Our brains are Teflon for the positive and Velcro for the negative

Teflon or Velcro?

When we fall victim to our mind’s tendencies, knowing how to help ourselves is vital.

Negative and anxious thoughts can be overwhelming, pulling us down a rabbit-hole of self-inflicted suffering and we can get stuck there for long periods of time. Our negative self-talk and belief in our abilities suffers when it’s bombarded with negativity and self-judgment.

Good things happen and we do well, yet all too quickly thoughts of our success and goodness vanish as habits of negativity take the throne of our minds. It can be hard to break the cycle of negativity due to their sticky nature.

Our brains are Teflon for what’s good and Velcro for the negative, according to Dr. Rick Hanson, psychologist, author and senior fellow at University of California, Berkley’s Greater Good Science Centre.

Not only do we suffer, but others in our lives also pay a price when we get stuck in a negative loop.

While we’re hardwired to pay more attention to what’s challenging, there are ways we can reduce the suffering caused by the inherent negativity bias of our brains.

Getting stuck in a cycle of negative thinking killed my self-confidence and caused shock-waves of adrenaline to course through my body. I grew exhausted as anxiety increased, interfering with my sleep and ability to think clearly. I became increasingly irritable and reactive and was no fun to be around.

I’d find myself withdrawing from life and wanting to hide when I got mired in the muck of negativity. I used to believe I couldn’t help the way I thought and felt victim to my mind; I was wrong.

Learning about the nature of the mind and how to help myself was liberating.

A thought repeated, over-time, becomes a hard-wired tendency due to the neuroplastic nature of the brain; neurons that fire together wire together, according to Hebb’s rule of brain plasticity. What we practice grows stronger and it changes our brains.

I used to take my thoughts so seriously; I believed them no matter what they told me. Not only would I have uncomfortable thoughts, then I’d get drawn deeper into the negativity rabbit-hole with self-judgment and self-criticism for thoughts that were challenging. Most of the negative thoughts were lies, possibly a virus of mind I’d picked up through my conditioning.

We are not our thoughts, and learning that thoughts are simply electrical impulses travelling through our brains, taking the most used path is empowering to know. With practice, we can change our brain’s neuro-pathways for a more positive experience of life.

Many of us have succumbed to worrisome thoughts and over-used negative, self-defeating affirmations for years. Learning to flip this practice on its head is powerful. For me, it was helpful knowing there’s genuine science and theory supporting this practice.

Using positive affirmations offer us a new lens on life, and used over-time help to re-wire our brains for what’s good.

Positive self-affirmations are found to:

  • Reduce stress, anxiety and depression
  • Increase feelings of hopefulness, soothing, and relaxation
  • Improve confidence
  • Support positive outcomes
  • Improve work performance and productivity
  • Increase resilience
  • Increase motivation
  • Helpful in formation of new habits
  • May be helpful in promoting sleep

Positive affirmations don’t have to be complex, and are best if they align with your own values and are believable to us. They are short statements repeated several times a day and can be additionally used to support ourselves when facing challenging or stressful situations.

Writing them down or repeating them out loud to ourselves in the mirror is very helpful. I’ve written them in dry-erase marker on my bathroom mirror and on my kitchen window to help me remember. This way, I share them with my family.

As I’ve come to understand the very real mental, emotional, and physical benefits we experience when we engage in some of these simple practices, it’s certainly caused me to make them more of a priority in my life; understanding the ‘why’ or the science has changed my life.

What you tell yourself about you is important. You can change the narrative of your life and bolster your own self-esteem by acknowledging your positive aspects; only you can do this because it’s an inside job.

It’s time to invest in yourself. As author and speaker, T. Harv Eker wrote, “Every thought is either an investment or a cost.”

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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