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What You Focus On Is What Becomes Powerful – Why Your Thoughts and Feelings Matter

What you focus on is what becomes becomes powerful. The message is real and comes fortified with some serious science. It’s called experience-dependent neuroplasticity. The research around it has caught fire and the findings are powerful. The implications for all of us are profound.

At the heart of the research is the finding that experience changes the brain. Just think about that for a minute: You have incredible capacity to change your brain through your experiences. Up until the last decade or so, it was thought that the brain stayed fairly much the same and wasn’t open to influence or change. We now know that just isn’t true.

Each of us has a brain that is designed to be malleable and plastic and open to our influence. It is constantly shaping itself to be the best one it can be for us. Our experiences are the fuel for this shaping and everything we see, feel, experience, sense and do is slowly but surely changing the architecture of our brains, sending gentle instruction on how they can build to best support us.

How does it work?

Between the walls of our skulls, billions of neurons (brain cells) work together to shape us into the humans we are. Different neurons are responsible for different parts of our experience, whether it’s eating, feeling, sleeping, sensing threat, firing up, falling in love, spelling, laughing, remembering, learning, nurturing – you get the idea. Being human is complicated and our brain drives all of it – it’s no wonder we are still discovering its secrets.

Every time you have an experience, the relevant neurons switch on and start firing. As this happens, neural connections get stronger and new synapses start growing.

Even as you read this, sparks are flying in your head. About 100 billion neurons are waiting and ready to act, but not all of them will be recruited. The ones that are will depend on the experience you’re having. The neurons that are connected to your immediate experience – what you are feeling, thinking, seeing, sensing, doing, experiencing – will fire and new connections will start to form within minutes. The more connected the neurons, the stronger that area of the brain, the more responsive and effective it will be.

The neurons that aren’t as needed will eventually wither away. This withering away is normal and healthy and is one way the brain grows into its most efficient self. You can’t grow the edges of your head so your brain occupies some precious real estate. The space is reserved for the neurons that you need the most – the ones that will best support you given the life you’re living.

Every time we have an experience, the corresponding neurons are activated. Every time they are activated, they are elevated a little in the order of importance. Repeating or prolonging an experience will keep the connections between neurons strong and ensure that they stay. This is why, for example, we can recite the alphabet without thinking. It’s not because we were born baby geniuses with a cute alphabet jingle imprinted into our brains. It’s because throughout our childhood, we sing the alphabet song and have it sung to us so many times, that the relevant neurons are repeatedly activated enough to eventually form rock solid connections.

Experience doesn’t just effect change by creating new connections and strengthening existing ones. It also seems to reach into our genes (the tiny atoms in the DNA inside the nuclei of neurons) and change the way they function. A regular practice of mindfulness, for example, will increase the activity of genes that have the capacity to soothe a stress reaction in the heat of a moment, ultimately making you more able to deal with stress.

Everything you experience will alter the physical structure of your brain in some way. The things you do, the people you spend time with, every feeling, thought, and automatic experience will influence the wiring of your brain to make you who you are and to influence who you can become.

Brains can change. Let me tell you a true story …

A bunch of neuroscientists wanted to explore how brains can change. To do this, they called on London cab drivers and some serious brain imaging.

In order to become a London taxi driver, would-be cabbies have to pass ‘The Knowledge’. This is a test of memory and is one of the most difficult tests in the world to pass. It involves memorising at least 320 basic routes, 25,000 streets within those routes and about 20,000 landmarks and places of interest. It usually takes about 4 years of committed study and at the end of it, those who have done the work end up with what amounts to a roadmap of London imprinted onto their brains.

A series of brain scans conducted on a group of drivers after their training revealed that their brains had actually changed to support their learning. Prior to the learning, the part of their brains responsible for spatial memory (the posterior hippocampus) was much the same as everyone else’s. Fast forward to the end of training, and it was found to be significantly larger. The longer a cabbie had been in the job, the bigger that part of their brain. Learning and repeated experience had changed the brain according to the job it was needed for.

stop complaining“The quality of your thoughts
creates the quality of your life.”

Why it’s SO important to be deliberate about who you’re with and what you do.

Experiences matter. They matter in the moment and in the way they can change the brain beyond the immediate moment.

Your brain will build and change whether you like it or not.  It’s so important to build it in the direction you want it to build it. Think of it as a mark on a page. At first, the mark might be so faint as to not even be noticeable, but keep going over the mark, even with the slightest of pressure, and that mark will get more defined and more permanent. Your attention and focus will always be somewhere – maybe many places – which means there are wirings and firings happening all the time, strengthening what’s there or creating something new.

If you aren’t deliberate and conscious in shaping your brain, other people and experiences will do this for you. Experiences, situations and people – positive or negative – will leave lasting traces on your brain by way of strengthened neural pathways.

By being purposeful about your experience, and the experiences you repeat or spend longer doing, you can have a direct influence over how your brain strengthens and grows and the pathways that are most likely to endure – but it does take a deliberate and conscious effort.

What you focus on will determine the parts of your brain that fire, wire and strengthen. Then, as those parts of the brain switch on and the neurons start firing, lasting connections will be made, strengthening memories and influencing what the brain will attend to in the future (positive or negative).

If you let your mind settle on self-criticism, self-loathing, pain, distress, stress, worry, fear, regret, guilt, these feelings and thoughts will shape your brain. You will be more vulnerable to worry, depression, anxiety, and be more likely to notice the negatives of a situation, frame things in a negative way, and be barrelled off track by what you could have or should have done.

On the other hand, if you focus on positive feelings and frame situations with a tilt towards the positive, eventually your brain will take on a shape that reflects this, hardwiring and strengthening connections around resilience, optimism, gratitude, positive emotion and self-esteem.

The power to change your brain. We all have it. Here’s how to use it.

We are wired to notice threat and bad feelings. This is  completely normal and healthy and it’s what has kept us alive for thousands of years. We humans are brilliant when it comes to noticing the bad, analysing it, and hanging on to it until we learn something from it. It’s called the negativity bias and it’s powerful.

The problem is that while it is our very human way to notice the bad, it is also human to let the good slide right of us. It’s not unusual that in a day of good conversation, fabulous people and enriching experiences, your mind will stick with the one argument, the one bad phone call or the one jerk that crossed your path. Imagine if it could be the other way around, with the good sticking and the bad sliding away into the ‘doesn’t matter’ zone. Because we humans are powerful creatures, we can go one better than imagining it – we can do it, but it takes a hard and deliberate push, which is okay – because we all have that in us.

First, we have to switch on to the good and be deliberate in noticing positive experiences. This might be more difficult than it sounds, particularly if you have a brain that, like many beautifully human brains, is well-trained in noticing the bad.

When you have the good in your radar, let your mind settle on it for long enough to start the neurons firing in your brain. Don’t just notice it, feel it. Hold on to it for at least 20 seconds. After this time, the experience will be hardwiring into your brain, firing neurons and strengthening the connections that will ultimately shape your experience.

This will start to grow these parts of your brain and shape a brain that is able to notice the good, respond to the bad and move forward, rather than stay stuck.

