Monday, February 9, 2015

Train your Brain to Stay Positive

1. Express gratitude. 

Negative events have a large effect on life unless you consciously balance them out. When faced with challenges, it's important to think of all that's going right in your life before you tackle that which is going wrong. Thinking about the good in your life can help balance that negative bias, giving your brain the extra time it needs to register and remember a positive event.
To help your brain store positive events, reflect on what you're grateful for and why at least once a week. Write down your blessings, such as the opportunity to pursue a career you love or a family that supports you. If you prefer a daily habit, then keep a nightly log of good things that happened that day. Keep things short and sweet- if you start making these too complicated and drawn-out then these positive effects become negative effects.

2. Repeat positive affirmations. 

As any politician or advertiser knows, the more often you hear a message, the more likely you are to believe it. The same goes for messages about who you are and what you are capable of doing. By repeating positive affirmations with conviction several times each morning, you are training your brain to believe them.
Choose two to three affirmations that represent your values and goals, such as 'I can handle whatever comes my way,' 'There is plenty of time,' or 'I'm getting better every day.' The repetition will influence the way you interpret negative events, making you more resilient. This can be especially effective for those who have a predisposition for negative thinking.

3. Challenge negative thoughts. 

Each time a negative thought arises, we choose how to respond. If left to our own devices, we tend to dwell. Our brains home in on negative events so they seem much bigger and more significant than they are. To combat that, start by imagining the thought as separate from yourself, as something you can observe and deconstruct. Distance yourself from the issue instead of dwelling on it.
Next, challenge negative thoughts that are unfairly self-deprecating. For example, if your start up doesn't get the traction you hoped, you might think, "I'm a failure." That's untrue and unproductive. Instead, practice interpreting the same event differently. You might say, I worked really hard but I didn't account for a quirk of the market, so I'm disappointed, but now I'm going to try again with new information. That interpretation is gentler, truer, and more proactive. At first, this strategy will be hard and you'll think it doesn't work, but over time, it'll become automatic and negative thoughts will be less likely to come up. No one does this naturally; you have to learn and practice.

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