Guess what? There’s some science to prove that perception is reality.
We’ve all heard how positive thinking can make us feel better. But, why? Perceptions are just that – they aren’t ‘real’ concepts. Whilst they may make us feel good, as humans we often seek reality to ground us. Is there really any science behind it? Is it true that perception is reality?
How perception works with our daily lives
Our perceptions massively contribute to our outlook on life. They can have a positive or negative impact on how we look at situations and in turn how we react and deal with them.
As humans, we seek happiness and health, and we believe they are the foundations for a successful and settled life. There is some science behind that too. It’s true that happier people live longer. They are also more likely to be healthier and have more success in their lives. To those people, perception is reality because their positive outlook and thinking have contributed to their long, happy, healthy lives.
Perception is reality – in happiness
There is a slightly different approach to the perception of happiness, and the reality. It can be argued that instead of searching for what or who can make us happy, it is possible to take more of a scientific approach.
If we can learn how to suppress negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones, we increase our chances at happiness. For example, we only need to look at behavioural research to see how visualising positivity can change a state of mind.
1st study to prove that perception is reality: changing behaviour
In March 2016, researchers from Kings College, London, tested over 100 subjects diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Their findings were compiled into the Journal of Behaviour Research and Therapy.
Researchers asked one group of anxiety sufferers to use imagery to visualise and focus on a more positive outcome from three worries they’d had. Researchers asked another group to think of the same scenario, only to think of verbal positive outcomes. The last group were asked to visualise any positive image as soon as they started to recognise any worry process.
The outcome of the research showed that the two groups focusing on a positive image, whether it related to a specific worry or not, reported greater happiness, restfulness and decreased anxiety. So, when questioning if perception is reality, this research shows that visualising positivity can lead to behavioural changes for the better.
There is also a study to show that there’s a link between happiness and success. Dr Sonia Lyubomirsky, head researcher from UC Riverside, conducted a study which involved more than 270,000 people.
She found that “when people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic and energetic and others find them likeable and sociable. Happy people are thus able to benefit from these perceptions.”
2d study to prove that perception is reality: it’s not all about happiness
Happiness is difficult to quantify. Does money make you happy? Maybe it’s success? How do you measure how happy you are against how much money you have or how successful you are? All these questions relate to how perceptions can relate to more than just striving for happiness.
There is proof that positive thoughts and feelings can improve life expectancy, beyond happiness alone. In a study carried out by the University of Kentucky, researchers examined autobiographies written in 1930 by nuns living together at the same convent.
In their early years, between the ages of 18-32 years old, and rated them on a scale of positivity. Sixty years later, the researchers contacted the surviving nuns and of those that were still alive, half had lived beyond average life expectancy.
The research concluded that the higher scores of positive thoughts from the longest living survivors were due to the perceptions they had about their lives, regardless of the circumstances.
3d study to prove that perception is reality: more resilience to stress
There is further evidence to suggest that, actually, short-term stress strengthens the immune system. This is completely opposite to the proposed happiness-based perceptions that make us healthier!
There’s a couple of studies to support this. The Penn Resilience Program is based on decades of research and has successfully helped a number of people become more resilient to stress and anxiety by increasing their mental fitness.
The idea behind the studies is to learn coping mechanisms and increase levels of positivity. It meant they were better equipped to better cope with stress or trauma or issues which may occur as part of daily life.
A similar study to support the theory of how stress levels can overall improve well-being was carried out by researchers, led by Dr. Segerstrom at the University of Kentucky. They analysed over 300 separate studies done in the previous 30 years within the psychological community of the effects of stress on humans.
They concluded that when people face a stressful situation, they get a burst of adrenaline that boosts their immune system and helps them to better deal with the immediate situation. But, over time, if they continue to stress about an event, their immune systems break down, causing illness, depression and anxiety disorder.
What all of these studies show us, is that perception is reality – if you let it be. If you can’t change your situation, change your thinking about it!