Positive thinking isn’t just a soft and fluffy feel–good term. Yes, it’s great to simply “be happy,” but those moments of happiness are also critical for opening your mind to explore and build the skills that become so valuable in other areas of your life.
Most of us would prefer to be positive rather than negative. Research is beginning to reveal that positive thinking is about much more than just being happy or showing an upbeat attitude. Positive thoughts can actually create real value in your life and help you build skills that last much longer than a smile.
What Negative Thoughts Do to Your Brain
Researchers have long known that negative emotions program your brain to do a specific action. For example, when you’re in a fight with someone, your anger and emotion might consume you to the point where you can’t think about anything else. Or, when you are stressed out about everything you have to get done today, you may find it hard to actually start anything because you’re paralyzed by how long your to–do list has become. Or, if you feel bad about not exercising or not eating healthy, all you think about is how little willpower you have, how you’re lazy, and how you don’t have any motivation. In other words, negative emotions narrow your mind and focus your thoughts.
Your brain closes off from the outside world and focuses on the negative emotions of fear, anger, and stress. Negative emotions prevent your brain from seeing the other options and choices that surround you.
Now, let’s compare this to what positive emotions do to your brain.
What Positive Thoughts Do to Your Brain
When you are experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, you will see more possibilities in your life. Research shows that positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to more options.
Optimism, for example, involves highly desirable cognitive, emotional, and motivational components. Optimistic people tend to have better moods, to be more persevering and successful, and to experience better physical health.
So, how can you develop a more positive outlook and brain? This is one exercise I love to do! Try it.
The result? You could transform all your unhappiness into happiness! A few examples:
“I feel like will never lose weight” becomes “I feel like I will never lose weight, but I know there are other people who used to be exactly like me and made it happen!”
“I will never find love” becomes “I will never find love if I keep staying at home just like I am right now. But if I start going out more, my luck might change.”
“I will never pay off this debt” becomes “I will never pay off this debt, but I could pay some of it if I start saving $100 more every month.”
See how powerful the word “but” is? It really can help you retrain the brain.
At first you’ll need practice. Adding a “but” to your negative thoughts does not come naturally when you’re just starting out.
However, the more you do it, the more your brain creates neural pathways that build the habit of thinking “but” automatically every time you think negatively.
This “but” technique will literally change the structure of your brain and elevate your happiness level dramatically. Being happy can be that easy.
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