If the positive experience isn’t ready and waiting in front of you, do what you can to create it. It doesn’t have to be monumental. Try calling on a memory, listening to a song, making a phone call, organising a catch-up, playing or doing something that makes you feel nurtured. When you do, make the feeling stay. It might want to fade away, but don’t let it, not straight away.

Like any habit, noticing the good takes time to become automatic. Notice how quickly you notice the bad and let go of the good. Be deliberate in balancing things up and gradually, this in itself will also change your brain.

Does this mean negative feelings are a no-go?

Negative feelings are never a no-go. Being deliberate in focusing on the positive doesn’t mean that we have to pretend the negative doesn’t exist. Negative feelings are important too and deserve to be there. They guide us to withdraw when we need space to heal, they alert us to problem people or situations and they act as a warning sign. Negative feelings should be honoured as much as positive ones but they will come with a cost if they are allowed to take over.

The neurons that fire together, will wire and cause lasting changes in the brain. Staying in bad feelings beyond their usefulness is will do damage. It’s like going over and over the mark that serves no useful purpose but to keep a wound open. Every time you go over it, you’re making it a little heavier, a little stronger, a little harder for you to exist without its influence.

It’s always okay to feel the bad, to sit with it and to explore the wisdom that it contains. The wisdom will always be in there somewhere. Certainly an avoidance of negative emotions will have its own costs.

To stop the negative running away and doing damage, actively work towards balance wherever you can. Take some time to focus on your resilience, your courage, your strength, your inner wisdom. If you are feeling lonely, take time to draw on memories or people who love and appreciate you. Whether it’s a ‘hey there’ text, an invitation, a photo, a memory. If you are feeling drained, take time to draw on experiences that nourish you.

When the experiences happen, let the feelings stay for long enough to let them do their important work. Notice the bad, feel it, let it bring you new wisdom, but don’t keep watching it in the rear view mirror when there are other things around you that can start to move you forward.

And finally …

By directing your focus and staying with your experience, you can change your brain and shape it towards a more positive, compassionate, resilient, kinder, happier, more empowered and contented way of being. You can turn positive experiences into positive brain changes, which will in turn change your day to day experience.

What you focus on is powerful. The brain will build around what it rests upon. Whether we view the world through a lens that is sad or happy, optimistic or hopeless, whether we are open to love or quick to close it down is all directed by our brain. What you pay attention to will shape your brain, which in turn will shape your experiences, your relationships, your life.

by Karen Young

source: www.heysigmund.com


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8 Everyday Tools For Fighting Depression

Eight exercise for developing serenity and calm.

Teaching people to focus on positive emotions helps them deal with stress, new research finds.

People were taught classic positive psychology exercises such as keeping a gratitude journal, recognising positive events each day and doing small acts of kindness.

Together, the training helped reduce people’s anxiety and depression over the six weeks of the study.

The researchers focused on 170 caregivers for people with dementia.

Half were put in a control group, while the rest were encouraged to focus on their positive emotions.

People were taught eight skills:

  1. Practice a small act of kindness each day and recognise the power it has to increase positive emotions.
  2. Set a simple and attainable goal for each day and note down progress.
  3. Savour a positive event through journalling or discussing it with someone.
  4. Spot at least one positive event each day.
  5. List a personal strength and how you have used it recently.
  6. Use mindfulness to pay attention to daily experiences.
  7. Identify a daily stressor and reframe it as a positive event.
  8. Keep a gratitude journal.

Professor Judith Moskowitz, the study’s first author, said:

“The caregivers who learned the skills had less depression, better self-reported physical health, more feelings of happiness and other positive emotions than the control group.”

The results showed that those who learned the positive psychology exercises experienced a 7 percent drop in depression scores and 9 percent drop in anxiety.

This was enough to move people from being moderately depressed to being within the ‘normal’ range.

Professor Moskowitz chose dementia caregivers as the disease is on the rise:

“Nationally we are having a huge increase in informal caregivers.

People are living longer with dementias like Alzheimer’s disease, and their long-term care is falling to family members and friends.

This intervention is one way we can help reduce the stress and burden and enable them to provide better care.”

One participant in the study commented:

“Doing this study helped me look at my life, not as a big neon sign that says, ‘DEMENTIA’ in front of me, but little bitty things like, ‘We’re having a meal with L’s sister, and we’ll have a great visit.’

I’m seeing the trees are green, the wind is blowing.

Yeah, dementia is out there, but I’ve kind of unplugged the neon sign and scaled down the size of the letters.”

About the author

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. 

The study was published in the journal Health Psychology (Moskowitz et al., 2019).

source: Psyblog

 

depression

 

Research Connects Positive Thinking With Reduced Memory Loss

A new study reveals that positive thinking may help reduce memory loss as people age. It seems the people who look at life through rose-colored glasses may have the right idea after all. This study adds to mounting research about the role of a good attitude, or ‘positive effect,’ in healthy aging.

The study, published on October 22, 2020, in the journal Psychological Science, found that people with an optimistic attitude have better memory as they age. Most people want to retain good memories in life, but the ability to do so largely depends on emotional and physical health. While many factors come into play in regards to the strength of our memory, it turns out being cheerful can reduce memory loss.

THE STUDY

For the study, a team of researchers analyzed data from a 9-year longitudinal study involving 991 middle-aged and older U.S. adults. They all participated in a national study conducted at three separate times: between 1995 and 1996, 2004 and 2006, and 2013 and 2014. In the questionnaires, the participants reported on various positive emotions they’d experienced in the past 30 days.

In the last two assessments, the researchers also gave the participants tests to observe the strength of their memory. For these assessments, participants had to recall words right after they’d been said to them, and again after 15 minutes passed. The researchers analyzed how positive thinking could reduce memory loss, taking age, gender, education, depression, negative outlooks, and extroversion into account.

“Our findings showed that memory declined with age,” said Claudia Haase, senior author of the paper and an associate professor at Northwestern University.

“However, individuals with higher levels of positive affect had a less steep memory decline over the course of almost a decade,” added Emily Hittner, the paper’s lead author and a Ph.D. graduate of Northwestern University.

In the future, they hope to do further studies on what life factors may improve positive affect, and therefore reduce memory loss. For example, better physical health and stronger relationships may play a role in one’s overall happiness.

OTHER WAYS TO REDUCE MEMORY LOSS

 In addition to thinking positively, other lifestyle factors can help improve your memory:

1 – GET PLENTY OF EXERCISE.

Exercise improves every aspect of health, not just our physical appearance and muscle-to-fat ratio. You will increase your endurance and strength, plus give your brain muscles a run for their money as well. Since the mind and body are inarguably linked, we must take care of them both.

Lack of exercise can lead to developing health problems such as obesity. A growing body of evidence links obesity and all the health complications that go along with it to increased memory loss. Furthermore, obesity heightens the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia later in life.

Researchers believe this may occur because obesity negatively affects brain structure and volume. Overweight and obesity cause the hippocampus to shrink, which leads to cognitive decline. Also, the same proteins in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s have been found in those with severe obesity.

Several studies show how regular exercise may help reduce memory loss. For example, studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can result in a larger hippocampus. This area of the brain aids in learning and memory; therefore, a larger brain can support a stronger memory.

2 – PRIORITIZE SLEEP.

