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In recognition of National Positive Thinking Day, Iana Velez, the Editor-in-Chief of NY YOGA + LIFE Magazine, and Dina Kaplan, founder of The Path in NYC, discuss meditation, the human brain, and how to embrace positive thinking.

IANA: Did you know there was such a thing as “Positive Thinking Day” ?

DINA: I didn’t know there was a Positive Thinking Day — shouldn’t that be every day!? I love this idea, because if you choose to think positively not only will more positive things happen in your day and in the end your life, but you’ll live much more lightly! Rather than thinking anyone is out to get you, we can choose to think kindly of others, assuming positive intentions. This gives us a good energy that in turn causes more great things to unfold each day.

Is “positive thinking” the goal of meditation?

It depends on what type of meditation you’re speaking about. In mindfulness the focus is more on being aware and present, at least as you begin. The end goal is to end suffering, so perhaps you can equate that with thinking positively! But most types of meditation are designed to rewire your mind so that you don’t have to work on “positive thinking,” but it actually happens naturally as your brain changes with the meditation.

Personally I do believe in a combination of meditation and positive psychology. Together they can be extremely impactful in helping you live more lightly, more playfully and in the end with more happiness.

Why do you think people struggle so much with the concept of “positive thinking”? Why do you think this does not seem to be our default thinking?

Our brains are not naturally wired for it. We naturally focus more on bad news and tough things that happen than good things. You’ll see a lot written on this “negativity bias,” which says we’re built to latch onto bad news. But the good news is that there is neuroplasticity in the brain. We can change our thought patterns. And we can train ourselves to bring more positivity into our minds. Meditation is a fantastic way to do that. You can also keep a gratitude journal. And you can choose to smile at tough situations and when people are being unkind and have compassion for whatever is making them act badly, rather than simply responded to mean with mean. Yes, being positive and living with positive energy is a choice!

Curious about meditation and embracing positivity? Join Dina at the Rubin on September 17 for a daylong urban retreat in the museum with leading asana, ayurveda and photography teachers.

About the Authors
Dina Kaplan is the founder of The Path, which teaches ancient meditation techniques in a modern way.
Iana Velez is Editor in Chief of NY YOGA + LIFE Magazine, NY’s first print and digital magazine celebrating yoga, art and New York lifestyle.