It is no longer surprising to most people that our thoughts affect our actions and our actions affect our lives.  We all know that staying positive is something we are supposed to do to be happier. But I wanted to take a moment to look at how positive thoughts affect our brain and why it is worth it to actively work on replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones.  Let’s dive in.

Here are some of the main ways positivity affects your brain.

  1.  New neural pathways are developed.  Our nervous system is an incredibly complex electrical system made up of neurons, or communication cells.  When we learn a new activity, our body develops a new pathway for communication, a reason it’s so important to keep cultivated education in our lives.  The good news is that positive thinking does the exact same thing, helping our brain and body connection to be even better than it already is.
  2.  Synapses grow closer together.  In the neural pathway discussed above there are gaps between the neurons (communication cells) called synapses.  When an electrical signal becomes activated because our brain needs our body to do something, the information runs from neuron to neuron having to “jump” over their gaps.  When you have positive thoughts it strengths this whole system so these gaps grow closer together, making the electrical charge move even faster to its final destination.
  3.  Your brain creates mirror neurons.  These special neurons allow you to learn from your environment, your experiences as well as others around you, and to demonstrate empathy for what another person is going through.  When you encounter someone having an emotion such as sadness, fear, anger or joy your brain will trigger you to have a similar emotion. This can be an incredible way to relate to other people.  This can be incredible if you surround yourself with people who fill you up, who are successful, who are achievers and who are kind to others. From the opposite standpoint if the people you are around most are negative, always complaining, and never seeing the good in any situation you may begin to mirror those emotions.  Surround yourself with people you want to be most like and let your mirror neurons help you to become the best version of yourself.
  4.  Positivity starts “beating” negativity.  In the beginning of the journey to be more positive you will often find that a situation arises, maybe a stressful one, and you quickly have a negative thought about it.  You then must make the conscious effort to check yourself, take a step back, spin the situation to a more positive outcome and then move on. The more you practice this step the more your synapses grow closer together and this process speeds up and becomes more efficient.  Eventually all this practice of being more positive pays off and it becomes a habit. The pathways grown stronger and the positive thought “beats” the negative thought. Over a period of time you have the power to create the reaction you want to what could have previously been perceived as a negative situation.

This is some very powerful information.  I can readily admit that in my younger years I was not a very positive person, I told myself I was just a “realist” not a pessimist.  But I learned slowly over time that I was getting in my own way and therefore not as happy as I could be. I used to get instantly angry when someone pointed out that we have the power to choose to be more positive.  “Why would I choose to be unhappy?” is what I would think to myself. But I was doing just exactly that. I had to take ownership that life wasn’t just happening to me I had to take responsibility for my own happiness and make a choice to look at even the worst things in a positive way.  It was a long journey but along the way I learned about myself, humanity, and the power of my own mind. It was worth the work and I would recommend it for absolutely anyone struggling with this concept. Comment below, reach out and ask questions, there are always answers if you look.

With health and gratitude,

Dr Megan

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