Your mind can be your greatest ally or your greatest enemy.
It’s interesting how much of our life is dictated by how and what we think, yet few of us were ever thought how to manage our mindset.
One of life’s greatest lessons is to learn how to manage your own mindset. To understand what impacts our mindset and how we can influence it daily. How much control you have over your own mind dictates how much control you have over your own success and happiness.
Dr Alia Crum of Standford’s Mind and Body Lab defines Mindset as the core beliefs or assumptions we make about a particular domain in our life. We can have mindsets about many areas of our lives. We can have a mindset about our health, about our own intelligence, our ability to make money. A lot of our mindset can be unconscious so it is important to understand what’s going on in your mind in order to be able to programme yourself more positively.
Neuroplasticity and the Brain
We now know that it is possible to change your mindset and to train yourself to have a positive and proactive mindset. We know this from the research done in neuroplasticity which shows that our brain is not a static mass of cells but a neural network constantly changing and growing. New neural pathways can be formed at any age that help us learn new skills and habits. If you choose to change your habits, behaviours or thought patterns it is all possible with a positive attitude and a strategy for success.
Becoming Conscious of your Mindset
Your thoughts, beliefs and behaviours impact your mindset as well as your environment. So it is important to become conscious of what’s happening in your head so that we can be more in control and programme ourselves to our benefit.
Are your thoughts predominantly negative, judgmental; or worrisome? These type of thoughts are not useful and can have a negative impact on your wellbeing. Work to take control of your negative thinking and replace negative thoughts with positive ones like gratitude. When you focus on what you are thankful for it can shift your state from negative to positive and have a positive impact on your physiology.
Beliefs are programmed thoughts, that we need to work deeper at reprogramming. A lot of our beliefs are unconscious. One way to know if you have negative beliefs about an area of your look at an area of your life where you are not happy with your results. You will probably have limiting beliefs about that area. Because of our brains have the capacity to change and grow it is possible to change your thinking and your beliefs by conscious choice and commitment..
Our behaviours also impact our mindset. If we sit in front of the TV for 4 hours every evening or if we go out for a walk and meet good friends, both are going to have an impact on how we feel and our mindset.
Lastly our Environment will also have a big impact. If we are surrounded by unhappiness and negativity it will be more difficult to have a positive attitude, as much as possible surround yourself with the type of people who uplift and support you.
Here are a few tips to get started on managing your mindset:
1. Commit to Mind Management.
The first step and most important is the commitment to mind management, to understand how important your role is in achieving what you want out of life. Many of us play the victim, blaming our circumstances for our level of success when we have the power to impact it . We are naturally programmed for threat detection, we most often and reach for the negative, so it takes work to be positive and to stay positive. For this reason managing your mindset is a decision and a commitment.
2. Always Focus on what you want
In recent years more research has been done that validates the theory that our thoughts have power. It appears that the placebo effect is getting stronger. According to Harvard Health physiological changes can be observed in those taking a placebo, similar to those observed among people taking effective medications. In particular, blood pressure, heart rate, and various blood test results have been shown to change among subsets of research subjects who responded to a placebo.
In a study led by Alia Crum to test whether physiological satiation varied depending on the mindset in which one approached the consumption of food they found that it did. In simple terms, a group of people were given the same milkshake on two occasions but told that one of the milkshakes had more calories. When they believed they had consumed more calories their stomachs produced more of the peptide ghrelin, which is responsible for the feeling of fullness. On the occasion where they believed their milkshake was light on calories they produced less ghrelin. The conclusion to that study was that mindset meaningfully affects physiological responses to food. So if our thoughts have the power to affect our physiology don’t you think you should be 100% in control of them and not allowing the negativity to dominate.
3. Practise Stillness
How can being still help you to manage your mind? Stillness will help you to stay present and take more control over your negative thoughts. The practises of meditation or mindfulness both help you to become more aware of your thoughts and to start to chose the thoughts that you want. With better awareness we can make better choices. If you don’t like the idea of meditation or mindfulness, try some simple breathe work. Conscious breathing can also help to focus your attention on the present moment by moving away from your thoughts to focus on your breath.
Meditation has benefits for both your physical and mental health. The benefits of meditation include better focus and concentration, improved self-awareness and self-esteem and lower levels of stress and anxiety. By practicing meditation, we get to train our brains to focus where we want them to focus. It helps to take control of the monkey mind and get better at choosing where we want to focus our attention and what type of thoughts we wish to have. You don’t have to sit for an hour in a cross legged position to practice meditation. You can stop for 3 minutes at your desk and practice or try it on waking each morning for 5 or 10 minutes. Try out Insight Timer and find thousands of teachers and different styles of meditation. There is a type for everyone.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation where we focus our attention in the present moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn is known as the father of mindfulness having popularised this form of meditation in the West. He defines mindfulness meditation as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. By focusing on the breath, the idea is to cultivate attention on the body and mind as it is moment to moment, and so help with pain, both physical and emotional. Mindfulness can be practiced in any moment, we can try to remember to eat mindfully without distraction, we can walk mindfully, noticing the nature around us rather than being plugged into some device. Mindfulness helps to reduce stress and anxiety by keeping our thoughts focused on what is, rather than worrying about potential future events.
Living in the past is living with regret, living the future is living with anxiety and living in the present is living in peace.
Breath-work has been practiced for years through yoga and meditation. The basic idea of breath-work is to release toxins and stress when you breathe out and nourish your mind and body when you breathe in. There are many potential health benefits of breath-work which include alkalizing your blood PH, elevating your mood, it can also having an anti- inflammatory effect.
Breath-work may also have a positive impact on your central nervous system. When you feel stressed, your breath tends to become fast and shallow. This limits the oxygen entering your bloodstream. Your brain tells your body that there is a threat, and your body responds in fight or flight. We can reverse this process by slowing down our breathing, in particular focusing on slowing and lengthening the exhale which will slow down your heart rate and relax your body. The beauty of breath work is that even one minute can help to reset your physiology but it also gives you an opportunity to check in with both your body and mind, checking things like posture and thinking in order to chose better if necessary.
All of these practices will help to reset your state and improve both your physical and mental health. Commit to 5 minutes a day until it becomes a habit and then you can increase the time spent practices to maximise its benefits.
There have been many studies carried out in recent years on the subject of gratitude and its impact on our happiness and well being. It is difficult to feel sorry for yourself or feel down if you are actually feeling thankful for something that you have in your life. Gratitude practice doesn’t require much, just the noting of a couple of things you feel gratitude for each day, usually written down in a notebook. Practicing at the same time each day, like first thing in the morning or last thing at night helps to form a habit.
Many studies cite results which include more optimistic, more contentedness, better wellbeing and some even mentioned less visits to the doctor. Gratitude has been a massive contributor to my positive mindset. I use it whenever I feel negative, irritated or annoyed. It is a great mood shifter. If you want to feed two birds with one seed you can check out my gratitude meditation on Insight Timer.
Commit today to taking control and responsibility for your mindset, your success and happiness.