Your thoughts and outlook are what guide everything else in your life. When you have a positive outlook, you believe that good things can happen, you make choices that allow those positive outcomes, and you encourage more positive thoughts and actions to manifest themselves. Your mindset guides nearly everything your conscious mind does, and it has a significant impact on your subconscious mind, as well. Your outlook is the very foundation of your character and informs the circumstances in which you find yourself as well as your beliefs in your own abilities to persevere and overcome challenges.
Others have made the analogy that your mind is like a garden. When you cultivate it with care and attention and provide the right environment, beautiful and healthy things can grow. When you neglect it and allow your thoughts to run wild without focusing on what is needed for your well-being, thoughts and ideas will still grow. They will likely not be very healthy or useful, though. Whichever route you take, your mind will always expand. But, it’s the foundation you lay with your mindset that dictates what your mind will bring forth.
Negative Begets Negative
As humans, we are predisposed toward negativity. We are much more likely to focus on our negative or darker emotions, like pain and disappointment, than to concentrate on our contentment and joy. Why is this? Well, our brains are actually hard-wired this way. Your circumstances and emotions play a large role in how your brain learns and the connections it makes every time you experience something. The more often you experience something, the more times your brain will connect those memories to other neural connections. Emotions and sensory input are two factors that increase these types of neuron connectivity.
For example, olfactory memory, or your ability to remember smells and associate them with specific incidences in your life, is very strong. Perhaps you loved your grandmother very much, and when she would hug you, you could always smell gardenias, which were part of her perfume. Every time you smell gardenias now, you likely remember your grandmother. You associate gardenias with positive memories and feeling loved. Your neurons have been programmed to fire when you smell gardenias, and these synapses are connected to feelings of love and safety.
More potent than these positive associations, though, are ones that remind us of pain, suffering, and sadness. These negative emotions create more connections in our brains, and we are more likely to recall misery and negativity than we are happiness or other positive emotions. If, for example, your grandmother has passed away, the smell of gardenias also likely makes you sad, as well. Your brain pushes past all the positive emotions you usually associate with the scent and focus on the loss of someone you love.
Rewire Your Brain
You can utilize a combination of strategies to rewire your brain to focus on the positive and fixate less on the negative. Meditation is an excellent way to accomplish this, as it teaches you to clear negativity from your mind and focus on the positive. Meditation techniques have been shown to change the way your brain works, allowing you to concentrate on what is important and learn to ignore the other negative distractions.
Practicing daily mindfulness and gratitude is another way to ground yourself in positivity. When you focus on your gifts and blessings, you flood your brain with dopamine, which makes it easier to ignore the negative emotions and anxiety they cause. Spend a few minutes each day focusing on that for which you are grateful and try to be mindful as much as possible of the present moment, not the past or present.
Being kind to others also changes the way your brain works. When you are kind to others, you are also gentler with yourself. Kindness makes you feel more positive about the world in which you live and provides you with motivation and hope for the future. Daily affirmations are another way to focus your brain on the positive aspects. Positive self-talk is a way to overcome a negative self-image or other issues with self-esteem. Give yourself a daily pep talk to keep your focus on what is good and positive in your life.