A positive attitude is the key to living a successful and happy life. So why does it feel like our brains are so good at focusing on negative situations?
Whether you realise it or not, the negative experience in your life have influenced your thoughts and decisions. This is because our brains learn from difficult situations and unconsciously stores these experiences. In some instances, this negative bias can be useful, for example, think of the first time you burnt your hand on a hot stove. The searing pain embedded the experience in your mind, in turn, you learnt to keep your hands at a safe distance from the hot stove in the future. However, the problem with this bias is that not all negative experiences are as simple as fire + hand = painful. Furthermore, if we place too much attention on negativity our perception of the world can become unhealthy and narrow. As Earl Nightingale points out “we become what we think about,” as such, continually focusing on negative thoughts can hinder our ability to live a happy and positive life.
Fortunately, our brains can be rewired to look for the lesson in every situation and to focus on positivity. We can train our mind to break out of negative spirals and empower our thoughts to work for us, not against us.
Here are 3 techniques to rewire your brain for positivity:
1. Train your thoughts
Our brains have roughly 70,000 thoughts a day and not all of these are positive or useful. As such, reframing your brain for positivity starts simply watching your thoughts. What patterns are emerging? Can you see any negative thoughts that play on loop? Are there any limiting beliefs that continually arise? Identify the thoughts and beliefs that are shaping your daily life and note them down.
Next, it’s time to take control of your thoughts and release any recurring negativity. This can be done by shifting your focus: when you feel your thoughts slipping into a negative spiral bring them back to centre and change the pattern by shifting your focus to the good things in your life and about yourself. Similarly, you can actively challenge limiting beliefs by scanning for positivity. Notice 3 things each day that is positive about you and your abilities. Make this list daily and train your brain to focus on the small wins. When you understand your thoughts, you are able to break out of the cycle of negativity, allowing you to focus on the positive aspects of yourself and your life.
2. Talk the talk
Positive affirmations are simple but impactful statements. They are spoken out loud and repeated daily to uplift and motivate you. These affirmations can boost your positivity and empower you to focus on opportunities, not obstacles. They allow you to bring positivity into the present.
Start by choosing one daily affirmation that you can repeat in each morning. This mantra can be something simple like “I am a happy person,” or “I live in positivity.” Once it has become part of your daily truth, try adding more daily affirmations to repeat each morning, until you have a set of 10 positive affirmations to empower you each day.
Positive affirmations train your brain to focus on our potential, as they require our brains to dwell in positive, self-affirming thoughts.
3. Follow up with actions
A 2010 study found that smiling when you’re feeling low or unhappy helps improve your mood and can increase positive thoughts. Similarly, another study found that practising power poses can increase your feelings of confidence. This tells us that our actions, as well as our thoughts, impact our overall positivity. When you feel stress or negativity creeping into your daily life, you can practise simple actions, like smiling or power poses to help elicit a positive response in your brain. The way you carry yourself externally can help ‘trick’ your brain, so even if you aren’t feeling your best, you have the power to turn your mood around with a simple smile.
Everyone has the power to break out of negativity and let positivity to be their default setting. When your thoughts, self-talk and actions are all working together you can rewire your brain for lasting positivity. You can train your brain to look for the best in difficult circumstances and allow yourself to live a happier and more fulfilling life.