Unfortunately, in our “24/7” society, many of us suffer from some level of sleep deprivation. When we run on little sleep, it starts to affect our cognitive function, including memory. Deep, quality sleep helps us consolidate and sort through memories, so without enough REM sleep, our memory suffers. No matter what your schedule looks like, aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and make sure to keep it consistent.

3 – EAT A HEALTHY DIET.

What we put into our bodies not only affects our physical health, but our mental performance as well. Eating too many processed, high-calorie foods can lead to a feeling of brain fog, impairing our memory. Experts say that if you want to reduce memory loss, you should include these foods in your diet:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon
  • Blueberries
  • Turmeric
  • Broccoli
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dark chocolate (near 100% cacao, little or no sugar added)
  • Nuts such as walnuts
  • Oranges
  • Green tea
  • Coffee

4 – DO BRAIN GAMES AND PUZZLES.

Just like any other muscle in your body, your brain needs regular exercise to perform at its best. Do crossword puzzles or other brain games which require you to jog your memory. Instead of passing your time scrolling through social media or watching Netflix, take a few minutes a day to challenge your brain. Not only will you possibly learn something new, but you will reduce memory loss in the process.

5 – WATCH YOUR SUGAR CONSUMPTION.

This tip will help both your physical health and your memory. Just like berries and nuts can improve your memory, unhealthy foods like sugar can hinder it. Studies show that people who eat a lot of sugar have difficulty remembering things and have a heightened risk of developing dementia. Even if the person doesn’t have diabetes, eating too much sugar can hinder memory and brain health.

Researchers believe that, once again, the hippocampus starts to malfunction with too much sugar intake. While it requires a certain amount of glucose to function, too much of it can cause the opposite effect.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON RESEARCH THAT SHOWS POSITIVE THINKING CAN REDUCE MEMORY LOSS

Positive thinking enhances many aspects of life, from our relationships to our physical health. Researchers have found that optimism may help reduce memory loss as well, perhaps due to stronger pathways in the brain. While more studies need to be done about the relationship between memory and positive thinking, this shows great promise for future research.

Since thoughts create our reality, it seems vitally important that we pay attention to what goes on inside our heads. Positive thoughts lead to better outcomes in life, so make sure to take care of your mental health.

source: www.powerofpositivity.com


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Positive Psychology: The Benefits of Living Positively

Positive psychology often is passed off as pop psychology or New Age-y by those who haven’t actually looked into it.

The actual theory behind positive psychology was defined in 1998 by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [1] and looks at all aspects of a person’s psychology. It does not discount traditional psychology, nor supersede it. Rather than viewing psychology purely as a treatment for the malign, however, it looks at the positive. Positive psychology is a recognized form of therapy and is offered by some counselors and psychologists.

Psychology has always been interested in where people’s lives have gone wrong, and what has resulted because of it [2]. Illnesses such as depression are well-documented and patterns of depressive behavior well-known. However, until recently, what makes people happy and how they achieve inner happiness and well-being has been a mystery.

Practitioners of positive psychology study people whose lives are positive and try to learn from them, in order to help others achieve this state of happiness [3]. It is a scientific study and not remotely hippie-ish, despite its connotations.

Positive thinking is one aspect of positive psychology. Surrounding yourself with a great lifestyle and material goods may seem to lead to happiness, but how you really feel is governed by what goes on inside your head. When you go out of your way to think positively, you actually purge yourself of negative self-talk. [1]

Negative self-talk is one of the biggest barriers to positive thinking. People become so accustomed to negative thinking that their conscious mind will pull them down, even when they have done nothing wrong. These people become insecure, overly apologetic and indecisive. Worse still, they open the door to numerous stress-related problems.


Negative thinkers have four common mindsets:

=> Filtering.
Many negative thinkers will pull the negatives out of a situation and focus on them. Sometimes these people will see only the negative in a situation, to the point where they deny any positive.
=> Personalizing.
Some people make every tragedy about themselves. They will personalize every negative thing and assume that bad things happen because they are unlucky, or as a result of something they did or didn’t do. They will often construct negative situations with perfect logic, providing plausible reasons why negative things are either their fault or set out to hurt them.
=> Catastrophizing.
This involves anticipating the worst. Some people even precipitate it. They can turn a slightly awkward interaction into an overreaction, making the situation worse. If something negative does happen, they will use it to validate their negative assumptions.
=> Polarizing.
This type of negative thinker sees things as black or white. Either a situation is perfect or it is a catastrophe. This type of negative thinking can affect every area of a person’s life. Its effects can be both psychological and physical. By practicing positive thinking, you can actually stave off medical conditions and reap the benefits of having a positive outlook on life.

Depression is complicated illness with physical and mental health elements. It would be flippant to suggest that someone with a positive outlook will not encounter depressive feelings.

However, positive psychology can be beneficial in treating depression. It can equip sufferers with the tools to stop downward spirals when they begin and help them to see the positive aspects to their lives. It can also help to stop the negative thinking habits that are common in depression. [4]

Scientific studies also show that there is a direct link between stress and the immune system. When a person is experiencing a period of stress and negativity, his or her body is less able to mount an inflammatory response to attacks from bacteria and viruses. This results in an increase in infections such as the common cold and cold sores. [5] Having a positive outlook on life also equips people better for dealing with serious illness. Tackling diseases such as cancer with optimism and self-belief has shown to have a beneficial effect on recovery and ability to tolerate treatment.

Among the other health benefits listed above, positive thinkers have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. They tend to have lower blood pressure than those who do not engage in positive thinking. The health benefits extend to the emotional side, too. optimists will have better physical and psychological well-being, and better skills for coping with stress and hardship.

It is important to remember that simply having a positive mindset won’t actually stop bad things from happening. But it does give you the tools to better deal with bad situations. Sometimes your coping skills come down to nothing more than refusing to give in to your negative side and your fears. For some people, positive thinking comes quite naturally. For others, seeking professional help is necessary to get them on the right track.


References

[1] http://www.ippanetwork.org/divisions/
[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2003/nov/19/1
[3] http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.asp
[4] http://www.positivepsychologytraining.co.uk/depression/
[5] Miller, G. E. & Cohen, S. (2005). Infectious disease and psychoneuroimmununology. In K. Vedhara & M. Irwin (Eds.). Human psychoneuroimmunology. New York: Oxford University Press.
[6] http://uhs.berkeley.edu/students/healthpromotion/pdf/Positive%20Thinking.pdf

By Joanna Fishman              8 Jul 2018
happiness

 

20 Things to Avoid if You Want to Be Happier

Life requires that we prioritize what is important. The simple reason is that we don’t have enough time to do all – or even most – of the things that make us happier.

Part of prioritizing means saying “no” to certain people and things.

In this article, we’re going to focus our attention on 20 things that we would do well to say “no.” You’ll see many familiar things on here (T.V., anyone?) However, you may be a bit more surprised at some of the other things that can make you happier.

DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND SAY ‘NO’ TO THESE 20 THINGS TO BECOME HAPPIER:

1 – ALCOHOL/DRUGS
For those made to suffer through the atrocious circa 90s “Just Say No” commercials, we apologize.

