Why Positivity Can Be Learned
Wouldn't it be nice to always - or mostly - have positive thoughts?
We have to live inside our heads a large part of our waking life. Granted, when we are working, playing, exercising, or socializing in any way -- relating to family, friends, co-workers, etc...we are taken outside of ourselves, out of our heads, and our own mind-chatter is less present. And these activities are a great way to reduce our mind-chatter when we are feeling negative, and they can lead to a total turn-around too.
But when we are on our own we mostly live inside out heads. And often the inner life in there is not all pleasant. We spend a lot of time in anger, anxiety, strife, worry, fear, negativity, arguments, sadness, brooding, drama, etc…
Instead, we could be planning, dreaming, thinking creative thoughts, having realizations, insights, and breakthroughs, having thoughts of gratitude, enjoyment, fun. We could be experiencing the moment in awe, wonder, enthusiasm, excitement, and feeling waves of passion, ecstasy, and bliss. Yes, these are all valid ways of being, these are all attainable inner states.
Beautifying Your Inner Landscape
How do we attain such beautiful inner landscapes? Like outer landscapes, they can be cultivated. Some landscapes are born beautiful. Others need a little cultivation.
How Do We Cultivate a Positive Inner Terrain
How do we cultivate a positive inner terrain? Well, the first and last thing I'm going to tell you is that it comes down to "faith". But I'll tell you a lot of other things in between that can also help you to think positively, and that will also help to build your faith in life.
Positive Thinking is just a Habit
Positive Thinking is just a habit. It is not rocket science. It is not mumbo jumbo. It is not magic, spiritual, religious or anti-religious. It is simply a habit, that anyone can cultivate. We are all thinking all the time. It might as well be a positive experience!
The Inner Terrain of the Mind
We are all creatures of habit. Our brain is made up of synapses that are formed through our activities. The more we do something, the stronger the synapse becomes, allowing us to do it better, easier, more often, and with more enjoyment. This creates a habit. When we take conscious steps to break a habit, and we stop the actions, the synapses slowly dissolve and the habit is broken.
How to Cultivate New Habits
The doing of the habit, the action itself, is the strongest thing we can do in creating a new habit. Thinking about changing our habit, planning to change it, reading about how to change it -- these can all be helpful, but nowhere near as powerful to make real changes as actually doing the habit we want to start. (Or not doing the habit we want to quit).
This is a terrifically important thing to understand on a deep level. If you want to think positively, start thinking positive thoughts. Think one right now. "I am OK". (for instance)..
Journal Exercise - Developing A New Synapse
Fill in the blank with the best believable thing you can think about yourself: "I am __________".
Or, if you can't think something positive about yourself just yet, start with thinking something positive about someone else. "Jim is OK". "Mom is doing great". "Carrie is a wonderful friend". Now its your turn:
"______________ is ________________________________"
Now, you've established a new synapse in your brain's inner-talk landscape. You'll strengthen this synapse with repetition throughout the day of similar positive thoughts. You'll add many more soon.
I want you to write down as many positive thoughts as you can. Don't worry about whether or not they feel true to you just yet. If you write them now, at some point they will pop back in to your head as genuine positive thoughts.
Here are some of my positive thoughts that I seem to be able to dredge up even in the darkest times...
I am good
I am full of love
I want the best for all people
I love my children/ family
I am grateful for my health
Now, write down in your journal as many positive thoughts as you can…
Negative Thinking is Just a Habit
Negative thinking is just a habit! It is not who you are. It is not a reflection of any defect in you. It is simply a habit.
Our brain is a chemical factory manufacturing our emotions. When we feel a certain emotion a lot, our brain manufactures a lot of the chemical that communicates that emotion to your body. When that chemical floods your body and is picked up at receptor sites, a lot, then the body produces more receptors for that chemical. This creates a chemical addiction to that emotion.
To start out with in life, 90% of our receptor cells are joy receptors. We are coded for joy.
Like synapses, receptors increase with use, and dissolve with lack of use.
Habits take 21 days to create.
For 21 days, come up with your own joy-enhancing program including positive thinking. Or follow mine below.
Here is my idea of a 21-day-positive-program:
My 21-Days to Positivity Program
For 21 Days…
- Do something you love each day.
- Make a list of positive thoughts each morning.
- Start the day doing the thing you love best for an hour.
- Exercise for an hour each day.
- Eat a big salad each day.
- Have some fruit each day.
- Spend some time alone in thought, contemplation, meditation, or prayer each day.
- End each day with a list of things you are grateful for.
You can alter it for your lifestyle preferences, your unique personality, and your beliefs. Be creative.
Pitfalls to Positive Thoughts
Some things to watch out for…
Here are some long-term habits that can sabotage positive thinking:
- over-use of sarcasm or cynicism
We might think we're being witty, but the sarcastic or cynical attitude is addictive and can derail positive thinking. Some people are more cynical than others, and that might be your nature. I think you can find a balance in which you can be yourself and still enjoy your thought-life. A sense of humor is very helpful to this personality type.
- criticism of others
We might spend a lot of time thinking about the flaws of others. This can be highly habit forming, consuming many a life. Maybe this keeps our mind off our own problems. Often it is a way to avoid facing our own issues. It is however not conducive to positive thinking. Criticizing or blaming others keeps us stuck and keeps us from growing through actually facing our own issues.
