I don’t know about you but I am a massive believer in the power of positivity and positive thinking. I believe that if you think negatively you will have a harder and more negative life and perhaps even attract negative scenarios, or certainly find yourself in them more often than a positive person. There is science to back this up and this is what I have learnt.
As humans, we are hard-wired to think negatively – evolution has shaped us with the fight or flight response. We're always ready to run away from something that could put our lives in danger, such as a tiger! Survival of the fittest meant that those always on alert and thinking negatively would live longer as they were being more cautious. We began with a very primitive, reactionary brain built on survival and managing threats, when the earth was a very volatile and dangerous place.
Since then, the limbic system within the brain has evolved. This is the part of the brain that manages our emotions, reflection and feelings, but it is often driven by pleasure and danger. From there, we have since developed the neocortex part of the brain, in particular, the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain gives us the ability to make multiple decisions. Additionally, it gives us an element of social control so we are not quite so reactive and it allows us to map out, monitor and preview what will happen if we do or don’t do certain things. It’s an incredible part of the brain that enables us to decide what to do in situations and is the part of the brain that is having to adapt to our new world of high-speed and high volumes of information.
Because of this neo-cortex, WE get to decide whether we do something or not. So in other words, we get to decide if we want to be happy or think of a situation positively or negatively.
The great thing about being able to manage our thinking is that we can decide if we want to think negatively or positively. However, it also allows us to have an imagination and think into the future which can sometimes be the reason we think negatively. Animals don’t have this ability, they literally live in the moment. Ironically, these days everyone is telling us to “live in the moment” and "practice mindfulness”, however as our minds race off into the future and our imaginations play havoc, we automatically engage the negative thinking cycle again.
It has been stated by neurologists that the more we dwell on negativity, the more our brains become primed for it. As a result, we become more inclined to view the world around us in a negative light. On the other hand, the more we focus on happiness and positive, affirmative thoughts, the more our brains become primed for positivity. There has been a lot of research that has picked up on how the power of positivity can actually help the physical body and immune system perform better too.
I know from personal experience that when my father was given a terminal cancer diagnosis with a maximum of two years to live, he was so positive and determined not to give in to it. He lived on for eight years, all of which were happy and positive and full of life (as much as his illness would allow, anyway). Even with cancer of the immune system (multiple myeloma), he traveled every year to the UK to see me despite the risks. To him, life was one big risk and it was about weighing up what was most important. For him, coming to see me was more important than staying at home feeling sorry for himself. Perhaps we all need to take a leaf out of his book as we begin to emerge from this current pandemic of fear.
Obviously, one's fate will prevail over any positive thinking, but where it is possible, and we have the choice, the power of positive thinking can certainly make our life happier.
I find it difficult in this current pandemic to understand how some people really dwell on the negative. There are obviously some unfortunate circumstances such as job loss and illness, but this does not mean it is the end of the world. I also firmly believe that before too long our lives will return to normal, we just have to be patient and pragmatic but most importantly, remain positive.
Everyone is different and it's your choice how you think, but I believe that being open to positive change is the key to emotional and physical wellness.
My 10 tips to embrace the power of positivity:
- Be thankful and grateful - Write a gratitude diary if it helps
- Be kind and support others, it will make you feel good
- Take time for yourself and have a good self-care routine which includes exercise
- Stress less about what hasn’t happened and be in the moment more
- Talk yourself up and remember your strengths - have three positive mantras you say to yourself out loud every day
- Get quality sleep - This will help you think more rationally
- Be around nature as much as you can – nature doesn’t judge
- Laugh more and find humour or comedy
- Listen to others rather than focusing on yourself
- Surround yourself with positive people.
You may think you are stuck in your negative thoughts, but it's important to remember that you control your thoughts. Your thoughts control your feelings which consequently then control how you behave. Control your negative thoughts and everything else will fall into place.
Caroline Jack recently joined Transition Peak as one of our expert coaches. Learn more about her work and meet our other experts on our coaches page.
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