How To Train Your Brain To Go Positive Instead Of Negative

By Loretta Breuning for Forbes

Our brain is not designed to create happiness, as much as we wish it were so. Our brain evolved to promote survival. It saves the happy chemicals (dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) for opportunities to meet a survival need, and only releases them in short spurts which are quickly metabolized. This motivates us to keep taking steps that stimulate our happy chemicals.

You can end up with a lot of unhappy chemicals in your quest to stimulate the happy ones, especially near the end of a stressful workday. There are a number of reasons why your brain goes negative. The bad feeling of cortisol has its own survival purpose. It alerts you to an obstacle on the path to meeting your needs so you can navigate your way to good feelings. But once you do that, your brain finds the next obstacle. You will feel bad a lot if you follow your survival brain wherever it leads. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to rewire this natural negativity.

Let’s start with an example I call the Dog Poop Paradox. Pet mess was everywhere when I was young because picking up after your pooch was not the norm. Then customs changed and the streets were gloriously cleaner. Did that make anyone happy? NO. People barely noticed. They do notice an oops, however, and they get plenty mad about it.

Our brain evolved to scan for problems and it is skilled at finding problems when it looks. For example, reporters predicted the downfall of civilized society when the bicycle was invented. They warned that people would flit from here to there instead of having long conversations, and that we’d retire early from exhaustion instead of conversing in the evening. We have inherited the brain that helped our ancestors notice threats in time to act. We are skilled at finding threats, even as we seek rewards.

Build Yourself A Positivity Circuit

Negativity will engulf you unless you build yourself a positivity circuit. To do that, spend one minute looking for positives, three times a day for forty five days. This trains your brain to look for positives the way it is already trained to look for negatives.

You may think there aren’t enough positives in the awful world around you. But you don’t have to perform in Carnegie Hall and rescue orphans from burning buildings to create positivity. Any positives, no matter how small, will build the pathway that seeks and expects positives. Just appreciate the absence of dog poop on the path in front of you and neural connections will develop. It may seem false to seek out positives when negatives are so apparent. But as explained in my prior post (7 Reasons Why Your Brain Goes Negative), your present lens is false and in need of correction.

It’s hard to go positive when everyone around you is going negative. Your mammal brain wants to run when the rest of the herd runs. In the state of nature, you’d end up in the jaws of a predator if you ignored your group-mates’ threat signals and waited to see the threat for yourself. Mammals bond around shared threats, and fighting the common enemy raises a mammal’s status within its group. If you ignore the perceived threats that animate your group mates, you will probably pay the price in social rewards. Positivity has a cost, but the benefit is greater.

PARE Your Negativity

When you build your positivity circuit, you will PARE your negativity with Personal Agency and Realistic Expectations.

Personal Agency is the pleasure of choosing your next step. You can never predict the results of your efforts but you always get to choose the next step toward meeting your needs.

When Your Cortisol Surges

Realistic Expectations are the alternatives you generate when your cortisol surges. Though it’s natural to have a survival-threat feeling when your efforts fail to bring immediate visible rewards, you can remind yourself that your survival is not actually threatened. Most human achievement came from efforts that did not bring immediate visible rewards. When your results are disappointing, you can adjust your expectations and take another step.

PARE and you will REAP, because Realistic Expectations lead to Acting Personally. You will stimulate your own happy chemicals instead of just hoping the world stimulates them for you.

Loretta Breuning, PhD, is Founder of the Inner Mammal Institute and Professor of Management at California State University, East Bay. She’s the author of The Science of Positivity and Habits of a Happy BrainThe Inner Mammal Institute offers a wide range of resources that help you build power over your mammalian brain chemistry. On Twitter, see @InnerMammal or facebook.com/LorettaBreuningPhD/.

Why everyone needs to take care of their mental health

This is part of a Globe & Mail series examining the mental health experience in Canada’s workplaces.

The term mental health problem or illness can be confused with the concept of mental health; however, they are different. About one in five Canadians will experience a diagnosable mental health problem or illness in any given year, whereas everyone has a responsibility to look after their mental health. Good mental health is an important tool to deal with life’s daily stresses.

The Public Health Agency of Canada defines positive mental health as “the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face.”

