How to retrain your brain to focus on positivity

2020 has been quite the year for pretty much everyone. Our lives have been dramatically changed and we are bombarded with negative ideas and images on social media and in the news almost constantly. And this year, perhaps more than others, it’s been with good reason. There is plenty of negative to go around. But when we’re focused on negative, we tend to see more negative. We will recognize it all around us and it will color everything that we do.

Before we move on, I think it’s important to note that we are facing an ongoing worldwide pandemic as well as other major unresolved societal problems. This post is not meant to diminish or downplay the impact that these are continuing to have on our lives. The purpose of the post is to help break negative thought patterns and mindsets and replace them with positive ones. Our creative minds work best from a position of positive or neutral rather than negative. So if we’re going to come up with solutions for problems we face, whether local or global, shifting our mindset is important.

Seeing new patterns

Have you ever noticed when you buy a new car that all of a sudden you start to see that make and model seemingly everywhere? I’ve got news for you though, that many people didn’t just start driving the 2005 Toyota Camry when you did. Those cars were always there. But when you researched for and purchased one, you became very familiar with its shape and design. And now that it’s yours, you’ve trained your brain to recognize it so that, among other things, you can find it in the parking lot after you’re done shopping!

In the same way we teach our brain to recognize a new car, we can train it to recognize positive things. And this can be done very simply and with very low effort, but it needs to be done every day in order to work.

It’s all about gratitude

What happens when you stop to think about something you’re grateful for? You’re recalling a positive memory right? Something that happened that made you feel good. So not only did it make you feel good when it happened, it made you feel the same way again when you remembered it.

Retraining our brains to focus on positivity is as simple as this. Take 30-90 seconds per day and name 3 things that you’re grateful for from that day. That’s it.

This can take many forms, so it’s up to you what you find most suited to your needs and what you find sustainable. One of the best ways I’ve found to sustain it is by finding others who want to do it too. Here are a few ideas that range from independent to large group:

  • Pick a time to quietly reflect alone
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Text it to a friend
  • Share around the dinner table with your family
  • Set up a group chat or post to a group
  • Post it to social media

At first it may seem tough to come up with even just three. But if you make a habit of this by doing it daily, soon your brain will be trained to find positives everywhere, and you will have a hard time choosing just three. Give it a try and see the difference it can make in your life, especially in troubled times like these.

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I first found the idea for this post from Shawn Achor’s wonderful book, The Happiness Advantage, which I will review in a future post. If you’re interested in the book already, you can buy it here. I don’t make any money from that and I’m not affiliated with it in any way. It’s just a great book full of ideas like this one!

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