Did you know that you may have on average 50,000 thoughts every day, and for years it was thought that the brain was fixed from birth without the capacity to change? In recent years, however, revolutionary research has discovered that we can create new pathways and train the brain. Training your mind takes a little effort and commitment, just like going to the gym. You don't go to the gym once and think you will be fit forever – similarly you don't do one mind-training activity and think that you will have positive, calm and confident thoughts forever. It requires a little more conscious effort to live this way, but the benefits far outweigh the effort in ways you may never have dreamed of.
By taking control of your thoughts you start to focus your attention in a directed way, and the result is you live a happier, more joyful life. Remember those moments when you felt like you were thriving, unstoppable, and at the top of the mountain? What is similar about those occasions? Were you feeling confident? The brain and your thoughts are the control room to your happiness.
One of our favourite books is Mindsets by Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University. Carol researched the concept that there are generally two mindsets: a fixed or a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means you believe your skills and intelligence are things that can be developed and improved. Having a fixed mindset means you believe that your skills and intelligence are set and can't be changed. Research shows that the growth mindset is what fosters grit, determination, and work ethic in students, athletes, and people of all ages. Carol Dweck's extensive research on the topic also reveals that people with a growth mindset learn, grow, and achieve more and are happier than people who have fixed mindsets. Now that's a great train of thought to get on board!
It can be helpful to think of your brain as being similar to your computer. With your computer you have a program running and at any time you can update the program to help you work more efficiently and effortlessly. Crafting and evolving your own personal mindset program is about building connections to help rewire your brain to spend more time thinking positive thoughts that fill you with hope, faith, kindness, love, and gratitude. The more frequently you travel the positive emotion pathways, the more often they become the freeway of choice for your thoughts. Then over time you will naturally experience more positivity and joy.
Having a positive mindset is a way of life, a way you choose to be. Elite performers know the importance of having positive mindset for achieving iconic results. The same applies for every day living. You can live in a mindset of fear and worry or you can choose to live in a mindset of faith and flourish. Positive people often have more confidence, live longer, have happier relationships, and even reduce the likelihood of developing conditions like depression, hypertension, and other stress-related disorders.
Having a positive mindset is not just a soft and fluffy feel-good term. Yes, it's great to simply be happy, but those moments of happiness are also critical for opening your mind and enabling you to explore and build skills that will be valuable in other areas of your life. Almost anybody in any situation can apply these lessons to their own life and increase their positive attitude. As you might imagine, positive thinking offers compounding returns, so the more often you practise it, the greater benefits you will realise. Schedule time for play and adventure so that you can experience contentment and joy while you explore and build new skills. Your time really is now: time to release all excuses, reasons, rationales, and resentments. Today is a fresh canvas – a new beginning.
* Start your day with a positive intention, statement or affirmation. Train your mind to allow the day to be terrific.
* Begin your conversations with a positive comment, reflection, or action.
* Focus on the good things, no matter how small.
* Turn failures into powerful life lessons.
* Focus on the present, not the past or the future.
* Use your phone to schedule daily mindset reminders, such as at 8 a.m. every day: 'Today is effortless and easy.'
* You are who you have lunch with, so surround yourself with inspiring light makers, game changers, and people who enjoy life.
* Regularly ask yourself, 'Do I speak to myself (internally) the way I would speak to my closest friend?' If the language you use for yourself is different, reflect on what changes you could make to improve your thoughts.
This is an edited extract from Shine: 20 Secrets to a Happy Life by the Essentialists, published by Penguin Random House Australia, RRP 19.99, on sale now.