Using thoughts in a positive way, is it possible?
'Learn to use your mind in a positive way'. That is my slogan. But what do I mean with it and why does it matter?
There are countless self help books you can buy and courses you can follow to create a more ‘positive mindset’. Partly, my work is also created around this point of view. But what is the theory? Can you be in charge of your own thoughts?
Yes and no. A big part of your thoughts come and go whether you like it or not. You can better accept it and surrender. But accepting your thoughts doesn’t mean to be a victim of it. By, for example, practicing mindfulness, you learn how to detach from your thoughts. You learn that thoughts don’t always speak the truth and almost always influence your behavior1. This article doesn’t elaborate on this but you can read it here.
You can influence another part of your thoughts. This is the space you have to influence your mindset. You have a choice: do you want to focus on the positive things, or at the negative ones? For example, when you take a walk next to a busy road you can choose. Do you actively focus on the cars and the noise? Or do you try to focus on the beautiful things, like the flowers and the warmth of the sun on your skin.
Yes, this takes some effort. But everything you do, causes a change in your brain which makes it goes a bit easier the second time. In professional language this is called neuroplasticity. With everything you do, certain neurons get active. The more these neurons get active in the same combination, the stronger this combination becomes. De brain can change by sensory experiences, actions and thoughts2. And you can partly influence this by yourself!
Besides, your focus has important consequences on what you experience. Do you recognize the situation in which you want to buy a certain car, and suddenly you see this car everywhere? Or after you are stung by a wasp you see wasps everywhere. You can do a small experiment with this, right now: actively think about the color blue and look around you. Isn’t it true that your attention is drawn to blue objects? This phenomenon is called selective perception: your attention is unconsciously send by things that you are occupied with3. This is exactly how it works with a positive mindset. If you focus on positivity, your attention gets drawn into positive and nice things.
Another example of positive thinking is related to the outcome. When you have an important exam or presentation, visualization and thinking about a positive outcome makes sure that you perform well. However, it is important that your visualization also includes what you are going to do to attain the outcome (e.g. I am going to study hard and get a good grade). Research has proven that when you think in this way, results are better4!
So it is your choice. If you like to be an expert in using your mind in a positive way, you can follow my workshops or courses!
There is one side note for this article though. Negative emotions are not always bad. The aim of this article is not to suppress negative emotions and be all positive. Negative emotions are necessary to feel and can teach you a lot. However, the aim of this article is to increase positivity and wellbeing in case you are unnecessary trapped in a negative way of thinking.
1) Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of clinical psychology, 62(3), 373-386.
2) McCall, T. (2016). The scientific basis of yoga therapy. article on-line) Yoga Journal, available from http://www. yogajournal. com/teacher/2016. cfm.
3) Rimey, R. D., & Brown, C. M. (1994). Control of selective perception using bayes nets and decision theory. International Journal of Computer Vision, 12(2), 173-207.
4) Oyserman, D., Bybee, D., Terry, K., & Hart-Johnson, T. (2004). Possible selves as roadmaps. Journal Of Research In Personality, 38(2), 130-149.
Zit je niet lekker in jouw vel? Wil je om leren gaan met stress en piekergedachtes? Learn to use your mind in a positive way! Ik ben psycholoog in Nijmegen en werk met mindfulness acceptance & commitment therapie en positieve psychologie. Neem hier vrijblijvend contact op!
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