Did you know that both positive and negative thinking is infectious? In other words, we can affect, and be affected by the people we encounter. This happens instinctively and on a subconscious level, through our words, beliefs and feelings, and through our body gestures.
Whenever we fall into the downward spiral of negativity, fortunately, we have the ability to rewire our minds by thinking about more positive things. By continually working on seeing the positive side of things, we are actually conditioning our brain. This is called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is a process
Neuroplasticity is a constant process and it refers to the way in which our brain changes as a result of our experiences. Now, this can be in either a positive or negative way. In other words, the things we repeatedly do are the things our brain and mind will continue to encourage and support. The more we practice something, the clearer the neural connections become. Basically, our emotions, behaviors, practices, and beliefs can physically change the way our brain functions. This is why it is so important to keep a positive outlook on things.
Arguably, this is easier said, than done. Like exercising our bodies, we also have to exercise our minds.
Four ways to improve your brain’s neuroplasticity
- Personal Accountability. We need to recognize that we are not a victim of circumstance. In other words, we need to become cognizant of our actions and beliefs and how this affects us. We need to hold ourselves accountable in situations and not become a player in the ‘blame game’.
- Positive Self-Talk. Brene Bown, a research professor at the University of Houston, recommends that we talk to ourselves like we are talking to a loved one. This helps to eradicate the negative self-talk we have with ourselves in times of adversity. Negative self-talk is statements such as “I can’t” or “I am so stupid”. Positive self-talk statements or positive affirmations start with words like “I can do this” or “I am strong”.
- Sleep. Sleep plays a meaningful role in our brain health. Sleep is also cardinal to our metabolism, immune function, and attitude. Research shows that having a poor quality of sleep can actually increase the risk of many diseases and disorders. Sleep deprivation plays havoc with our attitudes and mood, as well as our concentration.
- Eat healthy and exercise. Positive neuroplasticity is “the physiological ability of the brain to form and strengthen dendritic connections, produce beneficial morphological changes, and increase cognitive reserve” (Vance, Roberson, McGuinness, & Fazeli, 2010). Physical activity and eating healthy are linked with positive neuroplasticity since the gut is full of bacteria and other single-cell organisms that produce various chemicals and neurotransmitters that affect the brain. One of these neurotransmitters is serotonin. Interestingly, our gut has approximately 95% of the serotonin. So, when the gut is packed with bad bacteria, greater levels of depression and anxiety are found.
Whether your ‘bottom line’ is employee engagement, higher patient experience scores, or leading a healthier workplace environment, having a positive mindset can improve your productivity as well as your team’s.
Remember, our thinking is contagious- so which will you embrace?