Awareness

Given that two-thirds of Canadian adults spend 60 per cent of their time at work, workplaces can have an impact on our mental health. The way you experience your job can either damage, or enrich, your mental health.

Consider that a person living with anxiety might be receiving appropriate treatments, have a support network and a fulfilling job, at which she excels. Though she lives with a mental illness, her life circumstances, including her work, enrich her mental health. On the other hand, someone who doesn’t have a diagnosable mental health problem may be experiencing a range of challenges, from coping with aging parents, to financial stress, or undue workplace pressures. Even without a mental illness, this individual may still report poor mental health.

It is helpful to think about positive mental health and mental health problems or illnesses as interconnected, as shown in the diagram below.

One axis shows positive mental health as a resource. It is something everyone can work to strengthen. Taking care of your mental health requires the same kind of effort you expend to look after your physical well-being. On the other hand, if you are vulnerable to a mental health problem or illness, you can draw on positive mental health resources and supports to achieve well-being.

Given the central role of workplaces, it’s not surprising everyone performs better in psychologically healthy settings, free of harassment and bullying, where management is supportive, workloads are reasonable and expectations are clear.

Accountability

While public discussion about mental health is increasing, too often people under stress believe they should be able to cope better. This is often true whether you are living with a diagnosable mental health problem or simply experiencing poor mental health. This kind of thinking can stand in the way of taking positive steps to build up mental health, like seeking appropriate support. Staying in the stress cycle increases the risk of becoming more ill or further depleting mental health resources.

When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, or when your coping skills seem inadequate, reach out to someone you trust.

Action

One way to take charge of your mental health is to tune-in to changes in your behaviour, feelings and thoughts. If your personal care, sleeping or eating patterns are changing, or you are being troubled by unwanted feelings and thoughts, these can be warning signals that your mental health needs attention.

1. Make a commitment to learn.

Explore what positive mental health means, and what kinds of things can build up your mental health resource kit. The wrong time to prepare for crisis is when you’re in it. Find out more about early warning signs and symptoms of mental health problems, and the kinds of help available. Like preventing a heart attack, it’s helpful to understand not only the signs and symptoms but also how to engage in prevention, and when and where to reach out when things are getting out of hand. A Mental Health First Aid course could be a good way to start. Consider inquiring if your employer would host one.

2. Get your baseline

If you’re questioning how well you’re coping at work, your current stress level, overall health and workplace experiences, complete the Your Life at Work survey. This behaviour-based tool will help you explore the relationship between stress and health and the role of coping skills. The Working Mind is an excellent tool to help employees learn to address mental health problems with a common language. Many employers in Canada are beginning to offer this training to their workers.

3. Devote a little of each day to improving your mental health

Maintaining your mental health is a lot like staying physically fit. A little effort every day goes a long way. The Canadian Mental Health Association is a good place to start for ideas.

4. Reach out.

Many people with mental health problems or illnesses endure in silence. There are resources in your community to help, including your family doctor and your company’s employee and family assistance program representative. A new report, released recently by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Strengthening the Case for Investing in Mental Health: Economic Considerations, highlights Canadian research that indicates a person on short-term disability for a mental health concern will return to work 16 days earlier if they have access to collaborative care – which is when experts from different specialties, disciplines, or sectors work together to offer cohesive client services. This is one of many effective tools, interventions and that are available. Taking action will benefit your health, career and relationships.

Have you dealt with or are you dealing with a mental health issue? Please take a moment to complete our survey: The Mental Health Experience in Canada’s Workplaces: What’s Your Experience?

Bill Howatt is the Chief Research and Development Officer of Workforce Productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.

Louise Bradley is CEO and President of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

It’s not too late

This is another of my Sales Motivation Quotes that applies very well far beyond sales and into life in general.

It is never too late to be what you might have been. – George Eliot.

I hope that you enjoy it.

 

5 Things To Ask Yourself When You Have Negative Thoughts

Source: Power of Positivity
Oftentimes in life, we allow our thoughts to run on autopilot, without really checking in to see if they serve us or hurt us. As you might already know, your thoughts determine your reality, but getting your mind in tune with how you’d like to see your world can seem like an insurmountable task. If you need a little help changing your perspective about life, ask yourself the following questions next time you notice your thoughts running away from you.

