can be positive or negative. Pessimists generally have more negative self-talk, while optimists generally have more positive. Having a positive self-talk is key to becoming a positive thinker because it allows you to cope with negative events that happen throughout the day more effectively, and improves problem solving skills. Having those skills protects the brain from the effects of stress and anxiety.
Using this information I devised an experiment where seven participants were given the task of saying two things every morning for 4 months. The first was one thing they were thankful for, and the second was one thing they were looking forward to in the upcoming day. They were to say them out loud the first thing in the morning. I hypothesised that saying it at the beginning of the day would set a positive tone for the rest of the day, and long term it would result in a more positive outlook for the participant. Before the participants started the experiment I had them write how positive they felt their self-talk, their feelings towards school, their feelings towards themselves, and their typical day were using a scale of 1-5, 1 being negative and 5 being positive. Their average results for self-talk was 2.9. For their feelings toward school, they averaged a 2.3. Their feelings towards themselves averaged a 2.7, and the average of their typical day was a 3.
After four months, I asked them again how they felt about those four things in order to see if they felt more positively about any of them. Overall, every result increased. Their average self-talk result was 3.1, an increase of 0.3 over the original. Their feelings towards school increased by 0.8, to 3.1. This was the largest increase by average, of all the results. Their feelings towards themselves ended at 3.3, an increase of 0.6. Their typical day’s ending result was 3.7 which is an increase of 0.7 from their original.
I began to analyze why the results increased as they did. It makes sense that the participants’ feelings towards school would increase the most because the experiment forced them to say one thing they were looking forward to about their upcoming day which often took place at school. The two things they had to say did not directly focus on their views about themselves, so it is no surprise to me that their feelings towards themselves did not increase as much as their typical day or feelings towards school. Because the results for the participants’ self-talk increased the least, I believe that it takes much more focus and intentional positive thinking throughout the day to create positive self-talk within one’s mind.
These results illustrate that practicing gratitude and pre-determining times of positivity for later, first thing in the morning, will set a positive tone for the rest of the day, and allow a more positive outlook in the long run. Most participants said that they could feel when they had not done the experiment on a certain day because they would feel more down. Others said it was not really noticeable. However, all of their results show that over time, the experiment does have a positive effect. The majority of the participants said that they would recommend the experiment to anyone who was struggling to be positive, especially during times when it was easiest to be negative. So if you feel yourself being drowned in daily stressors, take some time each day to focus on the the things and people you have, as well as all the positivity that is around you. What you look for is what you will find.
Written by Kennedy Mikel
Clear, James. “How Positive Thinking Builds Skills, Boosts Health, and Improves Work.” James Clear, 4 Feb. 2020, jamesclear.com/positive-thinking.
“Blog.” CollegeAmerica, www.collegeamerica.edu/blog/5-ways-to-give-up-negativity.
Cole, Nicolas. “5 Daily Habits That Will Cultivate a Positive Mindset.” Inc.com, Inc., 9 May 2016, www.inc.com/nicolas-cole/5-ways-to-cultivate-a-positive-mindset.html.
Tucker, Jan. “5 Signs Negative Thinking Is Sabotaging Your Happiness.” FinerMinds, 7 Jan. 2020, http://www.finerminds.com/mind-power/5-signs-subconscious-negativity-is-sabotaging-your-happiness-7-ways-to-stop-it.