So often we think in terms of negatives: I don’t want to be poor in my older age, I don’t want to fight with my kids, I don’t want my boss to be angry with me, and on and on.
Problem is, the filters inside your brain are assessing everything you think about, and don’t necessarily take into account the “don’t” that you’re putting in front of each of these thoughts.
So instead, your brain hears “poor in older age” and “fight with my kids” and “boss is angry with me.”
After the repetition of thinking these thoughts again and again, this starts to become your mental reality. You start to see the world around you tinged with negativity and pessimism and begin expecting the worst in a variety of situations.
It’s helpful to start to catch yourself thinking these “don’t” thoughts and flip them around, so that you are thinking the positive version of what you do want instead of the negative version of what you don’t want.
For example, “I don’t want to be poor in my older age” can become “I want to be financially comfortable in my older age.”
“I don’t want to fight with my kids” becomes “I want to have peaceful and loving interactions with my kids.”
“I don’t want my boss to be angry with me” becomes “I want my boss to notice and appreciate my good work.”
The reticular activating system (RAS) is a specific filter in the brain that looks for more of what you think about. It seeks support for your thoughts in the environment around you.
I’ll give you an example: when I bought my Toyota Prius a few years ago, all of a sudden I started seeing Priuses everywhere. I never noticed them before. Does that mean they weren’t there? Absolutely not! They were always there. I just didn’t notice thembecause I wasn’t thinking about them.
Same goes with any thought in your mind. Let’s take the example of “I don’t want to fight with my kids” and remember that the brain will eliminate the “don’t” and just focus on “fight with my kids.” If your RAS is looking for more in your environment to support your thoughts, then you are likely to notice anything that supports the thought of fighting with your kids: every eye roll, snarky comment, sulky body language, and so on, will be noticed by you and become the central focus of your thoughts.
If, however, you are thinking “I want to have peaceful and loving interactions with my kids” you are more likely to notice when they are being peaceful and loving, and you yourself will likely exhibit more peaceful and loving behaviors toward them.
What you think becomes your reality. It is of the utmost importance to gain control over your thoughts and shift them so that they better serve you and what you want out of life, rather than letting your thoughts run wild and uncontrolled, taking you in directions that work against what you actually want.
Sounds simple, right? But thoughts become ingrained and habitual so, like anything else, it takes time and practice to learn to change them. The more you practice “flipping the script” from negative thoughts to positive, the easier it becomes.
Let’s take it a step further. Neuroscientific research shows that thoughts are as powerful as experiences, and can actually have physiological effects on the body. Think about it: by thinking enough negative thoughts, you can actually give yourself an ulcer! The mental affects the physical.
Furthermore, research shows that the brain doesn’t know the difference between and thought and an experience.
Wait, what?? Read on …
In the book “You Are The Placebo” by Dr. Joe Dispenza, he refers to a study looking at basketball players in two groups: one group that practiced jump shots, and a second group that just thought about practicing jump shots.
Both groups improved their jump shots by approximately 25%. Even the ones who never touched a ball during this experiment! And the ones who just thought about practicing jump shots showed physiological changes like muscle stimulation in the muscles used for jump shots, as well as increased heart rate, without actually moving a muscle. Amazing, right?Knowing that what we think about can affect what we see in our environment and can affect us on a physiological level, we can use this to our advantage with positive affirmation work.
A positive affirmation is a statement that identifies what you want, phrased in the positive and in the present tense, like it’s already happening right now. Again, the brain can’t tell the difference between an actual event and a thought, so just thinking about something like it’s happening right now is enough to convince the brain that this is your reality.
It may feel a little hokey at first, or like you are deluding yourself by stating something that isn’t true (yet) but just like working out your muscles in the gym, you are training your brain to a new way of thinking and a new way of seeing your reality. It may feel awkward at first, but with practice, it becomes more natural.
Going back to the examples above, “I want to be financially comfortable in my older age” becomes “I am financially comfortable, now and in my older age.”
“I want to have peaceful and loving interactions with my kids” becomes “I interact peacefully and lovingly with my kids.”
“I want my boss to notice and appreciate my good work” becomes “My boss notices and appreciates my good work.”
Use positive language in the present tense. Speak it like it’s already happening, and train your brain to see and believe a new reality.
Over time, you’ll notice that you are observing more and more positive aspects of what’s going on around you, which creates a most positive day to day experience for you and ultimately, a happier life overall.
Jen Larsen, CPC, RYT500, is a certified, professional life coach and certified, registered, trauma-informed yoga teacher. For over a decade, she has helped people light their inner glow and achieve their fullest potential. Visit her on the web at www.lightyourinnerglow.com, or on Facebook or Instagram. You can also check out her YouTube channel for yoga and meditation videos.