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Copyright © 2006 Bob Griswold and Jeff Griswold, Effective Learning Systems, Inc.
The best and quickest way to improve your life is simple: just think more positively.
You’ve probably heard this many times before. And you’re probably thinking, “That’s a great idea, but in the real world it’s much easier said than done.”
It’s true; like a lot of things in life, becoming a “positive” person is an idea that is simple but not necessarily easy. The goal of this brief article is to give you a few simple and practical techniques that will help you make positive thinking an automatic and permanent part of your life.
Positive Thinking is Critically Important
Your thought patterns have a huge influence over every aspect of your life. Your thoughts determine your personality, the quality of your relationships, your financial success, your physical health, and much more.
You probably have an idea of the power of your thoughts. The fact that you’re reading this indicates you know it’s important. But if you’re like most people, you still grossly underestimate the powerful physiological effects your thoughts can have.
For example, by simply thinking of biting into a juicy, yellow lemon you can make your mouth water. That’s just a small example of how a thought can create chemical changes in the body.
The fact is that your thoughts greatly influence much more important things than saliva production. Science has shown that positive thoughts increase your white blood cell count which helps you fight infection and disease. In a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of Wisconsin proved that people who practice positive thinking are better equipped to fight disease.
In the study, a team of neuroscientists used electroencephalography to measure brain activity and then gave all the subjects flu shots. What they found is that positive thinking individuals had a significantly stronger immune response than those who exhibited more a negative thought patterns. The bottom line: positive thinking can make you not only happier but healthier as well.
How Do You Become a Positive Thinker?
If you currently have habitual negative thought patterns – and most everyone does – you can learn to eliminate them and replace them with positive thought habits. But it won’t happen on its own. You have to make a conscious decision to make a change. Once you do that – and with the help of a few simple techniques – it’s actually pretty easy to become totally positive.
Here are a few simple techniques you can start using right now:
Smile and Let the Tail Wag the Dog
Being happy can make you smile. But does it also work the other way? Can smiling make you happy?
Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco have discovered that mimicking the facial expressions associated with such emotions as happiness, sadness, and anger can trigger some of the same physical changes produced by actually feeling these emotions. By measuring an array of biometrics – such as heart rate, body temperature, and the electrical resistance of the skin – they demonstrated that simply smiling made the body “happy.” Apparently moving facial muscles sends signals to the autonomic nervous system, which controls certain muscle and gland activity. This, in turn, spurs the physical reactions. So, smile and you’ll be happy!
Create a Triggering Mechanism for Yourself
Now try your own smiling experiment. Put a big smile on your face right now. You may have to force it at first but do it anyway and see what happens. It’s okay if you feel silly. Let the silliness make you smile even more.
As you smile, think of anytime in the past when you felt very happy, joyful and positive. We’ve all had experiences in our lives when we have felt very positive. Let yourself replay some of those positive moments right now. Let yourself relive feelings of being positive and confident. Continue to smile. Release all cares and concerns and with a big smile on your face, feel yourself becoming more and more positive and carefree.
As your positive feelings continue to build, press the thumb and middle finger of either hand together gently but firmly, and say to yourself “I am positive!” Again, while you’re feeling very positive, press your thumb and middle finger together and say “I am positive!”
You have just programmed yourself with a mechanism that you can use to trigger these same positive thoughts and feeling anytime you choose. Practice this frequently and soon you’ll notice that you can have a positive attitude in any situation merely by pressing your thumb and middle finger together and saying “I am positive!”
Choose Your Words Carefully
What you say and the words you choose are very important to maintaining a positive perspective and eliciting positive outcomes.
For example, consider the word “don’t”. If you call out to a child “Don’t slam the door!” what’s the next sound we usually hear? Bam!! That’s right, the door slamming. It’s as if the child didn’t hear the “don’t.” Only the positive part of the statement got through: “Slam the door!” However, if you say “Close the door softly,” the child will be much more likely to comply.
Another dangerous word is “can’t.” People often say I can’t lose weight, or I can’t quit smoking, or I can’t remember names. The more they say that, the more it becomes reality. From now on, let the use of that word be like a red light flashing as a warning that this is negative programming that can create false limitations. Don’t let this word rob you of your true potential.
Eject Negative Self-Talk
More important than the words you say to others are the words you say to yourself. We all have an inner voice that reflects our subconscious thinking. Unfortunately, a lot of our self-talk is negative. For example: “I’ll never be able to do it”, or “I’ll never understand it”, or “I’m not smart enough”, or “If something can go wrong, it will”.
To eliminate negative self-talk you must first become aware of it. What are the things that you say to yourself that limit your potential? The moment you become aware of the negativity eject it! You can eject it just as easily as you can eject a tape from a tape deck.
To make that ejection more vivid, you can press your index finger against your thumb, or against a table or a dashboard, as if you’re pressing a button, and at the same time emphatically say “EJECT!” Then immediately replace the negative with a positive such as “I can!” Over time, repeating this simple physical action will go a long way to helping you become totally positive.