HERE ARE 5 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF NEXT TIME YOU HAVE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

1. IS IT TRUE?

First of all, you have to realize that we have thousands of thoughts each day, and most of the time, they simply run on repeat. What does this mean? The majority of the time, we aren’t really thinking, we’re remembering. So, in order to place positive thoughts in our heads to stop the negative thought loops from playing over and over again, we have to consciously make an effort to control and become aware of our thoughts. Next time you notice a thought pop into your head, you need to first of all ask yourself if it represents reality.

For example, a thought might come into your head that you don’t know how to talk to people. So, if this happens, think about the relationships in your life. Obviously, most of us talk to someone each day, so this thought can automatically get thrown out. It’s as simple as this – notice your thoughts, and decide if they are true or false. False thoughts have no place in your brain, so just discard them.

2. ARE MY THOUGHTS GIVING ME POWER, OR TAKING IT AWAY?

Next, you should ask yourself if your thoughts serve any positive purpose in your life. Do they provide you with positivity and encouragement, or drag you down? Your thoughts serve as a gateway to living a fulfilling life, so if your thoughts don’t give you the boost you need to go after your goals and dreams, you need to take a look at them more closely. Negative thoughts serve a purpose, of course, but if they make up the majority of your thoughts, you need to get rid of them.

Empower yourself by paying closer attention to your thoughts – this can literally change your life.

3. HOW CAN I USE THIS EXPERIENCE TO BETTER MY LIFE?

Each experience in our lives serves as a lesson, so every time you go through an experience, no matter good or bad, look at what it can teach you.

Even the hardest times can transform us into better people if we allow them to, so instead of focusing on the negatives of the situation, turn your mind toward the positives. We can let experiences change us or break us, so which will you choose?

4. WHAT IS A HABIT I COULD GIVE UP THAT WOULD LEAD TO MORE POSITIVES IN MY LIFE?

I’m sure if you look closely enough, you could pinpoint one bad habit that leads to self-destruction in your life. Do you use substances such as drugs or alcohol to get through the day? Do you turn toward food every time you feel upset? Or, maybe you use people as a way to drown your sorrows.

We all have our own vices, but giving up these habits could lead to incredible growth and transformation in our lives. Imagine if you gave up soda, for instance, how would you feel? You might lose some unwanted weight, feel more energized, have less cavities, etc. Examine your life to see where you could improve, and take steps to get there.

5. AM I AVOIDING SOMETHING THAT NEEDS ADDRESSING?

This sort of goes along with point 4. Maybe you have some deep dark secret in your life that you’ve been throwing under the rug for a while. Pull it out, dust it off, and see what you can do about it. Avoiding a problem won’t make it go away; in fact, it usually just magnifies the issue. We all tend to put things aside until they rear their ugly heads, and we HAVE to pay attention to them. For instance, do you use food as a way to cope with life’s problems? Beating around the bush with this might lead to unwanted weight gain, health problems, and even relationship problems.

So, to avoid having this bad habit reach a point of no return, handle it head on. When you notice it becoming a problem, try to look at how you can solve it rather than putting it on the back burner to deal with later.

5 Ways To Increase The Serotonin In Your Brain

Source: POWER OF POSITIVITY
Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another…it is believed to influence a variety of psychological and other body functions. This includes cells related to mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation and some behavior. -WebMD
While serotonin is a chemical frequently associated with depression, most people aren’t aware of the numerous functions of this brain chemical (hence, the quote). Most people also are not aware of the fact that serotonin can be reproduced without pharmaceuticals – drugs only made available via doctor prescription, and can have nasty side effects.

The fact that we can naturally increase this vital brain chemical should be considered exciting! Many ailments, acute and chronic, are believed to be due – at least in part – to low levels of serotonin in the brain. We encourage our reader to use this valuable knowledge included in this article to enhance their physical and mental health.

HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO INCREASE SEROTONIN IN THE BRAIN:

Related article: 10 Ways To Increase The Dopamine In Your Brain

1. GET SOME 5-HTP

This little “hack” is a terrific way to help ward off the blues. Formally called 5-Hydroxytryptophan, this substance has been found effective in treating anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia and hypertension. 5-HTP accomplishes these things by stimulating the production of the chemical serotonin.

In addition, 5-HTP has been shown to have positive effects on weight levels – a trait derived from the substance’s suppression of appetite. In a study at an Italian University, female participants who ingested 5-HTP lost an additional 10 pounds over two weeks, in contract to the placebo group who lost just two pounds over the same time period.

To realize the serotonin-boosting benefits of 5-HTP, a dosage of 100 to 400 milligrams per day – taken in multiple doses (i.e. at breakfast, lunch and dinner) – is recommended. Anticipate a time period of 4 to 6 weeks before any type of 5-HTP supplementation begins to demonstrate tangible benefits.

2. TAKE SOME B VITAMINS

Vitamin B6, in particular, aids in both the development and function of serotonin in the brain. Those prone to stress should consider supplementing their diet with a B-complex product, due to its myriad effects on brain chemicals.

Both vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are effective in lessening depressive symptoms while inhibiting erratic neural activity in the brain. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, older adults that have been diagnosed with depression or experiencing depressive-like symptoms improved after supplementing their diets with B-vitamins.

Regular intake of a B-complex product, such as a supplement, is 50 to 100 mg daily. Those with additional symptoms, including fatigue/exhaustion or chronic stress, should consider adding a pantothenic acid – a twice-daily 250 mg dose of B5 vitamins, which is often sufficient for the alleviation of such symptoms.

3. EMBRACE THE LIGHT

Ever wonder why opening the shades on a sunny day has a distinctive way of improving our mood? Well, it may be due to the fact that our brain self-injects itself with serotonin chemicals. Even on a frigid or cool day, sunlight has a noticeable, positive affect on our mindset.

A productive and healthy practice is to briskly walk for 15 to 20 minutes at least once (or even twice) a day. Regardless of frequency, it is best to walk in the morning for two reasons: (1) we’ll burn more calories, and (2) we mentally prepare ourselves for the day ahead. Not only will our brain reward us with a kick of serotonin, we’ll burn off some calories in the process.

4. GET A MASSAGE

Massages feel really good…pretty much everybody knows this already. What most of us probably do not not know is that massages have a direct effect on our serotonin levels. Physiologically-speaking, messages are effective in reducing the stress hormone cortisol – a chemical that actively blocks the production of serotonin.

Researchers have discovered that professional massages decrease levels of cortisol by about 31 percent. When cortisol production is inhibited, our brains are in an optimal state to produce serotonin chemicals. As an added benefit, massage therapy can increase the production of the “reward and pleasure” brain chemical dopamine.

Experts are quick to point out that undergoing guided massage therapy is the premier method of boosting serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, in addition to other sought after health benefits. However, a simple massage by a close companion will suffice for many. Those experiencing turmoil (including trauma) may be best served by consulting a licensed massage therapist, whose expertise will be invaluable in counteracting psychological stressors.

Related article: This ONE Plant Prevents Mood Swings And Balances Hormones

5. MEDITATE

Ah, yes…no “serotonin-boosting” article would be complete without the inclusion of meditation. Simply put, the proliferation of scientific studies that prove the physical and psychological benefits of meditation are mindboggling. Numerous forms of meditative practices exist, and all of them are beneficial in increasing the production of serotonin.

Perhaps the most impactful form of meditation on serotonin levels is Transcendental Meditation, or TM. Researchers believe that TM is a powerful stimulant on serotonin levels due to elevation of one of serotonin’s building blocks: 5-HIAA. Science has discovered a direct correlation between increasing concentrations of 5-HIAA and elevated serotonin levels in the brain.

Similar to massage therapy, meditation reduces the levels of cortisol in the brain. Additionally, meditation is particularly adept at invoking a relaxed response in the brain while suppressing the brain’s natural “fight or flight” reaction.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is another meditative type linked to elevating levels of serotonin, partially because MBSR further sensitizes serotonergic receptors, an important variable chemically in the production of serotonin. Interestingly, MBSR is the meditative technique promoted to military personnel that have been exposed to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).