Our brains were not designed to focus on the good things in life, we have evolved from hunting, primal beings whose brains worked very hard to keep us safely out of danger through its fight or flight alert system. For the most part, we aren’t outrunning wild animals and regularly fending for our lives, but our brains still have our backs: constantly looking for threats around every corner. So we could say our brains are inclined to look for the negative which was very helpful during our history. But the brain can’t differentiate between types of threats. It can only sense when it sees something and it signals distress. So our brain is looking for threats in our physical environment, scanning for negative and when it finds something like a stressful student encounter or a never-ending to do list, it’s sending the same hormones pulsing through your body that you used to use to outrun a saber toothed tiger. Yes, to your brain, those things are virtually indistinguishable in regard to the hormone that is secreted into your body.
And the hormone that is really both a life saver and a life drainer is cortisol (and adrenaline). Cortisol is wonderful in times of danger but when it’s just circulating into our blood stream due to our current high stress lifestyles it has a greatly negative impact on our bodies.
So what do we do since our brains clearly aren’t changing any time soon? There is great news in regard to that question and the word is neuroplasticity. We can actually help train our brain to scan for the positive. We just need to do it…and practice it…a lot! In fact for every one negative experience, we need to supply our brain with three (or more) positives. So what are some easy ways to do this? Well….make a habit of trying to incline our mind to kindness.
Positive psychologist Shawn Achor gives some very simple ways we can bring more positive into our daily lives in his book The Happiness Advantage. He states that many people believe that if a person becomes successful he/she will become happy. He contends that we have it all wrong: when people are happy, they are more likely to become successful because they will have drive to seek out that which fulfills their lives. If you haven’t read this book, check it out. If you want to hear the highlights check out his highly acclaimed Ted Talk.
Achor gives us SIX simple ways to incline our mind to kindness, focus on gratitude and become happiness generators.
Doing one of these things each day for 21 days will significantly alter your brain’s neural pathways and you will be on your way to increased health, well-being and having an overall more positive outlook on life which can ultimately lead to more success and fulfillment.
So as you begin looking to the start of 2017, perhaps committing to inclining your mind to kindness is a resolution worth trying. The only things you have to lose are the increased cortisol running through your body and the inclination to look at the negative first. It won’t be perfect, but really what resolutions ever are?? But trying to create more happiness in your life is certainly a resolution worth trying!