Are you complete;y fed up with the internal negative chatter that often invades our brain? How can we get away from that and move to a more positive outlook? There are two ways to become more resilient to the negative nonsense that can ruin our day(s): one is by talking to yourself and the other is by retraining/rewiring your brain. Happily we can combine the both.
If you have suffered a major failure(s), take this one piece of sound advice. Talk to yourself, and by doing that, you will start a process of retraining and rewiring your brain.
Give yourself a cognitive intervention, counter defeatist thinking with an optimistic attitude. Challenge your downbeat thinking, and replace it with a positive outlook.
The two words that are commonly used are ‘positive mindset’. I really have a problem with that second word. A bit like concrete, which ‘sets’, you are telling yourself through the word ‘mindset’ that you cannot be flexible, otherwise things and thoughts will crack.
Hence, I prefer using the expression ‘mindflex’. Here we are telling the brain that we can be flexible and bend, like bamboo, through the storms in life and thus change attitude, thoughts and deeds.
So think ‘mindflex’ not ‘mindset’.
Luckily for us, major failures or setbacks come along rarely in life.
But how do we bounce back from the more frequent and somewhat annoying mess ups, minor setbacks, and irritations that upset that our routine? Resilience is, again the answer, but let us look at this with a slightly different thought process.
You need to retrain/rewire your brain. We can do this through mindfulness mediation.
The brain has a very different mechanism for bouncing back from the cognitive toil of daily hassle. And with a little effort you can upgrade its ability to snapback and away from that internal negative conversation that can occur inside our skulls – if we allow it to….
Whenever we get so upset that we say or do something that we later regret (and who does not have those moments?), that’s a sure sign that our amygdala - the brains radar of danger and the trigger for the fight or flight response - is hijacking the brains executive centre in the prefrontal cortex.
How quickly we can recover from that hijacked state will depend in part on our resilience and how we routinely adjust our thought processes, which in turn adjusts our emotions.
Sportsmen and sportswomen often have these moments in the arena of their chosen sport. A battle can rage inside their minds as they seek to be calm at crucial moments in their performance to make the right decision.
One way to help is an attention training method in mindfulness that teaches us to regard what is happening fully in the present moment with complete focus, but without reacting on the spur of the moment. In other words, we need to find a way to stop the negative internal conversation, check in on our ‘better self’ and reframe our view on what we are feeling at that moment.
The instructions for this are very simple, yet very effective:
1. Find a quiet, private place where you can be undistracted for a few minutes.
2. Sit comfortably, with your back straight but relaxed. Incidentally, athletes can do this by walking slowly in their ‘office’ - the gym, the field, the course.
3. Focus your awareness on your breath, staying attentive to the sensations of the inhalation and exhalation. Generally, it helps to inhale through the nose, hold breath for 5 seconds and exhale slowly through the mouth.
4. Become aware of anything that comes into your mind. Thoughts, sounds and smells. Make a conscious effort to let them go, and return your full attention to your breath. This is the step of stopping negative internal conversation. Keep this focused breathing up for at least 2 minutes.
5. Now switch your mind to your ‘better self’. This is the one that knows better than to have a knee jerk reaction to something that might be bothering you. Tell yourself that whatever it is, that is does not matter in the larger scheme of your current life. Tell yourself that there are wonderful answers just around the corner if you are prepared to be patient and curious – not rushed and angry.
6. Reframing any negative thoughts is now about having ‘mindflex’. It is the ability to move towards a positive state and away from a negative state. Rationally, you do know deep down, that you want to be in a positive state. The benefits are far greater than the alternative. So, look at things with a positive slant. The more you seek the positive, the more it will seek you out in those moments of doubt.
Mindfulness has steadily been gaining credence from hard-nosed business executives, and actually, it has been practised by top athletes for decades.
What have you got to lose? A few minutes in your day in conducting this mindfulness mediation will reap massive benefits to you and your outlook on what is happening to you and around you.
I thoroughly recommend you trying this once a day for a week to start with. I can guarantee you will notice a real positive change in your mindflex!