Life doesn’t always go the way you want it. There are going to be many bumps, bruises, and breaks along the journey. These and other struggles will ignite a variety of negative emotions such as anger, stress, pain, sadness, and fear among others.
It’s easy to connect your struggles with negativity. It’s hard to believe that when something bad happens you can disconnect yourself from the negative emotion of it. But, if you want to achieve more, if you want to succeed at new levels and if you want to be recognized for your greatness then there is one skill that is arguably the most powerful.
Research shows this skill can decrease stress, improve health & immunity and increase job success while expanding your sense of possibility. What is it?
Positive thinking doesn’t get much respect because most consider it a “soft skill” and it’s a little more difficult to quantify. However, recent findings have begun to prove the true impact of flipping to a success mindset; from negative thoughts to positive.
How easy is it?
Learning positive thinking doesn’t take as much effort as you would think. It’s very similar to training a muscle…practice and repetition. The right discipline creates awareness, memory and the appropriate growth you need to become more efficient and effective at it. But, why does it seem so elusive?
Your brain, as powerful as it is, has a natural instinct to recognize distraction. It’s a protective mechanism that keeps you safe. A distraction signals that something has changed around you drawing the brains attention. The brain then narrows its focus on the potential danger, ignoring all other options. Until your brain registers the situation as safe, your mind is consumed by the distraction and your attention is shut off from all other things.
This is a great instinct when truly dangerous situations occur, however, we’re probably not going to walk out of Starbucks and find a Tiger ready to pounce. Where the true problem lies is that in today’s world distractions are everywhere. Not only do distractions steal your attention away from your important daily responsibilities, but they also make you increasingly aware of the negative (dangers), decreasing productivity.
Meaning emotions like anger, sadness, fear and pain are more likely to grab your attention than the next important task on your priority plan. Adding to the problem is the socially acceptable (often expected) norm of multitasking. Dr. David Rock says in his book, Your Brain at Work, “Workers everywhere are experiencing an epidemic of overwhelm…While the brain is exquisitely powerful, even the brain of a Harvard graduate can be turned into that of an eight year old simply by being made to do two things at once.” The more frequently you engage in multitasking, the more you are essentially training your brain to be highly aware of distractions. Over time your brain quickly adapts, distraction becomes a habit, recognizing negative emotion steals your attention and your ability to focus deteriorates.
How can you change?
The brain and how it functions is highly complex, however there are definite connections between being positive and achievement. Let’s take a look at a few things you can implement and practice to upgrade your thinking as well as your life and business. Below I provide you with a few tips for reaping the rewards of positive thinking. Not only will you achieve more, but many other benefits will result.
As I said previously you can train your brain. Improving your concentration is an important first step. Thinking positive is great, but if you’re distracted every few minutes you still won’t get much done. Try these to improve focus…
- Priority- Complete your most important work first. Work that requires more mental energy should be done first. Important, difficult and creative responsibilities would probably land here.
- Awareness- Recognizing when & where you work best. For most people this typically is either early morning or later evening and often it’s away from the office. Utilize this time to knock out key projects, initiatives and goals.
- Belief- Know that good things will happen. Even the worst situations are connected to amazing life lessons. An optimistic outlook will help you to better manage distractions leading to more productivity and better outcomes. Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think Inc, says,”People who cultivate a positive mind-set perform better in the face of challenge.”
Fitness & Fuel
The brain and the body work in harmony. If one is off then most likely the other won’t perform as well either. Providing your body, especially your brain, with high quality sources of food, beverage and exercise can transform your energy levels and cognitive function. There are many things you can do improve your brain health and fitness, but this is one of my favorites…Protein and fat-based breakfast. A high quality breakfast can set you up for the rest of the day. Secondly, 1-10 minute exercise sessions. Yes, you heard me right. Even one minute of exercise called burst training (we call it “reset training”) done correctly can improve optimism and happiness.
A book by positive psychologist, Martin Seligman. This book has compiled 50 years worth of social psychology research just to better understand what motivates people and makes them authentically happy. Leading the way…positivity. Seligman states, “Much of your mood depends on what you pay attention to.” In order to help you flourish we added these 5 exercises for you to choose from to increase optimism, gratitude and overall positive thinking.
- Writing- Using a gratitude journal can flip the switch on negative thoughts. At the end of each day, no matter how bad a day it may have been, write down three things you were grateful for that day or take a few minutes to describe the most meaningful experience of your day.
- Pursuit- Do and pursue things you get lost in. Choosing activities that inspire you and ignite a flame in your soul help to eliminate negative thinking. Even doing things that are fun, but a little out of your comfort zone can make a difference on your brain.
- Relationships- High quality connections are great for ridding your life of negativity. Spending time with other family, friends and community members who share, help and energize each other can always keep you looking up. The connection with your spouse being the most influential. See Active & Constructive Response exercise.
- Goals- Setting goals alone can provide commitment, focus and motivation, but the key is in accomplishing them. Even in achieving one small goal a week can make a huge difference in detracting negative thoughts.
- Meditation- There is rarely a better way to rid yourself of negativity than by clearing or switching the mind itself. Whether it’s a quick two minute personal meditation or a longer guided meditation you have the opportunity to instantly change your mindset.
You've probably heard these before, but distraction led to failed implementation. Do them and you will thank yourself. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, in her book Changing Emotions says, “When people come to understand how positive emotions work-how they open minds, transform futures, and create uplifting upward spiral dynamics-They are more likely to see the wisdom of cultivating these heartfelt momentary experiences more frequently.”
Choose from any of the above to help change cultivate your positive thinking. Practice by turning off distractions (cell phones, e-mail, social media) and committing your attention to one of these disciplines. Start with small chunks and work up to adding these into your lifestyle more frequently. As little as a few moments of work on thinking positive can be transformative. Let us know in the comments below what you do…what techniques, tools or tactics you use to stay positive.