As I mentioned in the last blog post, “Getting to Know Your Coach”, in the last couple of years, positivity has been a serious factor in making my life so much better.
Positivity is an easy concept, but putting it into practice can be a little more difficult than it initially seems.
Before we get into using positivity in your life, let’s look at why we should even bother.
The first thing I’d like you to think about is how negative emotions affect us.
Negativity narrows our focus and scope of work. It’s a very powerful way to inadvertently shut our minds off to opportunities or new ideas.
We know that the way negative emotions affect us, are biologically programmed into our brains to help us survive.
For example, if we were to come across a great white shark at the beach, the negative emotions of fear and anxiety would narrow our focus so that all we would think about was not becoming the shark’s dinner.
In our primitive past, this reaction helped us to more efficiently direct our energy and mental functions towards an objective, without wasting any resources on unnecessary actions like working out which direction we’re going to swim or thinking about what to have for dinner when we get home.
Fortunately, modern life doesn’t put us in life-and-death situations like this often, so allowing negative emotions to narrow our thinking can be harmful. It can make us less open, more hard-headed and more difficult to communicate with.
With all of this in mind, in order to speak about the uses of positivity to move us forward in life, we need to discuss how negativity can hold us back.
Our subconscious brain can’t handle negative emotions and thoughts, we are actually wired to only process things in the active, positive form. So, if we hear a phrase like “don’t smoke” or “don’t touch that,” our subconscious skips over the negative words and simply hears “smoke” or “touch that.”
Our conscious mind can obviously process these words, but it’s the subconscious that makes most of our decisions without us realizing.
A quick way to demonstrate what I’m talking about is to follow along here for a second.
DON’T think about Pizza!
DON’T think about the warm, melted cheese and toppings!
DON’T think about opening the box and smelling the delicious aroma!
OK, what are you thinking about right now? If you’re like me, it’s ordering a pizza for dinner.
What this means as it relates to positivity, is, that we struggle to change our habits or thought patterns when we use negative phrases, since only our conscious minds can take those in.
We need to think about it and make it easier for the subconscious do its job by using positively-framed phrases like “refrain from smoking” or “walk away from the stove.”
Now that we know how negativity can affect our health and happiness, let’s look at some ways of building a habit of being positive.
First, let’s talk about the environment you have around you.
The environment in which we try to build new habits (or break old ones) has a huge effect on how successful we can be. Environment in this case includes the people we spend time with and the messages we hear or tell ourselves, as well as our physical environment.
The idea I’m trying to convey is to ensure your environment is as conducive to you continuing your new habit as possible. In order to do that, try:
- Hanging out with people who are doing the things that you want to make a habit.
- Joining a supportive community, either online or real world, who do the things you want to do.
- Reading blogs, books or magazines that inspire you to adopt the habit.
- Leaving reminders everywhere.
- Creating accountability by telling other people what you are doing and why.
- Getting an accountability partner or coach that you report to each day, and make a vow never to miss.
Another idea that has gained steam in the scientific community is to start smaller than you think and apply the “floss only 1 tooth” approach. The idea here is to make your habit so small that you can’t say no. Let me explain how this works:
A common habit that too few people actually do is flossing daily. So, the idea is to floss just one tooth the first night.
This seems so ridiculous that most people laugh when I explain it. But I’m totally serious, if you start out exceedingly small, you won’t say no. You’ll probably feel ridiculous if you don’t do it. This way of thinking causes you to take action!
And that’s the idea in a nutshell. Actually taking action, is much more important than how much you do.
Starting small has helped me to incorporate many of the things I do daily into every day practice. Because I started small, those tasks became a habit, and I didn’t have to worry about how big they were.
Next, try to take note of positive moments every day. Noticing the positive things that happen in your everyday life has been proven to be a successful method of increasing positive thinking. The benefit of doing this isn’t just for that moment, the effect can actually last much longer.
A study of 90 undergraduate students had half of them write about positive experiences for three consecutive days. The second half wrote about control topics that didn’t affect their emotions. After three months, the study found that the students who had written about positive experiences had better mood levels and fewer illnesses throughout the experiment.
Another activity that’s often said to improve positivity is to write down the things you’re grateful for at the end of each day. I do this almost every night and call it my Miracle Diary.
My last suggestion involves meditation.
Meditating is beneficial for the body and mind. It not only improves mindfulness and positive thinking while you’re doing it, but it has been shown to decrease illness and improve mindfulness and feelings of purpose in life up to three months after being practiced daily for a short period.
Starting small works for meditating, as well.
Experts recommend just 2 minutes to start with, which is easy to do and helpful in developing a strong habit.
After establishing the habit for several weeks, you can slowly increase the length of your meditation sessions to an amount that gives you the most benefit.
Positive thinking can actually improve our overall health and happiness.
Although it’s not the easiest thing to do if, like me, you tend to be sarcastic and confrontational.
But, I promise, the benefits that come with learning to view the world with a more positive and grateful outlook are amazing.
Personally, I feel better and find less frustration doing daily, menial tasks. I find that I notice the beautiful things about life much more now and the bad things don’t have such an impact on me.
Both of these are absolutely free and can be used together or separately to help you make small changes daily to increase your happiness, positivity and gratitude.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great day!