During the lockdown, we’ve got plenty of time to explore things…especially our minds, and why not? The mind is a complex system, connected into lots of neurological connections and chemical interactions. Our mind dictates how our body behaves, the functioning of our internal organs, and most importantly how we feel emotionally. It’s not solely hormones and neurotransmitters that influence our mind, we have supreme power over our thoughts, and can thus control the hormonal and chemical processes in our brain to change the state of our body.
Controlling thoughts and cultivating a positive mindset is a lot more important than most of us tend to think, because our thoughts increase and decrease the production of hormones such as dopamine, serotonin and human growth hormone (HGH). Read on for Mind: Game, Set & Match — How to Develop Healthy Thinking!
1. Thoughts Create Habits
The neurotransmitter pathways (grooves) that are used the most will be the ones most commonly ‘chosen’ by our minds and to change them, we need to put in effort to create healthier pathways. Over time, the “new” pathways will become the new frequently used highways and will be automatically chosen (as the new default settings) instead of the previous ones.
That is how we can teach our mind to take the positive route, and abandon the negative one over time. To help you start your journey to a healthy mindset, we’ll share some of the points you need to pay attention to.
2. Be Mindful of Your Own Thoughts
Pay attention to the thoughts that pop up in your mind in response to different events. You can then filter your thoughts and understand which ones serve you well, and which ones work against you. Some thoughts might as well be neutral. Don’t worry about what to do with either of the thoughts at this point, just notice them and how you feel when they occur.
3. Keep Good Thoughts & Trash the Rest
After you have paid attention to your thoughts and started to see patterns, you can start to sort the ones that you want to keep and ones that you don’t need in your life. Replace the old undesired or negative thoughts with alternative reactions, and repeat them in the situations where you want them to replace the old thoughts. You will have to practice the new thinking patterns for a while (for everyone it varies) before they become your new norm. Be patient with yourself.
4. Cultivate Acceptance & Abandon Judgmental Thinking
Acceptance of things that you do not like makes you a lot more tolerant to what life throws at you. No judging yourself makes you less judging of others, and vice versa. When we are judge, we experience negative emotions and can cause a negative thought stream to flow, which in its turn contributes to a negative mindset. So, try to accept people the way they are, and see how your mood changes.
5. Take Care of Your Physical Body
There is a mind-body connection. Just like our mind can influence our body, our body can influence our thoughts too.
Maintaining a positive and healthy mindset can also create micro and macro ‘miracles’ in our health which science has only now just begun to validate. There are so many stories of people, who were told by doctors that they would never recover after a serious illness or injury, and who, with the help of a positive mindset, recovered and became far stronger than they ever imagined. Such people include: Jonas Gutierrez (Footballer), Lance Armstrong (Cyclist), Eric Abidal (Footballer) and many more.
So many amazing people live with chronic conditions but don’t let that stop them accomplishing incredible things, for example the whole Novonordisk cycling team (Type 1 Diabetics), and Alexander Belov (Russian Basketball player with cardiac sarcoma). These people accomplish their goals, as they have cultivated a mindset that pushes them through the hard times to keep them going. In fact they actually USE the energy of their trial as their fuel…now how’s that for smart thinking and leverage?
Taking care of yourself, fuelling your body with nutritious foods, exercising regularly and just being nice to your physical self will influence your outlook on the world and create more of those happiness hormones (e.g. serotonin). This will help you create those desired new thinking patterns with ease and just make you feel better about yourself.
6. Snap Out of Negative Behaviour Patterns
Just like there are thoughts that do not serve you, there are also behaviours that don’t serve you too. If you see that a certain behaviour leaves you feeling bad, or brings a negative thought flow to your mind, try to avoid that behaviour as a whole. You can try to tackle the behaviour, and change your outlook on it, but take it slowly. Start with small things. Change takes time, repetition and patience. Also take heart in the fact that you can measure your results by writing things down. Then you’ll know if you’re moving forwards or backwards.