Viewing the glass as half-full actually makes chemical changes to your brain.
By Heike Fallon
Seeing the glass as half-full makes measurable differences in mood and performance.
Positive thinkers make the best of a situation. They focus on what they can control and let go of what they can’t. Finding options to improve their situation is what they do very well. Thinking is correlated to emotions, and both affect our brain chemistry and actions.
Every thought releases some type of chemical in the brain. Positive thoughts influence our serotonin levels. When serotonin levels are normal, we feel happy, calmer, and less anxious. We can better focus and feel more emotionally stable. Positive thinking heightens prefrontal brain activity: enhanced mental functions such as creative thinking, cognitive flexibility, and even faster processing. The prefrontal cortex is the switching station that regulates the signals from the neurons and allows you to reflect and think about what you are doing at that time. It allows you to control your emotions through your deep limbic brain.
Negative thoughts, stress, and a fast-paced lifestyle allow our cortisol levels to go through the roof. High cortisol levels negatively impact the immune system and induce chronic inflammation. When we generate positive thoughts and feel happy, or optimistic, our cortisol levels decrease, creating a feeling of well-being. In addition, negative thoughts draw precious metabolic energy away from the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This slows our response time, impairs memory, and makes focus and creativity more difficult.
There is a strong link between “positivity” and health. A positive attitude improves outcomes and life satisfaction across a spectrum of conditions—including traumatic brain injury, stroke, and brain tumors.
How to think more positively:
Focus on the good things. When things are not going well, instead of focusing on the bad, try to see something positive in your situation. It might be small, but there is always something.
Focus on what you can control. We can’t control everything. Focus on what you can control and see if you can make progress by taking action in that direction.
Let go of what you can’t control. Identify what you can’t control and release it. Accept that there is nothing you can do about it.
Practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude makes us happier and even changes our brain structure.
Surround yourself with positive people. Negative people can suck our energy. Surround yourself with positive people that give you energy.
Practice positive self-talk. Pay attention to your self-talk. “I can’t do this.” “I am not good enough.” These are statements that are negative. Adding the word “yet” at the end can make a huge difference. “I can’t do this, yet.” Or rephrase: “I still have more to learn.”
Start your day with a positive affirmation. How you start your day will have an impact on your positivity. Remind yourself of your affirmation throughout your day to stay positive.
Write down what you are excited about every morning. The thought of something fun will release dopamine, a neurotransmitter also known as the “feel good” hormone.
Turn failure into a lesson. There is no failure, only opportunity to grow! Keep a positive mindset.
Heike Fallon is a Certified High Performance Coach living in El Segundo. Visit her online at xpandhealth.com and on Facebook and Instagram @xpandhealth.
This column appears in the July 2021 issue of The El Segundo Scene.