Drugs are atrociously bad for mental and physical health. Drugs ruin lives, families, and institutions. Per statistics published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug abuse and addiction cost American society alone over $700 billion per year.

It’s common for substance abuse to abuse both alcohol and drugs. There also exist correlations between substance abuse and mental health problems.

The message here is simple: stay away from drugs and limit alcohol intake.

2 – MORE WORK
Some people love what they do, and that’s a beautiful place to be. For the rest of us, however, work should be viewed as a necessity to live. You’d think that we live forever considering just how much time some people spend at the office.

Per a report by the American Institute of Stress (AIS), “job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults,” adding, “[job stress] has escalated progressively over the past few decades.” (Emphasis added)

3 – FAST FOOD
Unless you’re super careful, and the place that you eat offers healthy options, fast food can show up on your waistline quick. Statistics show that a fast food meal contributes a disproportionately high percentage of daily caloric intake.

Over 50 million North Americans eat fast food every day or about 15 percent of the population.

4 – PROCRASTINATION
It may bring some comfort to know that the cause of procrastination is solely psychological – i.e., it has little to do with your willpower. Highly anxious individuals seem to have more difficulty with the procrastination bug than others.

So what to do? Just get started. Don’t think about how much work needs to be done. Emotional pain and discomfort associated with procrastination drop precipitously after an action is taken.

5 – DIGITAL DISTRACTIONS
The era we’re now living in is the most distracted in human history. One massive reason for this is the sheer ubiquity of mobile devices.

The problem is that these distractions are both alluring and addicting. Things like “distracted driving” have become a real thing. Some research shows that our attention span is shrinking as the digital age evolves.

6 – MAKING EXCUSES
Excuses do nothing but disempower you and those around you. While the adage “You’re stronger than you think” may seem overly cliché, it’s nonetheless true.

The cool thing is that once you stop making excuses, you realize how much happier you feel. It feels as if you’re retaking control of your life, which you are.

7  – WATCHING T.V.
The amount of television that people watch is insane.

Per a Nielsen report, the average American spends about 35.5 hours watching the tube. The problem with this isn’t so much the activity in itself – but the opportunity cost.

That is, those hours you could use say exercising, building a business plan, spending time with the family, and other more meaningful things.

8 – PERFECTIONISM
Speaking of procrastination, one of the more common reasons that people put things off is fear – and this includes fear born of perfectionism. For the uninitiated, perfectionism is the unhealthy striving for, well, perfection.

Not only is perfectionism unrealistic, but it’s also unhealthy. Perfectionistic tendencies are connected to multiple clinical issues, including anxiety and depression, eating disorders, chronic fatigue, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

9 – SUGAR
Okay, so it may be very difficult – perhaps even impossible – to completely abstain from sugar. However, one would be well-advised to curb any intake. Per an article published by Harvard University’s health publication, “The effects of added sugar intake – higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease – are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.”

10 – OVERSPENDING
Psychologists and other behavioral experts have thoroughly debunked the idea that money can buy happiness. So why do we keep spending too much? It’s all psychological. To overcome the habit requires diligence, patience, and discipline.

The cool thing is that once the seed habit of saving is planted, people find that they enjoy it.

11 – MIND-WANDERING OR RUMINATION
Rehashing what “could’ve/would’ve/should’ve been” is a complete waste of time. Unfortunately, the human brain is uniquely wired for pointless thinking. According to a widely-cited study by Harvard researchers Gilbert and Killingsworth, our minds drift about in aimless thinking about half of our waking hours.

Unsurprisingly, this constant turning over of the mind is not conducive to becoming happier. The conclusions reached by Gilbert and Killingsworth: “(I) people are thinking about what is not happening almost as often as they are thinking about what is…(ii) doing so typically makes them unhappy.”

12 – COMPARING YOURSELF
We have an unhealthy obsession with comparing ourselves with others. Such is particularly true in consumer-driven societies like the United States, where possessions and status are so coveted.

But comparing yourself to people does nothing but make us feel worse. It’s not easy to stop such an ingrained response, but we can take a step in the right direction by intentionally redirecting our focus when such thoughts arise.

13 – NOT FINISHING THINGS
We do enough things. So, this one’s not that bad, except that leaving things undone creates unnecessary mental tension and, studies show, drains our cognitive reserves.

The answer lies in a two-step process: (1) determining which endeavors are indeed worth committing to, and (2) avoiding everything else.

14 – NO OR TOO MUCH ALONE TIME
Neither too much nor too little seclusion is healthy. While we introverts may treasure our solo status, it doesn’t change the biological evolution of our brains.

On the flip side, while extroverts may despise being by themselves, such time is crucial for reflection and rejuvenation.

15 – THE MAINSTREAM NEWS
Okay, so perhaps doing away all news is unpractical – perhaps even unadvisable. But you should know that the unfortunate adage that “Bad news sells” is (a) true, and (b) media companies leverage this fact. This helps to explain why most of the news we read elicits feelings of fear and sadness.

So, don’t entirely ignore the news (though you could do worse), but watch how much attention you’re paying to it.

16 – NEGATIVITY
First off, we’re not telling you to ignore every instance of negativity, though limiting it is most certainly beneficial to your mental wellbeing. Everyone feels a bit negative from time to time.

We’re talking about limiting your exposure to consistently negative people. Sure, there are those rays of sunshine who can handle the negativity, though they’re few and far between. The rest of us need to watch how much time we’re spending amidst these folks to become happier.

17 – SHALLOW WORK
The term “shallow work” was coined by MIT-trained computer scientist and professor, Cal Newport. Instead of defining shallow work, let us note its opposite – what Newport calls (naturally) “Deep Work.”

Per Newport, Deep Work describes “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.”

Why engage in deep work? Because it “[creates] new value, [improves] your skill,” and, perhaps most importantly, “are hard to replicate.” Read: you’ll make more money and live happier.

18 – INCONSISTENCY
Being inconsistent in your efforts is detrimental to the achievement of the life you desire. It does little good to be filled with motivation and drive one day and then drift back into the same ole’ bad habits the next.

Inconsistency is often the byproduct of poor planning. As such, it is crucial to have a plan going into the day.

19 – SOCIAL MEDIA
Let’s bring Cal Newport back into the story. Besides being a big fan of sustained attention, Newport is a digital minimalist. In other words, he’s Facebook’s and Twitter’s worst nightmare. In one talk, he rails against the former, calling the social media platform an “entertainment product” – and, essentially, a colossal waste of time.

The fact that the average person spends 2.5 hours per day on social media does little to counter Newport’s argument.

20 – TAKING THINGS TOO SERIOUSLY

Here’s an exciting experiment: go anywhere you want, sit down with a beverage of your choice, and observe people for one hour. Watch closely. (Not too closely, lest an officer of the law intervenes.)

All joking aside: what do you see? Are people rushing around? Scrunched-up faces and tight shoulders? A seeming lack of purpose or direction?

This is how most people live their lives. Some people never stop living this way from the time they’re told to “grow up.”

Cliché time! Life is too short to take things so darn seriously. Let’s loosen up and be happier!

 


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Positive People: The 3 Emotionally Intelligent Behaviors They Practice Daily

Engage negativity with the weapons of positivity.

