In the media, we talk a lot about positive psychology, and how positive thinking improves our feelings, actions, and success in life. Positive psychology is trendy, and that is a very good thing!
If you don’t know what positive psychology is, let me explain real quick with an image. If you know what it is, skip to the next section “How to think positively?”, where I will show you how a positive psychology strategy that will help you with weight management, fitness, and stress relief.
What is positive psychology?
Our thoughts, when they travel in our brain, create their own trail. We call those trails, pathways. If we have a thought pretty rarely, the trail will stay narrow and rocky (or muddy if you live in Seattle!).
Just like in real life, who would invest in trying to make a trail better if no one is using it, right? If it’s a thought that is coming back to us over and over again though, the trail will become wider, smoother, until it becomes more like a highway. Now, whenever there is an event in our life that can lead to different types of thoughts, which thought do you think is most likely to come up first? A thought that has a muddy trail to travel on, or a thought that has created a highway already? The latter of course!
The idea of positive psychology is that if you intentionally think positive thoughts as often as possible, they will end up creating highways in your brain. As a result, when an event happens, a challenge presents itself, or difficulties arise in your life, positive thinking will be more likely and much faster to occur because positive thoughts will already have highways to travel on, rather than rocky trails to scramble on.
If, on the other hand, you have a tendency to always focus on the negative and be pessimistic, then negative thoughts will have highways to travel on and positive thoughts will only have tiny and difficult trails. Consequently, you will be much more likely to feel depressed, give up on challenges, have low self-confidence, etc.
How to think positively?
One thing you can do to start thinking more positively, is to write down all the positive things that happen to you day after day. What do I mean by positive things? Well, everything that makes you feel good, makes you feel happy, proud, hopeful, excited, etc. And if you are really depressed right now, you can start with everything that does not make you feel too sad. Yes, we all have different standards for happiness, depending on where we are in life and it’s totally OK.
So when you record your positive elements, think about laughing with friends, eating something good, sleeping in, completing a project, watching a sunset, not fighting with your mother, having a smooth commute, anything that brings you some kind of contentment!
In positive psychology, we encourage patients and clients to use a journal and record, every single day, at least 3 things that went really well that day. And if you have a tendency to focus on the negative, or even to just not pay much attention to the positive, I highly recommend that you try doing this for a few months. Every night, sit down and list 3 things that went well that day or at least did not go wrong. And every morning, sit down and list 3 things that you look forward to. Make sure that you always find NEW items to list, so it doesn’t get repetitive. You need to rack your brains a little! It will require some time, but this type of intentional focus will make a big difference after a while in the way your mind is wired and in the different pathways available to your thoughts.
Positive thinking and weight loss
Now you are wondering what this might have to do with weight loss, stress relief, and exercise. Here we go! If you list all the things that make you happy, bring you joy, or make you feel good, you will be able to get a very long list after a short period of time. Do that for a couple of months, you will be surprised at all the sources of happiness available in your life.As you keep adding to your list, categorize your items into 4 groups:
Having this list of agreeable things will help you organize your new lifestyle. Get used to scheduling as many activities as possible from groups 1, 2, and 3 in your calendar. Sometimes, we don’t really know what to do, we lack inspiration or motivation. Having a list handy is all we need to get moving again! And when you list only contains things that you love doing, what a great resource!!! Now, don’t scratch out category #4 of course! It’s not because you want to establish a healthier lifestyle that you have to quit enjoying all the pleasures that don’t help you reach your goals. Just be mindful. Spread those activities out, make sure they are not your main source of happiness.
Are your kids bored sometimes?
If you have children and they are sometimes bored, I would encourage you to teach them how to do this as well. Not the categorizing part, but the initial listing part. Have them list all the little things that they enjoy doing. When the weather is bad, their friends are out of town, or the WIFI is down, they can take their list out and find something to do. Something that has brought joy to them before. Make sure they don’t just list big events such as “Go to Disney Land”. Teach them positive thinking early on. You will make them resourceful and give them a head start for working on their stress and happiness when they grow up.
What to do now?
Start your list today, and add to it, every day! If you find it hard to focus on the positive, contact me so that we can chat. I might be able to help you!
Of course, don't forget to share this article on Facebook so that your friends can benefit as well. Let’s not do this alone! Wellness is a journey and if we don’t create a community around it, it will be hard for all of us. Now think positive and be healthy. Allons-y! Let’s Go!