By PATTIE MIHALIK

newsgirl@comcast.net [1]

A long time ago, 60 years ago to be exact, Norman Vincent Peale wrote his now famous book, "The Power of Positive Thinking."

His premise, having a strong faith and keeping a positive approach to life, was controversial at the time it was first published in 1952.

But the book struck a chord in people, watering their thirst for meaning and self-direction.

The book went on to sell millions of copies, and, 60 years later, it is still selling well.

More importantly, the power of positive thinking is no longer controversial.

There have been well-documented studies that underscore the power positive thinking has in many aspects of life.

Positive thinking has a major impact on our physical and mental health. It seems to generate a healing power of its own.

That's no secret for ESPN anchor Stuart Scott who has been successfully battling cancer since 2007 when he was diagnosed with appendical cancer. In telling his story last week, Scott said that in addition to chemotherapy, his arsenal to fight the cancer includes prayer, exercise and a positive attitude.

Admitting that chemotherapy makes him "feel like crap," when he leaves the infusion center he goes straight to work out, regardless of how he feels.

"You're going to feel like that whether you're lying in bed, going to work or working out, so you might as well live your life," he says, adding that having a positive mindset gives him positive energy that helps him live life to the fullest.

We all know anecdotal stories about how a positive attitude helps people. This is more than myth. It's a scientific fact.

Researchers at the Mayo concluded positive thinking increases our life span, lowers rates of depression and gives us better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

I am a positive person about 364 days out of the year. Right now, I'm calling upon every reserve of my positive energy to get me through my own little trauma.

Last week, as I was driving to my shell club meeting, I had to cross four lanes of traffic at one of the worse intersections in the county. I know how dangerous it is so I sat at the intersection for what seemed like five minutes waiting for a break in the heavy traffic.

To get through the intersection, a driver has to first drive through two lanes of southbound traffic then wait in the median until there is a clearing in the two northbound traffic.

When I tried to get into the median, a car making a left-hand turn had it blocked.

It was an accident waiting to happen, and it did.

The guy who hit me (it wasn't his fault because I was partially in his lane) saw me and did two things: He kept praying, "Please God, don't let me hurt her," and he slammed on his brakes so hard he burned a long streak of rubber.

His clear thinking saved us both from serious injury. Neither of us was hurt in any way but I got cited for causing an accident.

The other driver was remarkable. Talk about staying positive under trying circumstances.

There he was, through no fault of his own, with a wrecked car and he was the one who tried to keep me calm.

"All that matters," he said, "is that neither of us are hurt."

Bottom line: My insurance company will pay to fix the two cars, my insurance rates will go up and I have to take an online driving course or I will have three points on my record.

I can live with all that. But I have a hard time, almost an impossible time, forcing myself to drive again. I keep hearing the sound of that crash in my head.

I canceled a few meetings, social events and even newspaper interviews this week, telling my friends I simply don't have the confidence to drive.

But my friend Fran, who is a truly wise woman, knew just what to say to finally snap me out of it.

She reminded me we all have the power to program the voice inside our head. After the accident, I had programmed mine to say, "I can't."

"Stop saying your confidence was TAKEN away. Only you can GIVE it away. Do not allow yourself to talk negative about your confidence. You are a strong woman. Get rid of that negative voice in your head," she urged.

She's right. We all have a voice inside our head that influences our thinking and actions. That voice can sink us or help us to soar.

Plenty of psychologists have written lofty articles about how positive thinking helps in a crisis. I don't need to read their reports to knows this. It's something I've believed all my life.

Positive thinking brings about positive energy that helps in most situations. I forgot that for a while after my accident.

OK, I'm arming myself with positive thoughts, plenty of prayer and positive energy, along with some extra old-fashioned caution behind the wheel.

I'm programming the voice inside my head to say, "You're a strong woman. You can do this."

Whatever happens, I know it will be better than drowning myself in a pool of negativity.