There is simply no magic pill when it comes to becoming a more positive person. Everything behind what they do can be boiled down to one word: mindset.

To become more positive, especially in negative work environments that strip you of your joy and dignity, you have to engage the negative forces that surround you with three weapons of positivity.

1. Develop your self-awareness.

Self-awareness is a weapon used to protect you from yourself and your shortcomings. Remember to first inspect whether you’re the source of negative behavior. For example, are you a gossiper? If so, ask yourself three questions:

  •     How does it make me feel when I spread rumors?
  •     Why do I need to have this feeling?
  •     What does the behavior of talking bad behind someone’s back reveal to others about my own attitude?

This is where a boost of self-awareness does wonders. If you’re like most people bent on becoming more positive, you’ll probably gain some insight into how you are perceived when spreading gossip.

While getting to the core of your attitude and why it influences your behavior isn’t a cure-all solution, it’s a great first step to positivity. It also helps to expose the things that you’ve been hiding from yourself.

positivity

 

2. Break down your negative support systems.

Now that you’ve gained self-awareness, your next weapon is used to scan the landscape to determine what support systems are in place that reinforce negative attitudes and behaviors.

In the workplace, you’ll often find pockets of people and outdated management practices (like micromanagement or controlling behaviors) that often support and feed a toxic work culture.

Sticking with the theme of gossip, a willingness to actively participate in it and listen to circles of gossip is an example of how you may be feeding into the negative support system that fuels toxicity.

One weapon of positivity to counter this type of stronghold is to outright reject any association with negative forces that don’t promote the values of respect, trust, and accountability.

Plan to attack negative behaviors at the spot where they’re weakest. For example, if you really want to stop being around gossip, put limits on those who do it. Turn down lunch invitations from gossiping peers and co-workers, and walk away from sidebar and parking lot conversations that are beckoning to suck you into the negativity.

3. Have positive substitutes for negative behaviors.

Finally, replace those negative support systems with positive options that will deliver better results. We’re talking here about intentionally seeking out work relationships with positive people who share the very values that lead to healthy collaboration, safe work engagement, and energizing productivity.

You’ll know these positive people after a while; they’re the ones who have strict boundaries themselves and never get sucked into negativity. They think ahead about how to improve a bad situation, take accountability for their actions, and move toward contributing to solutions to organizational problems with positive intent.

By Marcel Schwantes    Principal and founder, Leadership From the Core     @MarcelSchwantes
source: www.inc.com


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Rewire Your Brain to Think Positively

When you walk into your kitchen, what do you notice first, the beautiful flowers on the counter or dirty dishes in the sink?

If it’s the dirty dishes, that would be quite common – noticing the negative before the positive.

Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and best-selling author, reported that we’re evolutionarily wired to notice bad over good. This clearly made sense 200,000 years ago for our ancestors who were trying to avoid threats and survive.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize itself and change its hardwiring structures over our lifetime. This can be both positive and negative for our mental health. If we’re not aware that our brain has a natural bias to notice negativity first, and we don’t know that we can train it to see more positively, we risk becoming more prone to focusing on negativity. This can impact our thinking, emotions and general mental health. As negativity becomes more intense, it can result in increased risk for mental illness such as depression.

It’s beneficial to understand some basic brain research in order to take positive action to offset thinking patterns that promote negative plasticity. With proper treatment and support, we can learn to stop negativity and repair the brain so it can become more positively wired. This is the micro skill of thinking of the positives first.

Awareness

This micro skill leverages lessons learned from meditation. They promote the benefits of being patient when learning this skill and not judging yourself, just noticing and then gently refocusing your attention. When you walk into a situation, approach it with the intention of looking for the positive. By being aware that your brain is naturally biased, and reminding and refocusing, you can train it to find the positive first.

Accountability

If you’ve been overly prone to see the negative first and have a difficult time seeing the positive, this can be changed if you really want to. For this micro skill to work it’s necessary to understand and accept that only you can directly impact your brain to increase its positive plasticity. If you can’t seem to do it alone, professionals can help you learn how. Positive change begins with awareness, and requires self-motivation. If you’re committed to find more of the positives in your life, this can benefit your mental health over time.

You can teach your brain to focus on the positives instead of the negatives
 to help improve your wellbeing and mental health.

Action

Your brain’s wiring is impacted by your habitual thinking habits. The more you create positive plasticity, the more likely you’ll wire more happiness into your brain.

1. Search for the positives.

Before you walk into your home after work, make a commitment that you’ll notice three positives before allowing your brain to focus on a negative. You can take this practice to work, team sports and relationships. This trains your brain to look for the positive over the negative. If your brain goes to a negative, don’t judge it; release it and move on to find the positive.

2. Give the positive more air time and importance.

It’s common for people when they get together to talk about what’s not working and focus on negatives. Make a commitment to give the positives more air time when you interact with others. By focusing on the positive and talking about it you create conditions and expectations for your brain to notice more positives, so you have more to share. This activity can influence others to think positively, which will help them as well.

3. Refocus to the positive.

Life isn’t perfect, so there will be times when you have a challenge that’s not positive and you want it over with. The key is to move away from the negative, because it inhibits you from finding a solution. By acknowledging the challenge and changing your focus to finding a solution – a positive – you move your attention away from the fear centre of the brain to turn on other parts that drive decision making and planning. This helps to increase your resiliency and move through life’s challenges and setbacks.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.

This article supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell’s Employee Recommended Workplace Award. This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

Bill Howatt    SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL    NOVEMBER 1, 2017


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10 Simple Ways To Bring Positive Energy Back Into Your Life

“The worst times can be the best if you think with positive energy.” 
– Domenico Dolce

Have you wondered what exactly is positive energy? According to Annie’s Hallmark, “Positive energy is the natural energy that supports life.  Ancients commonly referred to this energy as “chi” or “prana,” but today science refers to this as “vital force.”

Feeling low or negative is a normal thing that happens with all of the ups and downs that life has to offer. It can be easy to just wallow in those feelings, but we all hold the responsibility of bringing ourselves back from those negative feelings. Oftentimes, we tend to wait for positivity to happen to us, rather than learning how to bring positivity into our lives ourselves.

Dr. Judith Orloff, author of Positive Energy: Ten Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear Into Vibrance, Strength, and Love says, “We can’t stop the negative circumstances of our time–our cell phones will keep ringing, e-mails will keep coming, people will be rude, our children will be demanding, and bad things will happen in the world. But we can learn ways to protect our energy so that we can stay centered in dealing with the stresses that arise.”

Therefore, it’s important to know how to bring positive energy into your life so you can move forward as a better and brighter person.

HERE ARE 10 SIMPLE WAYS TO BRING BACK POSITIVE ENERGY INTO YOUR LIFE

1. KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED

This can be difficult, but it’s important to know what you need to bring yourself out of those negative feelings. It can be as simple as needing a support system, and then reaching out to friends and family. Or, maybe you need time away from a stressful situation. While it can be hard to know what it is we need out of life, learning to assess and figure it out is one of the first steps to bringing positive energy back into your life. As Buddha rightly pointed out, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.”

2. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE AND DON’T THINK ABOUT NEGATIVITY

We all know how difficult it is to not focus on negative energy. Switching your focus from the negativity in your life can be just what you need to start to overcome it. As Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University pointed out, “Some people do have a more positive outlook, but almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail.”

Therefore, when something negative happens, you’ll want to focus all your energy on the badness of the situation. Instead, it’s time to start taking those negative things and learning to see the silver lining. Focus on all of the positive things about a bad situation that you can, and figure out how to fix the negative.

3. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

Learning how to be honest with yourself is one of the things that many people struggle with, and it can take time to learn. But once you learn to be honest with yourself, you’re going to be a much happier and positive person, because you’ll be able to acknowledge the hard truths about both yourself and your negative situations. Once you learn to be honest with yourself, you can start making the changes that you want to make in yourself.

4. REMEMBER TO BREATHE!

It’s important to take a moment to breathe when you’re in the middle of a negative situation. We’re oftentimes so caught up with running around trying to fix everything that we get caught up and forget to take a moment to ourselves to relax. So, remember to pause and take a deep breath. Both mentally, and physically. Breathing exercises will help keep your mind and body aligned and focused on positive energy.

5. REMEMBER TO LAUGH!

Even if something seems hopeless, it’s important to remember it’s okay to laugh at yourself, or the irony of a negative situation. The very act of laughter will release some good, positive chemicals and help you stay emotionally balanced. If you can learn to laugh at life, you’ll be good to go with replacing negative energy with positive.

6. PAY IT FORWARD BECAUSE LITTLE THINGS MATTER

When you get positive energy, remember to give positive energy. This will have the side-effect of giving you even MORE positive energy! This means reaching out to people, from friends to family to even strangers.

Here’s what author and founder of Success Consciousness, Remez Sasson said about being nice to people, “Acting kindly and being considerate will make people treat you in the same way, and this will lead to feeling good, happy, and therefore, becoming more positive.” This means that thinking positively about those around you, will extend your positive energy to your community. You’ll feel good about paying forward that positivity while also receiving positivity from others.

7. LEARN TO LET GO NO MATTER HOW HARD IT CAN SEEM

This is one of the most difficult steps that we all have to learn one way or another. Letting go of our negativity and sadness and anger can be so hard, but it’s always worth it in the end. You can only control yourself and the energy that you give out. If you find yourself hung up on a grudge or an old argument, you may be feeding negativity energy right into your life without knowing it.

Here’s what Catherine Pulsifer mentioned about trying to bring back positive energy into your life. She states, “It takes effort and belief to persevere and stay dedicated to accomplish your goal. When you find yourself doubting whether the effort is worth it, visualize how you will feel and what you will have once your goal is completed.” Learning to let go means you can begin the healing process and start feeling more positive energy.

8. CONNECT WITH NATURE

Nothing gives more positive vibes and relaxing energy than just reconnecting with Mother Earth. Going to the gym or the spa are good ways to relax your body and mind, but it’s also a good practice to just go for a walk through the woods or sit by the river and experience all of the majesty and wonder that the Earth has to offer. It can help remind you that you’re just one small part in the grand scheme of things.

9. LEARN TO FEEL YOUR EMOTIONS

Sometimes, we bottle our emotions up deep inside, especially if they’re negative or inconvenient to us. However, you have to learn to feel your emotions authentically and as they happen. When you feel sad, you have to let yourself feel that sadness. Because once you feel it and experience it, you can move on from it and return to your positive feelings. Bottling up your emotions only means that you’re going to be constantly feeding on negativity.

10. CLEAN YOUR SPACE AND BECOME CLUTTER-FREE

If you’re living in a cluttered environment, it can be harder to truly let yourself feel the positivity that flows around you. According to author and certified eco-designer Debra Duneier “This changes the energy and prepares the space to celebrate the wonderful things that are about to come into your life.” When you start to clean up your living space, you’ll feel so much lighter and calmer. It’s also a good way to relax and to rearrange your life so you feel less stress.

You never know when there will be something that causes a low point in your life, and being able to focus on yourself and bring positive energy into your life again will help you cope with whatever negative feelings are happening to you. Hopefully, these things will give you a better handle on how to bring positive energy back into your life.

REFERENCES:
HTTP://WWW.YOURTANGO.COM/EXPERTS/GALTIME-COM/8-STEPS-ATTRACT-POSITIVE-ENERGY-YOUR-LIFE
HTTP://WWW.DRJUDITHORLOFF.COM/POSITIVE-ENERGY/DESCRIPTION.HTM
HTTP://WWW.NYTIMES.COM/2012/03/24/YOUR-MONEY/WHY-PEOPLE-REMEMBER-NEGATIVE-EVENTS-MORE-THAN-POSITIVE-ONES.HTML?MCUBZ=1
HTTPS://WWW.SUCCESSCONSCIOUSNESS.COM/BLOG/POSITIVE-ATTITUDE/FOCUS-ON-THE-POSITIVE-AVOID-THE-NEGATIVE/
HTTPS://WWW.SUCCESSCONSCIOUSNESS.COM/STOP-NEGATIVE-THINKING.HTML


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22 Life-Changing Lessons From “The Motivation Manifesto”

by Laura Probert   March 3, 2016 

Have you ever read a book and wished you’d written it yourself? For me, that book is Brendon Burchard’s The Motivation Manifesto — a compelling primer on how to overcome self-doubt and establish personal freedom.

I’ve dedicated many years to studying the art of training my mind, feeling my body, and untethering my soul, and this book’s powerful words had me constantly nodding my head.

Brendon Burchard — an acclaimed author and motivational trainer — really gets what it means to be a warrior (he survived a life-threatening car accident at the age of 19), and he’ll guide you on your journey to becoming one as well.

Now take a deep breath, sink down deep into the center of your body, and read these 22 quotes and take-aways from an utterly inspiring text.

Magic is about living in the moment. 

1. “We are not slave to our history. We can be freed by our conscious thoughts and disciplined habits.”

In other words, a new level of awareness materializes when you start actively training your mind and developing habits.

2. “If we are not vigilant, being around constant worry can quickly limit who we are and what we might be capable of.”

Whenever possible, choose to surround yourself with people who are positive and purposeful.

3. “If yesterday’s hardships are stealing our aliveness today then we must seek another level of consciousness.”

If you’re still living in the past and letting outdated thoughts, beliefs, and memories drive your present, wake up and recognize that you’re sabotaging yourself.

4. “What can I focus on in my life this exact moment to sense some peace, gratitude, or enthusiasm?”

You have the power to choose your next thought. Choose a good one.

5. “Am I feeling this life?”

Brendon poses some great, big questions through the course of his book, and this one is fantastic because it asks you to get in touch with your underlying feelings. I’m a big fan of using these conceptual questions as journaling prompts.

6. “Avoidance is the best long-term strategy to ensure suffering.”

Oh my, are you feeling this one? Stop procrastinating — even on the stuff that scares the shit out of you. Face it. Get it done. I promise you, the solution to your fear lies in the middle of your action.

7. “Be a guardian of your own mind, body, and soul.”

This quote speaks to a deeper level of self-care. In life, we have to be our own guardians and fiercely protect ourselves and our territory.

The solution to your fear lies in the middle of your action. 

8. “Be aware of the information entering your mind. Seek empowering information that moves your life forward.”

