Well, we are definitely living in interesting times, and not the good kind of interesting – economic challenges, work stress, family stress, political stress, violence, instability, the list goes on. These interesting times are stressful enough to send even the strongest and most stable person into a downward spiral of negativity.
Now, more than ever it’s important to maintain a positive mindset!
What is a ‘mindset’?
Have you ever stopped to listen to the chatter that is going on inside your head? If you are like most people it’s going to be rather negative – things like “What the hell am I doing?” “This pain is never going to stop!” “I hate my life!” “This rash is so itchy and ugly. It makes me feel so ugly!” “With this rash and my thinning hair, I just don’t want to be seen in public.” “I can’t do anything except lie here. I feel so useless.” and so on! This is you talking to yourself.
If you are not sure what the chatter is going on inside your head take a few moments to listen and write down the chatter that you hear. How negative is this chatter? Would you speak to your children, or your spouse, or your friend like this? No. Then why would you speak to yourself that way?
If your automatic go-to thoughts are negative, then that is a negative mindset.
In fact, neuro-scientists have discovered that we are born with a negativity bias! When something happens, we automatically begin to think negatively about it – about everything that could go wrong – even before we really begin looking at what that ‘something’ is or can identify any positive aspects of that ‘something’.
Someone says something to you, something like “Wow, that’s an interesting new hairstyle!” and we automatically begin to have thoughts like “What’s wrong with my new hairstyle?” “Oh my god – I’ve made a big mistake getting my hair done like this!” “I’m never going back to that stylist again. She doesn’t know what she is doing!” All they said was that your new hairstyle way interesting, nothing about it being a bad style, or looking bad on you, just that it was ‘interesting’. They could have meant ‘interesting’ in a good way, but we didn’t automatically see the positive possibilities of the comment, only the negative ones.
We need to practice a positive mindset. Practice thinking positive thoughts to ourselves. Practice staying in positive feelings for at least 15 – 20 seconds in order to train our brains away from the powerful negativity bias.
The Power of a Positive Mindset
The brain is an amazing thing. We have access to roughly 400 Billion bits of information per second. Fortunately we only access 2,000 bits of information per second. Our brains filter out information that it considers irrelevant and only allows information that it considers important through to our awareness.
Our brains do this by identifying information that we focus on the most based on our past behaviours and what we have tended to focus on and be aware of the most in our past. Our brains then ignore any information that does not fit within this narrow band of focus.
What Does This Mean for Our Mindset?
When our focus is constantly being placed on the negatives in our life, or on our negative interpretation of our lives, or if our negativity bias is allowed free reign over our thoughts, then our brain interprets that as instructions to continue focusing on the negatives and ignore anything positive that crosses our path. Our mindset becomes fixed on the negatives.
And of course, the opposite is also true. When we consciously focus on the positives that are happening in our lives, or when we interpret events, activities, situations from a positive perspective, our brain takes that as instructions to continue focusing on the positives that are happening in our life. Our brain also begins looking for positive opportunities and activities that might cross our path – the chance to take up a new hobby or activity, the chance meeting of someone who becomes a supportive friend, financial opportunities, etc. Our mindset then, becomes a positive mindset, which has the ability to make our lives so much better!
The great thing about a positive mindset is that it can help us physically feel better. When we have hope and optimism we are more likely to practice self-love and self-care, to take better care of ourselves physically, to explore new financial or personal opportunities that cross our path, etc.
One of the biggest challenges of a negative mindset is that it often makes us feel worse than we need to, which, for someone with a chronic illness, or someone who is going through a major life upheaval, can be devastating. Negative mindsets can lock us in to a specific perspective, focusing us on our limiting beliefs, and viewing these limiting beliefs as unchangeable absolutes!
I’m not suggesting here that we should ignore our negative thoughts and feelings. Even someone with the most positive of mindsets will experience their fair share of those. What I am suggesting is that we feel these feelings, try to find the positive in these experiences or feelings, and then let them go. We do need to process these feelings so they don’t come back to haunt us.
The biggest catch to all of this is, it can be a major challenge for someone caught in the downward spiral of a negative mindset to pull themselves up so they put the breaks on that negative spiral, and begin feeling more positive about their life. Sometimes it becomes impossible to stop this downward spiral while you are in the midst of one – particularly when you don’t know what to do to shift your mindset, or don’t even realize how far down that spiral you’ve gone. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you begin to realize that you deserve a better life.
Fortunately, we are not locked in to our negative bias, our negative mindset. We can consciously create a more positive mindset whenever we are ready to.
One way to begin developing a more positive mindset is to remember a time, an experience when you were really happy – it could be something you experienced as a child, a party you went to, a vacation you took, a music concert you went to, a success you experienced, any experience that elicited a feeling of happiness in you. Now try to conjure up what that experience of happiness felt like – where did you feel it, what did it feel like? Hold onto that feeling for at least 15 to 20 seconds, longer if you can. Do this several times a day. What you are doing here is training your mind to recognize positive experiences. The more your mind recognizes and experiences positivity, the more your brain becomes ‘hardwired’ to recognize positivity, resulting in your mind becoming more aware of and responsive to positive experiences in your life.
This technique can be used to create a more positive mindset around pretty much anything in our lives – a chronic illness/wellness mindset, a money mindset, an entrepreneurial mindset, a learning/growth mindset, a mindset involving a relationship or a career or even where you live!
Neat – you train your mind (that part of you that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges, learns, etc.) which changes your brain (the physical part of you that contains cells and neurons, etc) which changes your mind (allowing you to perceive positive experiences, think positively, and react positively).
I’m off to work on an old money mindset I want my mind/brain/mind to shift!!!