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This is how you start to think more positively

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Positive thinking – a nice piece of advice, a struggle, a question, … what does it mean to you? For me it is an advice I was given, a wish, but also that struggle. Because I often ‘catch’ myself that I don’t think positively. While I know how important it is. Getting rid of doom-mongering or negative labeling is simply very difficult. So: how do you do that, think more positively?

Do you know how to get more creative? Practicing creative thinking regularly ensures that you create new jobs in your brain, making it easier for you to continue thinking creatively afterwards. That’s how it works with learning to ride a bike, or – I’ll just call it a cross street – with water skiing.

The first time is really hard and incomprehensible, but the more often you do it and the more often you ‘get it ‘, the easier it gets after that. Positive thinking is not as concrete as learning to ride a bike, but learning to think positively works the same way: through practice, practice and practice.

The History of Negative Thinking

In his book “ Buddha’s Brain ” Rick Hanson explains how you can influence your brain, and also why it is so difficult. It’s so hard because our brains have been trained for thousands of years to protect us from outside dangers; they are used to that. The cooperation between all kinds of small organs (the hypothalamus, the brainstem that sends norepinephrine, the pituitary gland, the adrenal glands) and production of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol ensure that your muscles are prepared for fight, flight or freeze; and that systems such as your digestive system come to a standstill for a while so that you can put all your energy into your reaction to that bad event.

A failure or a small danger in the environment still makes us run away alert, worrying about the future, regretting, blaming ourselves,….. If you see many dangers, or if you always see the glass half empty (instead of half full), then you activate your organs and hormones so often that it can lead to overstrain. At a minimum, it leads to positive thinking becoming difficult.

That motivating desire for nice things and our protection system are still ‘on’ after thousands of years of training. And of course it has become a very broad “highway in our brains”! Such a wide highway is not just replaced by new jobs because we want to, … but only by thinking differently often – often .The book “ Buddha’s Brain ” describes a study that found that on average about five positive interactions are needed between people to nullify the effects of a negative interaction.

Our brains also work positively: they produce dopamine when you expect nice new messages in your email or on Facebook, or when you see a nice piece of chocolate cake, … which makes you even more excited and more enthusiastic. Of course, that can be addictive. But that nice feeling that dopamine gives you also stimulates you to look for even more positive experiences.

This is how you start to think more positively

Okay, now that that has become a bit clear, how do you influence your brain to think more positively? Very simple actually: by thinking and talking a lot positively, by often writing positively (stories, or short affirmations that you hang in places you often see), by looking up positive things, and doing your best to see them. (It gives me great pleasure when I see that chocolate cake, or see my housemates eating and enjoying it.)

To look at a beautiful flower outside, or to pick or buy a bunch of flowers for the home. You can resolve to do this regularly during the day, or you can think of little rituals: putting a smile on your face when you wake up. Or end the day by thinking about the best things that happened today; and to experience the emotion that you felt again. And know:the longer you hold something in your consciousness and the more you stimulate it emotionally (…), the stronger the positive highway in your memory becomes!  

Finally

With this article I want to convince you to teach yourself to think more positively. Human evolution has shaped our brains in such a way that we see all kinds of dangers and think much negatively. But by constantly practicing looking at beautiful things, writing and thinking beautiful things, you influence your brain and positive thinking becomes a new path for you. And now? Try to put a smile on your face now. And get yourself something nice to think, write or do today :-)!

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