This quote speaks to all those moments that we ruin with negativity. (I’m thinking mostly about television and media.) Turn the distractions off and go do something more positive and inspiring with your time.

9. Take positive, meaningful action.

This is my interpretation of Brendon’s take on action. Remember, you can create your own definition of “meaningful.” And when you combine it with positivity and purpose, you have a magic wand in your hands.

How many actions do you take every day that aren’t meaningful, positive, or purposeful? When you realize all the opportunities to shift your purpose, you’ll get excited.

10. What are you asking for?

Throughout the book, Brendon challenges readers to analyze what they’re asking for with their actions. What do your actions point to? When you take a look at how you spend your time and who you spend it with, you’ll figure out what you’re actually asking of the Universe.

11. Love is the divine essence or thread that connects us all.

Brendon does a lovely job talking about the energy of love. When you realize that love is a never-ending source of clarity, you’ll wake up to the fact that you’re getting in the way of its flow. Open yourself up to giving and receiving love.

love

 

If you are awake, you have a choice. 

12. Don’t make me guess about what ignites your soul.

Brendon’s words demonstrate the importance of speaking up for yourself. How will people ever know what you’re all about unless you say it? Be brave!

13. “Don’t limit your vision based on the number of people who nod.”

Wow, you gotta be feeling this one with me. Don’t make your dream smaller because you’re waiting for someone else’s approval.

14. Revive the magic.

Magic is about living in the moment and remaining aware of everything around you. Brendon encourages readers to revive that feeling inside and look for magic everywhere.

15. “To master life is to transform the energy we feel at any moment into cheerful engagement and deep appreciation.”

If you are awake, you have a choice. When things don’t feel right, you can transform the energy of fear into joy.

16. “Freely chosen attitude is a treasure available to us all.”

This is another way of saying that we have the choice to think, believe, and act in any way we deem good, better, best for us.

It takes a warrior to stand up for what matters. 

17. “Don’t become a catastrophe of energetic conformity.”

I love when Brendon talks about how it’s possible to get carried away in other people’s energy. Just because everyone else is being negative, hateful, or ungrateful, doesn’t mean we have to be. Don’t let the energy of other people waste yours. Be vigilant about this. It takes a warrior to stand up for what matters.

18. Make enthusiasm a practice.

Whatever way you want to feel, make it a practice. It’s in that disciplined behavior that your life will start to change.

19. “Let us master the art of curiosity, release, play, and cheerful engagement of the moment.”

In this case, Brendon is referring to the energy of a child. He asks that adults resort back to this art and use its energy to infuse moments and change focus.

20. “Meet struggle with intense and spirited joy.”

I love this one. It’s so easy to meet struggle with anxiety, sadness, resignation, doubt, or fear. We’ve practiced that too much — let’s try something different.

21. “Struggle does not always have to equal suffering.”

We are all conditioned to believe that the struggles and problems we face are against us, but what if they are here to teach us how to grow and evolve?

22. Awareness + Discipline = Freedom.

And lastly, this is a formula I put together after reflecting on the book’s teachings. The Motivation Manifesto is all about finding the personal freedom to be a warrior in your own life and achieve your dreams to make the world a better place. What better way to live?


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7 Ways To Become The Healthy, Upbeat Person You Want To Be

by Dr. Frank Lipman    May 6, 2015

Optimism — it does both your mind and body good. In fact, numerous studies indicate that optimists generally enjoy healthier hearts, brains, immunity and tend to live longer than their less upbeat counterparts. But for some, optimism is easier said than done.

Let’s say you weren’t born with an innate abundance of optimism, or perhaps life’s challenges have tamped down some of your enthusiasm … then what?

The answer is to teach yourself some skills that can help you develop a greater sense of optimism and resilience. This health-supportive turn of mind is learnable. Just like eating well or staying fit, it becomes easier with a little practice and, of course, a roadmap.

Here are a few ways to help guide yourself in a more optimistic direction. Try adding one or two and keep adding new skills to your repertoire over time. As your experience with and capacity for optimism grows, you’ll be on your way to becoming that healthier, upbeat person you wish to be. In the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.” To which I say, “Amen.”

So, let’s get started:

1. Make a point of being grateful every day.

Live like an optimist and celebrate all your blessings — not what’s missing. At the beginning or end of each day, in a journal or on your calendar, jot down three simple things you’re grateful for, no matter how inconsequential they might seem. Periodically revisit the ever-growing list to keep you connected with that sense of gratitude and appreciation for all the things that go right in life every day.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Have a little empathy! In other words: stop judging and start living! Don’t flip the bird at your fellow drivers. Don’t berate the coffee guy when he mangles your order. Don’t go bananas when your plane is 10th on the runway. To behave more like an optimist, learn to embrace patience and let minor irritations go. Consider it an informal exercise in Zen. Learn to go with the flow and limit slash-and-burn freak-outs to actual emergencies (and even then, do so sparingly).

positivity

 

3. Look for the silver lining. (It’s in there.)

When things get tough, the optimist looks for the silver lining in the midst of adversity. So should you. By making the effort to find the good and extract the lessons from a difficult situation, you lessen the sting and can bounce back more quickly.

Rather than dwelling in fear and regret, learning to be more resilient — to bend without breaking — will enable you to greet future challenges in a can-do frame of mind, with patience and wisdom versus fear and regret.

4. Have faith you’ll get beyond the bumps.

When faced with a challenge, remind yourself that you’ve made it through life’s storms thus far, and there’s an excellent chance you’ll make it through whatever comes next.

And what comes next may not be a storm at all, but a spectacular sunset or a wonderful, life-changing moment. Know in your heart that you will prevail and make the thought of a beautiful outcome your mental default setting, not the dark clouds.

5. Choose your media wisely.

We all have “noise” in our lives, but optimists gravitate to the upbeat kind. Beautiful photos, inspiring films, soul-stirring music, funny videos and television shows support a more positive perspective, so as you’re learning to become more optimistic, consider restricting the flow of negative images into your daily consciousness. There’s a big difference between staying informed and immersing yourself in gruesome or upsetting tabloid news, so know when it’s time to retreat.

6. Limit your exposure to negative people.

When it comes to pessimism, a little goes a long way. Instead, spend more time with optimists and less with the “Debbie Downers.” That’s not to say you need to cut them off completely, but if you’re trying to change your perspective, limit exposure. If there are a number of pessimists in your inner circle, share your interest in optimism or lead by example and gently direct conversations in a positive direction.

7. Be mindful of the language you use when talking to yourself.

It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the optimists’ positive self-talk and confidence in their abilities helps stack the deck for positive outcomes. Even if plans go awry, their optimistic outlook helps them to better cope with occasional setbacks, versus labeling something a disaster and giving up in despair. Next time a potentially scary new project comes your way, instead of fretting, think — Adventure! Opportunity! Solutions! New experiences! — and you’ll be speaking the language of optimism.


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The Scientifically Proven Mental Shift That Makes You Physically Healthier

In this day and age, you would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about the powerful mind-body connection. For example, we know that exercise helps alleviate depression, yoga is great for stress management, eating vegetables and other superfoods can make you happier and the way you walk can boost your mood. So, for your overall mental health, you should definitely be exercising, eating right and engaging in other forms of self-care.

