What You Habitually Think...
This quote seems to ring true to me both in my own experience and in the members I watch walk in and out of my garage door each day. Those that come in smiling and are positive typically walk out smiling and causing those around them to smile. Those that come in the doors in silence or walking around with a giant cloud over their head can sometimes get turned around by the ultimately positive vibe in each class. But this negative pattern seems to be a struggle each day. That negativity is something we all experience at times... IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE OUR BASELINE! We can learn to shake this pattern. This does not happen by accident and doesn’t happen without putting some serious thought into how we treat ourselves.
We all struggle with this type of self-chatter, but not everyone realizes the consequences. So let’s try a little thought experiment. Think of the last time you were being negative about yourself, whether it was working out or just thinking about your life. Ask yourself whether or not you’d be proud of what you were telling yourself...if at that moment it was being broadcast out loud to
those around you. Would you be embarrassed if that dialogue was heard by everyone? If the answer is often a resounding “YES”, we have a problem. It’s important to understand that working out is already an ultimately positive activity. You are actively being healthy. You have put yourself in a situation that shows that you value your body and you want to take care of your current and future self. However, you’ve now diminished that activity by tinting it in a negative light. That’s a pretty big red flag. If at the height of a positive experience, like exercising, you find yourself being negative... then where is your baseline? Better yet. What are you doing when something negative actually happens? Probably living those moments in a pretty destructive place for yourself and for others. Ever want to be around someone who’s in a bad mood or being super negative? Not me...
We seem to discount our own thoughts when it comes to being negative, but if those thoughts were to manifest themselves coming out of the mouth of a friend…. “You suck”, “You’re not good at this”, “You’re such a failure”. Imagine if they said it to you every day! They would not likely be your friend for very long. Not many people would stand for this kind of discouragement or abuse from another person and yet we walk around talking to ourselves this way all the time. To break this spell requires some positive reinforcement and positive habits. It also requires a better understanding of your own thoughts and how they manifest themselves. This doesn’t happen on it’s own. It requires training just like you require training to get in better shape. To have a deeper understanding of how you operate, you have to spend time observing yourself and practicing ways of staying positive. Luckily a lot of people have lived and learned these lessons. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Here are a few ways to change your mindset that have been proven to work....
1. Surround yourself with positive people. Mom was right about the company you keep. You develop habits and become a combination of your five closest friends. If you hang out with alcoholics in bars late at night, you are likely to become a everyday drinker. If your friends walk around complaining about life and carrying a negative vibe with them everywhere they go this will likely pass on to you. The same holds true for positive people and positive habits. We are programmed with an outdated survival mechanism...to behave like those around you so that you’ll not be outcast by your tribe. Now that we have constant contact with people it can be easy for people to enter your environment that affect you positively or negatively. My experience is in gyms. Over time they begin to mimic the way people act around them. It can manifest itself in eating habits, exercise routines, even down to their clothes and the shoes they wear. It’s pretty much unavoidable that you will become like those around you the longer you hang out with them. Part of becoming an adult is choosing who you engage with. It’s part of life to trim the hedges, so to speak, and to self select your friends based on how they affect you. Surround yourself with positive people and more than likely they will begin rubbing off on you.
2. Start a grateful journal. Check out The Five Minute Journal as an easy means to begin your positivity training. You’ll write down three things you’re grateful for each morning and each night as well as reflect on things you might change in the future. This is a daily practice that reinforces a positive mindset before you start your day and before you go to bed. It takes some time to develop, so don’t skip days and don’t give up. It’s interesting how easily positive events slip past us quickly (successes at work, new car, new relationship) and how easily we can become super focused on negative events (the way your spouse talked to you, having a bad workout, being overlooked for a promotion). Being grateful with all that we do have seems to shift the lens and perspective through which we view our existence. Suddenly things will begin to seem much better than we realized.
3. Begin a meditation practice. How can you begin to understand yourself without actually spending time observing your own thoughts? It would be like trying to fix your car without ever looking at the engine or turning it on. To sit down and watch your thoughts appear and disappear is incredibly enlightening. You can begin to understand that thoughts simply appear and disappear without any real source. It’s our ability to recognize them as just thoughts that becomes a tool to engaging positive thoughts and labeling or discarding the negative thoughts. All too often the first thing I hear from people is that they just can’t stop the mental chatter. THAT IS THE POINT! You can’t because you’ve never actually exercised your ability to do so. We all understand this concept as it relates to physical exercise, but s
eem to get stuck when it comes to mental exercise. To begin learning check out these apps for beginners 10% Happier, Headspace, or Insight Timer in that order. As Dan Harris (Co-Founder of the 10% Happier App) would put it - Meditation or mindfulness is a simple exercise of focus. You concentrate on your breath until a thought pops into your brain distracting you and then bring your focus back to your breath. This is essentially just like a bicep curl for your brain. Just
like physical exercise it stacks on itself, the more often you practice the better shape you will get in. If you did a bicep curl set once a month you’d never expect your biceps to get bigger. You have to work them out frequently. The same holds true for meditation and mental health. It must become a daily practice. It will take at least ten days in a row of at least ten minutes per day to feel an effect. I'd suggest first thing in the morning to not be distracted by the rest of your day.
Life continues to move forward and time is the only constant. If you don’t start now and continue to delay, the days will simply slip by and you’ll continue this life experience in whatever mental state you are currently operating. To make a change it must be deliberate. You won’t accidentally become happy, the same way you won’t accidentally get in shape, or accidently learn a new language or musical instrument. Be deliberate. Change the way you habitually think about things and watch what you become.