Half Full or Half Empty?
Have you ever known anyone who is constantly looking at the down side of everything? If someone walked up to them and handed them $1,000,000.00, they would bemoan the way that the gift might change their taxes and turn that windfall into a negative event. In some ways we’re all geared that way a little. It’s called the negativity bias. We are all hardwired to focus on the negative as a way to survive. In times past, the ability to focus on the negative was a way to stay safe in a dangerous environment. It’s the part of our brain that is aware of the lone predator under the bush when everything else around us looks just fine. Unfortunately, this pessimistic trait has been passed down to us because our ancestors who were a bit paranoid are the ones who survived to pass on their genes. We have a lot to overcome where perception is concerned, and the winning mindset is illustrated by something that David says, “It doesn’t matter if the glass is half empty or half full, refill the glass.” In other words, take control of the situation.
“What Gets Fired, Gets Wired”
There is potential for this negative mindset to profoundly change our lives in a devastating way. Whatever we dwell on increases. This is called Hebb’s Rule in neurobiology. It’s explained as “What gets fired, get’s wired.” (2)Whenever we continually fire the same neurons in our brains, our brains begin to hardwire it in as our reality. This can be a disaster if we continually tell ourselves that we have bad health genetics or that we are unable to control our habits concerning food choices and exercise. If we tell ourselves over and over that we cannot positively impact our health, we will begin to believe just that. It will become our reality. We will not even attempt to make healthy choices and we will suffer the consequences. If we get anxious about our health and feel helpless to change, it will increase our cortisol levels which will drive our blood sugar up, cause an insulin dump into our bloodstream and a corresponding hunger. Anxiety and a negative mindset will almost always make most people overeat.
Positive Aspects of Hebb’s Rule
Just as the brain begins to accept negative programming as fact when it is programmed with it continually, it will also begin to accept positive programming when we make a conscious effort to fill our minds with positive thoughts. As we change our thinking, our thinking changes everything about us. In a study by Crum in 2007, (3) mindset was shown to cause positive changes in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio and BMI. This is believed to have happened as a result of the placebo effect and showed the profound impact that mindset has on our health. Sometimes if we believe that we are making healthier choices, and begin to see positive changes, we will develop momentum to continue with more positive decisions.
Change Your Brain
You may say that you’ve been trying to do that for years with no success but there are ways to sway a negative mindset.
- Have a positivity stockpile. Fill a jar with written memories of instant mood boosters such as a favorite vacation, pictures of you at your best weight or encouraging quotes to spur you on in your journey to health.
- Question and reframe your negative thoughts. This is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. If you have a thought that says that you will never lose the weight ask yourself why? Ask if that’s an opinion or a fact. Ask if you would tell someone else that same thing and then come up with a better response to the negative thought. You may be able to reprogram your brain with this method alone.
- Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Dump the negative people who are constantly trying to pull you down. You might read my article Osmosis to read about a phenomenon called “social contagion” that can be deadly.
- Focus on what you CAN control and do just that. We are more powerful than we know. If we exercise control where we can, we will become more confident and adept at correcting even our most negative thoughts and habits.
- Use “Failure” as a stepping stone. In weightlifting. I face a lot of “fails”. There are many times that I just can’t get one more. David reminds me that although I may fail at some point, I have still gotten a great workout in the attempt. Everything is that way. We grow from the attempt as much as the mastery of anything. It is the sincere, grinding attempt that makes us strong and teaches us where we are missing the mark. Whenever you fall back into negative thinking, remember where you went wrong and avoid that pitfall the next time.
- Seek calm. Whenever the urge to panic or become distressed sets in, remember that you have to remain calm to be in control. When you are calm, you can make rational decisions about food choices and exercise. Anxiety and panic cause emotional eating. Avoid drama at all costs.
- Seek clarity. State your goals clearly and execute your plan to move towards them. If we don’t clarify our goals we will be confused and discouraged. Always move in the right direction. Every bite of food that you eat should benefit your body. Live with purpose.
- Concentrate. Focus on your health and to Hell with everything else.
- Stand Your Ground. Be your own best advocate. The World will tell you that you are self-centered. That’s okay. You will be healthy when they’re all dead. Remember, it’s up to you.
CREATE YOUR LIFE