Train Your Brain through Meditation
Research has shown that meditation increases activity in the left prefrontal cortex; the same area of the brain that scientists associate with positive thinking. And people who meditate regularly are typically found to be more positive and healthier than the population in general. So learn how to meditate – and practice it often. You’ll train your brain to use its positive thinking centers more readily and quickly become a more positive person.
Remind Yourself of What’s Important
A friend of ours who is a salesman and who’s away from his home and family more than he’d like to be, told us about a tape he put together that never fails to lift his spirits. The tape consists of a series of messages from the most important people in his life: his wife, his father, his kids, and his closest friend. On his tape, each of these people says, in his or her own words, how important this man is to them. They say what they like, admire, and respect about him. They say how much they appreciate him, love him, and miss him when he’s away. He says that after a tough sales call, or anytime he needs a lift, he plays that tape and instantly he feels very fortunate, very happy, and has greater sense of self-worth. It puts everything back in its proper perspective, and gives him renewed strength and a very positive attitude. Perhaps you could benefit from creating a similar tape of your own.
Wash Away Negativity with a Powerful Visualization
Another technique for feeling totally positive is called the funnel of energy. It’s a simple visualization exercise that can take less than a minute, but it makes you feel great.
Here’s how you do it. Imagine there’s a funnel of positive energy flowing in through the top of your head. This positive energy comes from the purist, highest, most divine source of energy in the universe. It makes you feel more alive, stronger, more aware and alert. The moment it enters your body you sense its positive, loving, healing effect. You feel it cleansing you of negativity. Washing away any past negative programming you have experienced.
It’s dissolving all the old fears, the old inhibitions, the old limitations. Feel this positive, loving, healing energy washing away all negative thoughts, images and feelings. Feel it releasing your inner strength. The energy continues to flow in, through your shoulders, arms and hands, your chest, your back, abdomen, hips, legs and feet, reaching every part of your body dissolving all negativity. It’s converting your entire body to healthful positive energy. Imagine all the negativity flowing out of your hands and feet leaving your body filled with only the purest positive energy. If feels so good to free yourself from negativity, it feels so good to be totally positive.
Practice this visualization any time you’d like. Allow the visualization to last as long as you need to feel revived and purged of all negativity. It’s great any time you need a lift.
Welcome Life’s Obstacles – Adversity is Opportunity
Life throws each of us a lot of curves. No one goes through life without problems, or without running into obstacles. And some of these problems or obstacles can be huge. But what’s really important is how we face these obstacles. If we think negatively, we can be overwhelmed, give up or become ineffective in dealing with them. But there is a much better way to handle them. We can choose to look for something positive in the situation. We can choose to consider it a blessing in disguise – even if we have no idea what that blessing might be.
We can look for an advantage or opportunity in any situation. As Richard Bach points out in his book Illusions, “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift in its hands.” And the Chinese word for crisis is written with two characters. One of them means opportunity.
Many of our students have become so positive that when an unexpected problem arises they automatically say “Oh good!” They then immediately start looking for the opportunity presented by the situation. And they inevitably find it. This can work for you, too.
Learning to deal successfully with obstacles can help you live a more fulfilling life. As Booker T. Washington said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the positions that we have reached in life, as by the obstacles which we have overcome while trying to succeed.”
Don’t Worry – Be Happy
In order to be totally positive, we need to know how to deal with worry. Every thought we have affects us physically as well as mentally, and worry can be very harmful. Dr. Charles Mayo said; “Worry affects circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system, and profoundly affects the health.”
Think about the process you go through when you worry. In your mind you picture a negative end result. It takes no effort or willpower; you just dwell on it. And in a short time this negative end result appears very real to you and you generate the same emotions that you’d experience if it really happened. You experience the same fear, anxiety, or discouragement. Consequently, you end up feeling bad right now for something that is merely a thought in your mind.
At the same time you are setting up patterns in your mind for future negative experiences. The more you worry, the more you train your mind to expect bad things. Even if your “problem” never manifests itself, the worry takes its toll through immediate discomfort and the harmful effects of excessive stress.
It’s said that worry is interest paid in advance on a debt you may never owe. And Mark Twain put it this way; “I’ve had a lot of troubles in my day – most of which never happened.” So, most worry is useless. You’re better off ejecting it.
But you can take the same process you use to worry, change just one thing, and it can help you immensely. Instead of imagining a negative end result, imagine a positive one! This, too, takes very little effort or willpower. Just dwell on that positive end result and in no time at all you’ll be generating the emotions that are associated with that experience. You’ll feel great immediately as a result of something that is merely a thought in your mind. You’ll feel joy, happiness, and self-confidence. Plus, you’ll be setting up patterns in your mind for future positive experiences.
So make the worry process work for you rather than against you. Get into the habit of expecting good things.
There are many other things you can do to become more positive, but this handful of ideas is a great start. Begin today and you’ll soon realize what a tremendous impact they’ll have on your life.