We can get really caught up in thinking about our own flaws, problems, and issues. Through our habit-forming brain and its synapses and our habit-forming body and its receptors for emotion-chemicals, we can turn this self-criticism in to a depressing habit. Start finding and creating the good in yourself!
I think humans have a lot of faith naturally, in each other, in themselves, in this place we live in called reality, the world, or The Universe. Babies and small children have this kind of total faith. Bad experiences can cause us to start doubting ourselves and others. This is where faith becomes a necessity to keep us from this positivity-draining emotion of doubt.
A lot of us form the habit of blaming others. This is a nice way to avoid dealing with our own problems. But the mind-chatter of blaming covers up any possibility of positive thinking the same way pollution covers up the blue sky. Blaming also keeps us from growing. You can stagnate for years with this mechanism.
- guilt and shame
Feeling ashamed or guilty as a long-term habitual mind-set gets your energy so far down that positive thinking can be quite elusive. A little guilt or shame can be a good catalyst for change. But hanging on to an emotion like this as a long-term habit can't be very helpful. Lighten up on yourself. Let it go.
8 Practices that lead to Positive Thinking
1. A Good Start:
Start each day off with positive thinking, through a prayer of gratitude, meditation, journaling, or making a list of things your are thankful for.
You don't have to do these now, but whenever you choose. It could be when you need to drum up some positive thoughts. Or it could be when you are feeling really happy and want to capture and expand this feeling in to more of your life!
…Make a list of positive affirmations, things you like about yourself, your immediate family members, and others you interact with regularly.
…Make a list of things affirming your faith in the Universe…I am loved, My greatest good along with the greatest good of all is always being met, everything works together for the good, there are not very many real emergencies, etc…
…Make a list of affirmations of things you love….I love life, I love people, I love my family, etc…
…Make a list of things you enjoy….I enjoy going out with a good friend, I enjoy walks in nature, I enjoy playing with my kids, etc….
…Make a list of things you want. Now make a list converting each of these things in to an affirmation, as though you already have it, or its already on its way.
These are all the types of things we think about, and by doing affirmations on paper, you are programming your brain to actually start thinking about things in a positive light.
"You can not afford the luxury of a negative thought". Since thoughts are habits, one negative one can snowball in to a totally negative mind-state. If you know the thoughts that set you off, you can banish them the moment they set in. I tell myself, I feel pretty good right now, and I deserve to keep feeling good, so I would rather not think that thought. Sometimes it doesn't go away right away, but I just don't give it any energy, and so it goes eventually.
You know the old Indian story about the Grandfather who tells his Grandson about a battle going on inside him between two wolves, one who is greedy, frightened, and angry, and one who is kind, peaceful, and loving. "Which one will win?" asks the Grandson. And his Grandfather answers: "The one I feed".
You can not be too negative when you are talking to the Creator of the Universes. It tends to bring out the best in us. And positive mind-states will come upon us sooner or later as a result of prayer.
Sitting or lying and focusing on our breathing for 5-15 minutes, or longer, we can just watch our thoughts and observe them without judging them. It is as though we are a third party outside of our mind, just noticing what is going on there.
6. Doing What We Love:
Doing what we love will make us happy, and when we're happy our thoughts are positive. If possible, make a career of the thing you love doing. Otherwise, spend an hour a day doing what you love, - ideally the first hour. You'll find yourself thinking more positively automatically.
7. Loving What We Do:
When we put our full attention and effort on something, we can't help but love it. So, whatever we find ourselves doing in life, do it without fear, and with all the caring we can muster. Positive thoughts will automatically follow.
8. Faith, The Final Frontier:
After practicing all kinds of things for positive thinking, I wound up realizing that my missing link was faith. I realized that I had stopped having faith. I don't know when it happened. I'm all for personal religious experience vs. church, but I guess one of the risks of being away from association with other religionists is that you can forget your faith. I was still praying. Still giving thanks. But I had purposely thrown myself in to matters of material living because I have a tendency to keep my head in the clouds otherwise.
For a while I was so worried about business it was starting to affect my health and sanity. One day during this long period of struggle and strife I suddenly realized that I was not having faith. The idea hit me like a ton of bricks. Wow, I can't believe that I forgot to have faith!
And suddenly my faith came pouring back in to me. Of course everything is going to be OK. Of course everything is happening in perfect divine order. And of course there is nothing to fear. I am taken care of, I am loved, I am receiving exactly the lessons I need, there is nothing I can't handle, I am part of the divine plan in which the greatest good of all beings is being taken in to consideration.
And by thinking these types of thoughts we activate something that makes it so.
I think that I had faith before, but not "living faith". "Faith" can be a noun, something that you possess. But "living faith" is active, a verb.
I am of no particular religious persuasion. But I am interested in all religions. I think that no matter what religious or spiritual practices we have, that we can all access faith. We can all believe in a higher power or our own higher power. This is faith. Knowing that it is not just us in control of our life. That we can ask for help, that we can receive help, that we are loved and cared for, that the Universe is on our side. And being open to this help, this love. And trusting it.
I think most people have had an experience of a benevolent "presence". Or they have had fleeting glimpses of some power outside of themselves helping and affecting their lives.
If not a "believer" in a higher power outside of ourselves, perhaps one could imagine a Unified Consciousness, in which all humans are joined as One. This Consciousness could be made of Love, and one could have faith in this greater Oneness of humanity.