I am adopted. I have known this fact all of my life. I was born in London, England, in 1965 to a young American woman who traveled to London from Chicago about six months before I was born. I was transported as an infant back to Chicago and adopted by my parents, Pat and Jack Harney. I was lucky. I had a great childhood which, I believed until recently, formed the basis for my happy adult life.
I never had a desire to find my birth mother. However, I did wonder why she traveled to London to give birth to me. I figured she must have been banished from Chicago to avoid the perceived family shame of a 1960s unmarried pregnancy. Consequently, it was my belief her pregnancy must have been an unhappy one. Since I have always been a happy person, I concluded a pregnant woman’s emotional state must not impact her fetus.
I was wrong. In fact, research has shown that a mother’s emotional state during her pregnancy can have a deep impact on her fetus. A recent study found that stress and anxiety during pregnancy can mean a higher risk of a child developing ADHD, depression, or other conditions.
On the flip side, a pregnant mother’s feelings of happiness can infuse the developing fetus with a sense of happiness or calm and set the stage for a balanced, happy, and serene disposition throughout the child’s life.
Applying this research to my birth mother’s circumstances, it was a mystery why I am such an innately positive person. Happily, this mystery was recently solved.
About a year ago, I decided to search for my birth mother. Not long after, I found her. Ironically, she has been living in the Chicagoland area most of my life. I spoke with her. She told me the story of my birth.
She said that it was true that she traveled to Europe to avoid public and family scrutiny. But she also traveled abroad to sightsee and explore. She took a leave of absence from work and went on a super fun six-month European trip with a friend.
So, she experienced a joyful pregnancy, not a stressful one. At the end of her pregnancy, she enrolled in a London based program for unwed pregnant women that supported her throughout my birth and her recovery.
Mystery solved. Science confirmed. My birth mother’s joyful pregnancy likely has contributed to my positive thinking and sunny disposition.
Positive thinking has vast benefits. It reduces stress and sadness, increases life span, decreases depression, increases our immune systems, and many others.
What about people who have not been so lucky and do not have innate positive thinking? Can negative thinking be converted into positive thinking?
Yes, according to research. It is a behavior that can be learned. Below are six steps to becoming a more positive thinker.
- List happy thoughts. It sounds simple and it is. Take 30 minutes and list all the happy thoughts you can think of.
- Be aware of negative thoughts and feelings. Whenever you catch yourself thinking about or feeling anything negative, call it out.
- Follow that negative thought with a happy thought from your Happy List. After a few days, the number of negative thoughts and feelings often decreases.
- Make a conscious and planned effort to think positive thoughts at least one point in the day. For example, plan to think positive thoughts on the way to the grocery store.
- Don’t judge yourself. Everyone has lots of unhappy and negative thoughts throughout the day.
- Combine this task with smiling. Yes, smiling. Force a smile on your face as you bring your happy thought to your mind. This will help erase the effects of the negative thoughts.
Some of us are born positive thinkers and some of us are not. Luckily, we are not stuck being negative thinkers. We can change. Similarly, we can change from not having an estate plan to checking estate plan off our to do list. Just like positive thinking has its life benefits, so does having an estate plan.