Positive Thinking in Glen Carbon
The idea that our outlook on our life and the world around us can impact our health in a myriad of ways has been the subject of a great deal of research in the last few decades.
Thanks to the work of researcher Barbara Fredrickson, among others, an entire field known as “Positive Psychology” has documented the powerful impact of positive emotions such as joy, gratitude and love in the last few decades.
More recent research in neuroscience and medical studies have found even more evidence that an optimistic outlook can improve health. In fact, a more positive outlook on life has been linked to several health outcomes including:
- Higher levels of success
- Reducing Depression
- Stress reduction
- Lower incidence of cardiovascular disease
- Longer life span
- Better immune system function
You CAN reprogram your brain.
Perhaps the most interesting finding in psychology and neuroscience relative to positive thinking is that it is possible to reprogram your mind to be more focused on the good things in life and thus reap the health and productivity benefits that come with a more optimistic outlook.
In fact, the notion of “neuroplasticity” has pushed a paradigm shift in terms of the way we think of the brain in general. Rather than seeing this impressive organ as being controlled simply by genetics and the program of DNA that each of us is born with, modern research in neuroplasticity demonstrates beyond any doubt that the brain is adaptable to changes in diet, environment, action, emotion and intentionality.
In other words, you have the power to impact your state of mind, which itself has the power to rewire your brain to tend towards chosen natural states that you can influence through intentional practice.
Moreover, these processes are cumulative, meaning the more you practice positive thinking techniques, the less you have to “work” to get to a positive state of mind! (Important note: The same is true about negative emotional states.)
How to Reprogram Your Brain for a More Positive Outlook
The main principle behind reprogramming your brain to be more positive is to intentionally shift your mind to positive emotions. Each time that you do this, the neural networks that translate that intention into neurochemicals that act as signals throughout the nervous system become stronger. Over time, these networks can become “neural superhighways” leading to a more positive overall “default” setting.
In other words, if you are going through life with your dominant emotions being stressed, irritated, angry or sad, these emotions are becoming your default emotional state. They have formed a neural superhighway.
When you stop using the old highway and start forging a new highway by choosing to take the positive path, the old one will eventually fade away, losing its power to be your “go-to” emotional state.
Here are some practical ways to start on your positive thinking journey:
Write a daily gratitude List.
A long-time staple of 12-step recovery programs for drugs or alcohol, the good-old gratitude list turns out to have some basis in neuroscience. This simple practice requires scheduling 5-10 minutes a day to sit down and actually write out things that you can be grateful for about your life today.
While you can schedule the gratitude list to make sure it becomes a habit (for instance, every night before bed or in the morning with your coffee), you can also use this little tool throughout the day. Set your phone alarm to go off once every hour and take 30 seconds to silently notice three things that you can be thankful for in your immediate surroundings.
Spend a moment to appreciate each item on your list. As you bring your mind to these thoughts, your brain will do the rest for you!
Seek out other positive people.
This is not about removing friends from your life (although sometimes bailing on a drama-lama is a necessary mental health precaution). Rather, it is about noticing those people that make you feel good about yourself and the world you live in when you are around them and making sure that you are getting some regular face time with them.
An afternoon spent shopping with friends just got a whole new excuse!
Although most of us have been taught that our brains can be understood as an individual organ that operates in isolation, recent research is blowing up this notion. In fact, our brains are, at least in part, operating in a complex social way. That is, neuroimaging shows that our brain states are indeed synchronizing with each other as part of everyday social interactions.
Wow, right? Time to take an inventory of how much time you spend with people who are dragging your emotional state down and figure out how to limit that time and add in some more positive social interactions into your routine to find a balance that supports your wellbeing.
There’s an app for that.
Reprogramming your brain is largely about becoming intentional about your emotional states and finding ways to ritualize and practice those states mindfully. To that end, several apps for mobile and tablet devices are designed to take advantage of our ever-present digital technology as a tool in a journey towards mindfulness and positivity.
These apps can have a variety of features that can supplement your reprogramming efforts, including: easy reminder settings, positive affirmations, short but rewarding interactive activities, social forums, and mindfulness tips.
You can find a relatively recent review of these apps for Psychology Today here. Happy apping!
Become aware of negative thinking and learn to flip the script.
When deciding to change any behavior, one of the most important first steps is to first observe your current behavior and become more aware of it. In this case, becoming aware of your negative emotional states, what triggers them, and the narratives that go along with those emotional states is important.
Start journaling throughout your day when you become aware of negative self-talk. If you are at work or busy dealing with life, you won’t have time to play with those stories just yet. However, thanks to jotting them down, you can come back to them later in the day when you have some time for a little bit of script flipping.
Now you can see that your negative thinking is caused by focusing in on what you don’t have, rather than what you do have. Beside each negative story that you caught from the day, rewrite it into a positive affirmation about something that is going right. Here are some examples:
I am never going to get ahead on my debt! >>>> Today I saved some money by packing a lunch to work.
My boss is never going to be happy with my work! >>>> I am lucky to have a supportive family.
I am unable to meet my fitness goals and get my health under control. >>>> Today I was able to take a step in the right direction by taking a walk on my lunch break.
The goal is not to be delusional or deceptive with yourself. Certainly, there is a time in life where honest self-appraisal means getting tough with ourselves and looking realistically at where we want to improve. However, if negative thinking is our default state of mind, this kind of appraisal is no longer productive and may even be further harming our physical and mental health.
Upper Cervical Spinal Care of Glen Carbon
As part of your central nervous system, the brain is deeply connected to your overall health through just about every process in the body. Your neck and spine constitute the communication network through which your brain communicates with the rest of the systems in your body.
Did you know that even a minor misalignment in the top two vertebrae in your neck can create a variety of health problems?
Consider booking a free consultation at our Glen Carbon Practice. Chiropractor Dr. Thad Vuaginaux takes a holistic approach to health that takes your individual needs into account. You may be a gentle correction away from natural relief!
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