But did you know that the reverse is also true? Your moods and overall mindset have a measurable effect on your body and its functioning. Here are four of the most fascinating scientific findings about how your outlook on life affects your health.

1. Your perception of stress affects its actual impact on your body.

We have all heard about the negative effects of stress on our bodies. However, researchers out of the University of Wisconsin at Madison discovered that our views about stress may actually play a bigger role in its negative effects than the stress itself. In the study, they tracked 30,000 American adults for eight years, and found that people with a lot of stress had a 43% increased risk of dying — but only if they believed stress was harmful. On the other hand, those who had a lot of stress, but didn’t see it as harmful, did not have this increased risk.

2. Your level of life-satisfaction may affect bone density.

A study out of Finland followed women over the age of 60 for 10 years, and asked them to report on their level of life satisfaction. The researchers found that while all women experienced an average 4% decrease in bone density during the duration of the study, there was a 52% difference in bone density loss between those who reported the highest levels of satisfaction versus the lowest levels. In addition, for those whose life satisfaction decreased during the 10 years, their bone density decreased 85% more than those whose satisfaction increased.

stay positive

3. Positive thinking can increase your immunity to the common cold.

In another study, researchers interviewed participants over three weeks to assess the degree to which they had a positive emotional style. Then, subjects were given a nasal spray of rhinovirus (the cold germ) to see how their bodies would respond. Researchers found that those who had a positive emotional outlook were three times less likely to get a cold than those who had low levels of positive emotions. Interestingly, in a later study, these same researchers found that high levels of stress make it more difficult for the body to regulate the inflammatory response.

4. Optimism is literally good for your heart.

There is a wealth of research about the positive link between optimism and heart health. For example, cultivating optimism and hopefulness is linked to decreased risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition, patients who had heart attacks and were optimistic about their treatment were more likely to be alive 15 years later as compared to those who were less optimistic and hopeful (even with the same severity of illness).

Also, in a recent study of more than 5,000 adults, researchers found that the most optimistic individuals are twice as likely to have ideal cardiovascular health markers (as measured by a variety of factors, including blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels and others) compared to those who are pessimistic.

These findings are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of this growing field of research, but they point to the importance of making sure not to just focus on nutrition and exercise as part of your self-care regimen. To enjoy optimal health, it’s essential to develop an optimistic outlook and engage in happiness-boosting activities each and every day. Your mind and your body will thank you.

by Dr. Patricia Thompson    February 4, 2015 


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4 Strategies for Attracting Positive People

Judith Orloff       Jan 7, 2016

Are you tired of the type of people you are attracting in your life? Do you want a more commanding role in who you attract?

Positive energy is that mysterious, seemingly elusive magnetism between us that enhances love, friendship, work, and all endeavors seeking success.

As a psychiatrist, I work with my patients to help them grasp the energetic exchange between people —those who give energy, and those who drain it.  Understanding how to generate the positive energy of attraction isn’t always easy, but once we transform our approach, we can realize our deepest dreams.

Though attraction is often linked to appearance, IQ, bank account, or charm, these aren’t enough to create a positive loving relationship. Once we truly realize that we don’t just want any old attention—we actually want the right kind of attention that will excite and nurture us—then we will attract that positive energy into our lives.

The level of attraction I’m referring to has to do with connecting with both our hearts and heads. This enhances the quality of energy we give off, which maximizes our chances of attracting the best people.

How can we harness positive energy to bring the best people and situations toward us? Be the change you want to see.

In other words, generate the kind of positive energy you want to attract.

To start, take at look at where you’re at now. Evaluate what being positive does and doesn’t mean in terms of attitude and behavior. Once you’re clear about this, you can strengthen these traits in yourself, and attract the same.

What sets positive people apart is a determination to do their best and not succumb to what’s negative in themselves or externals.

Here is how I see it:

Positive people are:

  • Committed to developing compassion towards themselves and others, and having an open heart
  • Courageous about following their dreams
  • Those who seek to be authentic and believe in themselves, even when externals are crumbling
  • Aware of their dark side and are trying to heal it
  • Willing to learn from mistakes

Positive people aren’t:

  • Perfect, phony, or positive all the time
  • Beating themselves to a pulp over shortcomings or a black hole of pessimism
  • Constantly mired in fear or tolerant of letting their hearts harden
  • Squeaky clean do-gooders who neglect their own well-being.
  • Saccharine pleasers who ignore their dark side and unconsciously act it out at the expense of others.
attract

 

4 Strategies to Attract Positive People and Situations in Your Life

Energy doesn’t simply have an on-off switch. Just as a radio emits has a volume control, you can adjust your vibes. You can amp them up with some people, tone them down with others.

Here’s how to boost your positive signals:

1. Identify your best parts and speak from there.

Pinpoint your finest qualities. Perhaps irreverence, sensitivity, compassion, humor—then project them to the world. By speaking up and stepping out of your comfort zone you’re enlarging your energy field. Before meeting new people or going to important events, prime yourself by taking a break for an inner pep talk. Think, “I’m not going to focus on my insecurity but on a strength; I’m going to feel and trust the positive energy inside me. I’m going to claim my full power.”

Such a selective attention device puts your best parts front and center. Then, perspective shifted, it’s easier to confidently move forward. You can’t overdo this approach. Use it routinely.

Making a choice about where you’re coming from focuses your energy.

2. Extend love outward.

Love creates an irresistible charisma, a warm glow that makes us and others happy. You can send it in any situation, a nurturing that won’t drain us. How? Focus on your heart, and envision something you love. A flock of seagulls. Your son’s smile. A blooming rose.

Then, during a conversation, inwardly ask, “Let love flow through me.” Feel it rise from your chest; notice a sense of heat, serenity, a radiance. These energies move outward. People soften around it, feel safe, and want more. So, when standing by your boss start pumping away. Loving energy smoothes the rough edges of any circumstance, facilitates rapport.

Try it even if you don’t like someone, but seek to get along better.

3. Regularly Meditate

Happiness can be increased by meditating. Cutting edge brain research confirms that we all have a certain mood set point, a range of feelings we usually inhabit. But with regular meditation, it’s been shown that we can alter our habitual moods towards the positive.

In chapter 2 of Positive Energy I describe a simple but powerful 3 minute mini-meditation to open your heart center. Use this method. When feelings surface during meditation, monitor them. Focus on what’s uplifting, not the swirl of negative emotions. Use your breath to center yourself. This inner turnabout transmutes pessimism to something higher.

Your vibes will change and others will respond.

4. Commit to Emotional Housecleaning

Consistently chipping away at the negative makes room for more positivity in yourself. Self-awareness is our greatest ally against fear. Psychotherapy, introspection, meditation, journaling, and/or talking with friends all further healing. As negativity remits, you become more alluring.

Remember when doing this work not to hold idealized expectations, everyone has irritating/challenging/disappointing aspects—including yourself! We all have foibles.

Even so, you can legitimately hope to personify and attract others fighting their way out of the muck with an open heart and sense of humor.

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s ”Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear into Vibrance, Strength, and Love”

Author: Judith Orloff
Editor: Renée Picard