The “power of positivity” – the idea that we can change our lives through positive thinking has been around forever, & has been promoted by spiritual leaders, life-coaches, self-help books, & hippies for years, but these ideas are now also being backed by research into an ability known as neuroplasticity – the ability of our brains to change themselves, based on our experience.
It goes a little something like this:
- Each time you think a thought, it is communicated between the neurons in your brain via tiny electro-chemical messages.
- The first time you have an experience or learn something new, a new pathway is created between those neurons.
- Then the next time you have that experience, your brain will search to see if your have experienced it before, & if you have, it will follow that same pathway again.
- The more often your have that experience or think that thought, the stronger that neural pathway will become.
Neuroplasticity describes our brain’s ability to create these neural pathways based on our repeated exposure to a thought or experience.
My dietitian once explained it to me with a metaphor – “Imagine a skier,” she said, “the first time he skies down a snowy alp, he makes a trail in the snow. It is shallow but visible. The next time he skies down the slope, he sees that shallow trail & follows it again. With every trip down the slope the trail becomes deeper – easier to find, & easier to follow.”
Neuroplasticity helps to explain habitual behaviour, & the idea that “practice makes perfect.”
Just over a year ago, i decided i would practice positivity, & i started by turning my home into a haven – a sanctuary of self-love & positivity. My walls became a canvas, wallpapered with affirmation cards, drawings, quotes, & letters of love from friends. Everywhere i turn, in every room, i am now greeted with the message that “you are beautiful, you are worthy, & you are safe here – this is a house of love.”
People are always telling me now, what a bright & cheerful person i am. How i can take a “bad” day, & turn it into something wonderful. How i can find gratitude for almost anything. And they are right. Of course i still feel the full range of human emotion – of course i still have days where i feel utterly miserable, or enraged, or simply despondent, but through practising positivity, it is now easier for me to disengage from those emotions (& i do not mean avoid or neglect them) & reconnect with more joyful thoughts & emotions.
And so, my challenge for you this week, is to find a way in which you can practice positivity. If you don’t know where to start, why not give one of these ideas a go:
- Practice positive affirmations
An affirmation is a “can do” message, & can relate to any aspect of your life. It can be anything from “i am worth loving”, to “i am open to making new friends”, or perhaps “i am constantly finding new ways to express my creativity.” Pick an area of your life that you would like feel more positive about, & create an affirmation based on that. If you get really stuck, you can always buy some beautiful affirmation cards like the ones i have in my home.
- Repeat your affirmation (this is very powerful when done whilst looking into a mirror) at least 5 times before starting your day.
- Write your affirmation down (or use a card if you have them), & keep it with you during the day, where you can continue to be reminded of it – try sticking it to your computer screen, your work diary, or your wall. Every time you see it, repeat the affirmation again.
Affirmations can be really hard at first – in fact it can be quite confronting, especially when your affirmation challenges a long-held belief. In that case, i say “fake it ’til you make it” -which is exactly what i did when i started out.
- Create your own haven of self-love & positivity
Surround yourself with things that bring you comfort & joy – create a space in your home where only positivity is allowed to enter. Hang photos of yourself & your loved ones, decorate with bright colours, post affirmation cards on your walls, invest in a painting that you love & hang it up – or get creative & paint your own! Cover your lounge or your bed (or both!) in lots of comfy cushions, burn incense, light candles, whatever helps to create a positive & loving atmosphere for YOU.
- Create a “Positivity Playlist” (not unlike my “Recovery Playlist”)
Create a playlist on your iPod, or burn your own CD filled with with music that makes you want to sing at the top of your lungs, & dance around your living room (or bedroom, or kitchen, or even down the street). Play it loud & play it often, especially when you find yourself caught up in negativity – crank up your tunes & drown it out with awesomeness. An essential for any positivity playlist? ‘Walking On Sunshine’ 😉 And if you feel like singing, or you want to dance – go ahead & do it! 🙂
- Engage in random acts of kindness
In order to increase your own positive experiences, try encouraging some positive experiences for others. Numerous studies have shown that volunteering not only increases the psychological wellbeing of the volunteer, but also has positive effects on physical health – bonus! 🙂 Whatever your interests are, there is a relevant organisation looking for volunteers to help them out. Of course, you don’t have to take part in organised volunteering – opening the door for someone who has their hands full, helping someone carry a heavy or awkward item (don’t hurt yourself!), or a simple smile or “hello” can make all the difference to a person’s day – & knowing you have brought some joy to someone else, might just help to make a difference to yours 🙂
- Watch this video 🙂
And watch it often 😉
What will you do this week to practice positivity?
Let me know how it goes 🙂
And remember “practice makes perfect”! (Or at least will form & then reinforce new neural pathways in your brain – which actually sounds much cooler than perfection anyway ;)).