Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lead Yourself Toward a Great Life Just by the Focus of Your Thoughts - 5 Practices to Get You Started 

~Tammy Sytsma, Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Yoga Therapist

Practice makes perfect right?  When it comes to the brain, yes!  Of course, the brain is more complicated than that. But, one immensely powerful way to change the direction of your thoughts is through practice.  To some extent, the brain is like a computer - what you put in, you get back out.  And, the more you put it in, the better the brain gets at spitting it back out.  So much so, that some thoughts and behaviors occur unconsciously based on this input.

This is a good thing in most cases.  Example, a toddler learning to get the spoon in his mouth.  There comes a time when this needs to be something effortless, involving very little conscious thought or eating with a spoon will be too complicated a task.  Let's grow up a little bit and consider learning to drive.  Even getting the key in the ignition needs to be a conscious process of thinking and remembering, not to mention which foot goes with which pedal and the myriad other little tasks and thought processes that keep us on the road.  We experience this in a small way when we drive a rental or another person's car.  Where's the switch for the turn signal?!

So, now that you know why focus matters, here's what to do, so the great life you want is part of this automatic thinking process:

1. Start your day in a positive direction- While still lying in bed think of all the things you are looking forward to in the day.  If that is hard, then think of one thing - goal is to raise that number gradually.

2. Play music or audio with a positive message- Getting breakfast ready with some music in the background that makes you happy or driving to the office with an audio book or podcast that contains positive information or encouraging messages will get your external environment to support this internal change.

3. Avoid the gossips and complainers- The only reason we gossip or talk about others or complain about situations is to boost our own sense of self.  Problem is, it is also causing you to focus on what is flawed in yourself or your work. You will get back to your desk and make sure to hide any mistakes and shortcomings that might fuel the gossips.  Stay away from this behavior and instead find positives about the people you work with and your work situation.

4. Look for proof of what is right, not just what is wrong- The brain is evolutionarily set up to pay attention more closely to what is wrong in the environment.  Our ancestors did not live as safely as we do - they had nature, insects, wild animals, and dangerous neighbors to contend with on a daily basis.  Daily survival meant paying attention!  We still have that brain, but no longer have that kind or quantity of dangers to attend to, so we tend toward seeing stressors much more easily.  Instead, look around and notice what is positive in your environment.  Look inside and notice what is positive internally.

5. Practice gratitude- At the end of the day, review your day and list what you are grateful for or whatever went well in the day.  Look for what you enjoyed - a smile, a laugh, a flower, the weather -the small and the large and everything in between.

A positive and encouraging focus will rewire your brain toward what you are trying to accomplish and build a foundation that is solidly motivating and helpful to who you want to become and what you want to create!

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