The Truth About Negative Thinking and How to Re-frame Your Thoughts
There have been a plethora of money making schemes to hit the market since “The Secret” was published in 2006. If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s based on the law of attraction and how our thoughts can change the world.
It’s easy to ‘pfft’ at this notion, because, of course our thoughts change the world. Our thoughts drive action which in turn creates movement (in most cases).
However! What has happened because of this book being written is a large emphasis on just how much our inner dialogue impacts on who we are.
Yes, negative thinking effects our mood, BUT we also need to be
considering the effect that it has on us as a living breathing organism.
Research has uncovered that optimism is more common in populations that live longer. Could this be because they deal with daily challenges more effectively, due to their optimistic outlook, and therefore don’t allow their concerns to become chronic conditions that would reduce their life span?
After all, it has been documented that chronic stress brings about increased cortisol levels which in turn leads to inflammation and then adverse physical side effects.
I mean, we could blame evolution for equipping us with what is coined the negativity bias. Without which we may not have survived the woolly mammoths and the sabre tooth tigers. In studies, its been shown that people will identify angry faces before happy faces. In fact, the amygdala, the home of our flight/flight response even uses two thirds of its neurons to look out for bad news!
But, what does this mean for us?? Do we really have a say in how we function?
“Our brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon” – Rick Hanson
There is a term you might have heard over the past 10 years, Neuroplasticity, which essentially means that our brain can be likened to the malleability of plastic. It is the brains ability to reorganise itself and make new connections that will change BOTH its structure and its function.
It’s incredible that through experience our brain changes. Whether it’s a positive adaptive change or a not so positive change depends on a few different things, however the most important thing to note here is that we CAN re-wire our brain for the better, EVEN after experiencing that which has beaten us in the past.
Here’s a quick 2-minute video on how the neuroplasticity process works. It likens our thoughts, behaviours and emotions to roads, where the more we have certain thoughts, the more well-travelled those roads are and the more likely we are to keep traveling them. Go check out how you can make this work for you…
One example of neuroplasticity at work is the well-known London cab driver studies which showed that the longer someone had been driving a taxi, the larger their hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in visual-spatial memory.
The truth however is that negative thoughts don’t JUST impact on your mood. The bigger picture that we ALL need to realise is that negativity influences every single cell in our body.
All day, every day, our entire being is physically responding to our thoughts through a feedback system between neurotransmitters that are released when we experience certain emotions, and the peptides that are released by each cell that they interact with.
By employing neuroplasticity, you can influence what neurotransmitters your brain is producing and in turn their effect on the cells within your body. Through my coaching experience, the most straightforward way to change your thought patterns and take control of your health has three steps.
The trick is to dedicate 3 minutes of your morning before you get out of bed to consider what you feel grateful for and to affirm the kind of person that you plan on being. Whether it’s “I am patient” or “I listen carefully before responding” or “I look for the strengths in others”, any positive way that affirm yourself will become your compass for the rest of the day.
Then we have our old buddy mindfulness, growing our mindfulness practice need only take 10 minutes a day, at whatever time works for you. Jump on over to my facebook page for some inspo on starting up a practice. Alternatively, you can download the app “Headspace” and explore from there.
Mindfulness equips us with the ability to choose how our experience and
our thoughts shape us so that we can feel more in control of how things affect us.
By prioritising these short and incredibly straightforward exercises we are effectively rewiring our brain to look for those things that we are resting our attention on. The more we look for them during the day, the more we experience the related emotions and more well-travelled those roads are in our brain which leads to a healthy, well rounded sense of self.
What are you waiting for…go get “rewiring”, your whole body will love you for it x
Check out AwesoME Inc Resilience and Gratitude Journals for the ultimate tool to retrain your brain with gratitude.
About Paula Melville
Victoria has been working in the mental health and addiction field over the past 7 years since leaving University with an honours degree in Psychology. During her time spent working in addiction, Victoria was introduced to the practice of mindfulness. Since this time Victoria has become extremely passionate about incorporating mindfulness into both her professional and her family life.
ictoria has an honours degree in Psychology from the University of Canterbury. She is a Life Coach, Mindfulness Coach, Mindfulness Practitioner in schools and is a passionate holistic health and well-being advocate and facilitator of mindfulness based workshops.