Focus is so important in improving your wellbeing.
Learning to control what you focus on, whether it is learning to meditate or teaching your brain to look for the positives will change your mindset more than you know.
For generations it was believed that we couldn’t change the way we think, that you literally couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks. We even accepted bad behaviour because it was taught as a child or learned behaviour from a parent. If a woman was always moaning about life or a man was unnecessarily aggressive we would justify it as being “just the way they are”. Even abusive behaviour patterns were accepted as being inevitable.
We have known for almost a hundred years though that it is possible to re-write our automatic responses to situations with practice and determination, although it wasn’t widely accepted for several years.
When we have automatic responses to situations, those are created by neural pathways. We don’t have to think about how we react, our brain automatically follows the same path. It was once thought that these pathways, once set in early childhood, couldn’t be re-written. We now know that, whilst it isn’t easy, and it gets harder the older we get, it is possible to change these routes and as a result change our response.
So if you can change how you respond, what sort of things should you try to change to improve your wellbeing?
Obviously you can start with behaviours that would make your life more pleasant; short temper, sleep patterns, exercising more regularly, all those things that we know we would benefit from.
Wellbeing Game Changer
However, in my opinion, one of the easiest mindset shifts to make is around positivity. Evolution has determined that our brains are trained to focus on the negative situations we encounter. This is with good reason. It is the negative and scary things we encounter which may cause us harm or even death. We need to remember more accurately where dangers may be to keep ourselves safe.
Our ancestors needed to remember which creatures or berries were safe and which caused them to feel ill or even killed someone last time. These are important things to remember. However, because of this, your natural settings are often to only look for the negatives and to fixate on them and miss all of the beauty and wonder in your life.
How can we change this automatic response and start to see the positives more?
The most important thing is to realise that we still need to be aware of dangers and also to be aware that if you used to be really positive and suddenlt you can only see the negatives, that can be a sign of depression and you should seek help.
If you just want to feel more positive though it is relatively easy to change your neural pathways and re-structure your brain. All you have to do is to make a point of focusing on the positives in your life regularly. Once a day, at the start or end of the day it is often easiest to remember, either write or think of 5-10 things you are grateful for. You might write these positives down in a gratitude journal or add them to a gratitude jar, but you can also just make a point of thinking them.
Try to think of different positives every day. If you find it difficult, challenge yourself to find even more until you find it easy. They don’t have to be huge positives. Focus on everything that you are grateful for; a warm bed, clean water, a hot shower, a cuddle from your child… they may seem small and insignificant but anyone who has had their boiler go in the middle of winter, appreciates the comfort and luxury of a warm house and a hot shower.
The more you train your brain to look for the positives, the more positives you will see. Of course the reverse is also true. We all know that if we wake up feeling down and tired and something goes wrong then everything seems to go wrong. In reality, it is just that our brain is focusing more on the negatives because of our mindset.
Learn more about mindset shifts
There are many gratitude activities as part of my school resources. It is so important to teach our children these strategies early on so that they make that change when it is easier and becomes more of a life long habit.
If you would like to know more about these resources you can learn more here.