Given the chaotic, uncertain and constant predictions of a negative future we are all exposed to right now it may be easy to find yourself caught up in a spiral of negative thoughts, feelings and feeling very bleak about what is to come. You are not alone. In fact, you are simply acting in response to an intelligent human design whereby bad overpowers good. We are essentially biased towards negativity. This an inbuilt survival mechanism which evolved to serve humankind back when we were hunter-gathers and were living each day with the real threat of being killed by something or someone in our immediate surroundings. However, our brains have not updated in response to our fast-changing shift in environment and development of modern society.
Today, this mechanism breeds pessimism, uncertainty, fear and negativity which our brains pick up on as threats. If we are constantly finding ourselves thinking this way, we are surrounded in a negative or fearful environment, or being constantly exposed to threats and fear (such as the corona virus pandemic) these threats magnify the perceived likelihood that things are going and are going to go very wrong.
Research has found that we are more sensitive to negative events than positive, which is why you may find yourself ruminating on the 1 bad thing that happened in your day, despite there being 10 good things.
If the threat is real, this mechanism works very well, however when the threat is imagined or magnified by constant influxes of negativity and you spend all your time worrying, ruminating and stressing about what is happening in your life, this mechanism leaves you with a warped view of reality that wreaks havoc in your life. However, now is more than important than ever to be looking for ways to protect your mental health, happiness and ability to stay calm amongst the chaos. You now know that this pandemic is throwing your brain straight down the negativity trial due to the amount of uncertainty, fear and constant exposure to negative messages. But, there is a way of overcoming this bias and bring more positivity and gratitude into your life.
This pandemic may , in fact be a blessing in disguise, in terms that it is forcing us all to re-evaluate our lifestyles, our health, our values and what is truly important to us. Bringing things back to basic and forcing us to look inwards rather than relying on things in our environment to help us cope. Maintaining positivity is a daily act that requires focus and attention- but no better time than the present! This must be intentional if you are going to overcome your brain’s tendency to focus on all the uncertainty, fear and negativity surrounding this pandemic.
The daily habit is called the 3 gifts.
At the end of the night, before you go to sleep you reflect back on your day and write down 3 things you are grateful for in your day, 3 things that went well or 3 things that made you feel good. It is really important to write it down because research has shown that this helps you to stay attuned to those things for longer periods of time. No matter how big or how small, write them down. It can be as small as sitting outside in the sunshine with a nice cup of coffee, or your husband thanking you for something you have done. The thing is your brain cannot tell the difference between a small positive or a big positive. It is the same as setting goals for yourself, with the big end goal being the top of the mountain. Your brain cannot tell the difference between getting to the top of the mountain, turning around and celebrating or walking 3 steps up the mountain, turning round and celebrating. Give yourself permission to recognise the small victories, small wins and small positives in life, even if they seem mundane.
Not only that, practicing gratitude reduces the stress hormone cortisol by up the 23% and those of work daily to cultivate gratitude experience improved mood, energy and less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels.
Therefore, now, with more stress and anxiety than ever before this simple practice is more important than ever!
I started using this daily practice 3 years ago after recovering from an Eating Disorder, years of anxiety and self-hate and I had found myself in a really negative, critical place which made me feel worthless, not good enough and I didn’t like who I was. Here are some things I have learnt from this simple habit.
At the start it may seem like you have to force yourself into a positive frame of mind using the 3 gifts exercise. We all have bad days, stressful moments and feeling uncertain about situations and events going on in our lives. What you find that, when you go looking for the positives, there isn’t a day which goes by without something positive. This opens your eyes to more opportunities. Also, you may feel like this practice is too minor to have any real effect so why bother? Yes, the individual impact of any one piece of gratitude is small, but if you are practicing this consistently the impact is huge. The power of this habit takes hold after a month or two as you begin to realise that nearly every day is a good day (in some small way or another). Not only that you begin to realise how insignificant monetary things are for your daily happiness. The majority of my grateful moments do not come from money or materialistic things, but connection, love and good feelings.
The fact is yes, this is very simple but simple habits are the easiest ones to start and stick to. I can’t name many habits that I have been able to easily start and stick to consistently for 3 years. The best habits are the ones you can sustain. This also trains your brain out of negativity and into a positive focus. Now is the best time to start this practice, it is something you can do for you and will help keep your brain away from the threats in the news, on social media and in the majority of conversations we are having. This is your own little escape from the crisis.
So, tonight before you go to bed, cast your mind back and ask yourself; “if there were 3 things today which brought me happiness, love and gratitude what would they be?”. Write them down and start priming your brain to go looking for the truly important and meaningful things in your life, even amongst the chaos.
If you are feeling the strain and would like some support to help you come out the other side of this pandemic feeling confident, positive and ready to tackle whatever life throws at you, then book in for a free session with me. What feels like the worst time is in fact the best time to make these changes should you choose to see it in this new way.
Get started today and head to https://bookme.name/Masteryourmind to book your 1:1 appointment and take charge of your life.
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