The power of Positive Thinking

by Cecilia Magnergård on December 6, 2013

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”
― Walt Whitman

Train your brain to stay positive

Nobel award ceremonyThe upcoming week this years Nobel Prize Laureates will come to Stockholm to attend the Nobel Banquet and accept their prize awarded in memory of Alfred Nobel. The Nobel Prize is given annually to individuals that make outstanding contributions in their fields.

I have previously written about ways to manage your memory, a sharp tool for the Nobel Laureates. As a researcher, entrepreneur or business manager, conquering all kinds of challenges and learning from and overcoming failure is fundamental and indispensible to the success. The research or the business. Individuals can learn how to cultivate that resilience by training the brain to stay positive when times are hard.

Training the brain to stay positive when times are rough can mean the difference between floundering and flourishing.

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Recent research by the professor in psychology and the author of the book Positivity, Barbara Fredrickson, shows that negative sentiments undermine the brains capacity to think broadly and find creative solutions.

In a working environment, pessimism and negativity causes teams to loose their flexibility and their ability to be curious. Positive emotions generating positive thinking expands human’s attentive- and alertness; critical tools for anyone who attempts to solve a problem or is considering a business opportunity.

Our memory is, however, biased towards negativity and failure. This means that our brains are more likely to seek out risks, negative information and store that rather than positive information. In one sense this is good; facing failures and acknowledging problems early gives us time to cope with them and come up with better solutions. Nevertheless, individuals in modern society tend to take this too hard, setting the main focus on the negative fragments in our surrounding instead of the other way around.

According to research, there are effective ways to train your brain to more easily pick out the positive in situations and not the opposite. Hence, learning positivity will not only make us generally happier but it will also make us better and more powerful researchers, entrepreneurs or business managers.

So how to do this, how to train your brain to stay positive?

clip_image004One has to focus and practice. Disregard negative thoughts and comprehend the positive in all situations is nothing that comes over a night. The iDoneThis founder Walter Chen offers on the productivity and business blog Buffer some simple tools that can rewire our brain to perceive situations from a positive perspective. Likewise, Joey Faucettes Work Positive in a Negative World also specifies some guidelines on how to train our brain to stay positive.

The repetition

In accordance with the strategy of many publicists, promoters and politicians; the more one hears a message, the more likely one are to accept and believe it. The same goes for what you and your team are capable of doing and achieving. By repeating positive persuasions and pronouncements several times a day, you and your team are training your brains to believe in them. Research shows that this will make you, over time, start to internalise and put them into direct effect.

Scan for positives

clip_image005Create a routine to record your daily positives and celebrate the daily small wins. When leaving the office or going to bed one should make a list of specific good things that has happened that day. It could be a smooth car drive to work, an extra tasty cup of coffee or a positive remark from one of your colleagues. The attentiveness to specific positives every day has a proven effect of igniting joy and powering motivation.

Challenge negative thoughts

Every time a negative thought arises we have a choice of how to respond to it. If left solely to our own devices, we tend to reside and dwell in the negative perspective. As our brains are constructed with a bias towards negativity and failure, negative events often seem much larger and more significant than they actually are. Challenging the negative thoughts requires intensive training. One way could be to imagining the thought as separate from you, something you can observe, touch and deconstruct. It is about getting into a convention of distancing your self to the negativity instead of dwelling. Present research shows that overtime, the distancing and deconstruction of the negative thoughts will become automatic, and negative thoughts will be less likely to come up.

The daily shout-out

Take a moment to recognise someone for their effort and the good work they have done, assign a minute to say thank you; from people at work to friends and family. Thinking about the good things that people do and the positive that surrounds you gives your brain the extra time it needs to register and remember positive events. Hence, this acting helps training the brain to generally think and see the positive in all situations.

To be kind

clip_image007Doing something good for another person can fuel an individual to get out of a negativity loop. It does not have to be any big or extravagant actions, it can be as simple as buying an extra coffee to your colleague on your way to work – the point is that acts of kindness boost happiness levels.

Surround yourself with positive people

This is one fundamental tool. In our daily life we are surrounded by a variety of people. Some people we deal with are a joy to be with and their positive presence nurtures and encourages us. Others may have the opposite effect, draining us of our energy making us feel tired and exhausted. As far as possible, think more deeply about the people you interact with, try to be around and communicate with supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Every move we make has an effect that touches all the people around us. If you want people to act in a way that helps you to be more positive, try also to influence them positively.

Not only will the positive thinking make you better at work, it also increases your physical well-being. The Medical Centre the Mayo Clinic recently presented research outlining the health benefits positive thinking may provide, including:

  • – Increased life span
  • – Greater resistance to common cold
  • – Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • – Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
  • – Lower levels of distress

About Cecilia Magnergård :

Analyst with deep knowledge in Economic Strategy, Innovation Management and Business Developmed combined with a profound interest in complex problem solving and the global financial markets. She has an BSc in economics and a Master of Science with a major in Engineering and Management specialised in Economics of Innovation and Growth from the Royal Institute of Technology.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anders Fogelström December 8, 2013 at 13:28

Excellent article. When I was a child my mother’s friend Madeleine Hamilton, who was close to Christian Science, always talked about the wonderful effects of positive thinking. It is a simple method but oh so useful in the often stressful and negative world we live in. Thank you for this article!

Bradley Irwin January 21, 2014 at 07:52

I’m a firm believer in positive thinking. Ever since I’ve heard about the Law of Attraction, I’ve been practicing it. Of course there are times I just can’t fight it and I get overpowered by negative thoughts, but I give it a timeline and then I get back on the horse. Thinking positive will lead to a positive life! 🙂

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