Harnessing the power of a positive mindset
Lesley Sunderland had tried to give up smoking many times before. In fact, she had often joked that she should give up giving up. But, despite her addiction, she wanted to be free from cigarettes. And so, she set out to give up again.
But this time, things would be different. This time, Sunderland was going to employ the most powerful weapon she had at her disposal – her mindset.
Put simply, mindset is the psychological framework through which we generally view the world or a particular issue.
Psychologists say that adopting a positive mindset can make a big difference when working towards a health or wellbeing goal.
“It certainly helps us in working towards a goal when we can view it in a way that is positive and helpful,” says psychologist Joann Lukins.
Lukins says that more helpful self-talk, such as “I believe I have the determination and ability to give up smoking” will generate more helpful emotions.
“In turn, this will influence self-confidence and motivation,” she explains.
Positive thinking as a tool
Mindset is a very formidable tool. In fact, a recent study from the University of Freiburg found that thinking positively about exercise can act like a self fulfilling prophecy.
Psychologist Hendrik Mothes found that test subjects derive more psychological as well as neurophysiological benefits from exercise if they already have a positive mindset about sports.
And the good news is that you can use a positive mindset to assist you with making changes in any area of your life, not just exercise.
So how exactly do you develop a positive mindset? Lukins says that it boils down to habit.
“Just as pessimistic thinking and succumbing to the normal negativity bias that many people experience is part of a thinking habit, so too is viewing a task as attainable,” she says.
The why and how
According to Lukins, one of the most helpful things you can do to generate a positive mindset is to ask yourself “why” you want to achieve the goal and be really clear about the answers.
“For example, if you are asking yourself ‘why do you want to stop smoking?’ the answers might include: ‘because it will improve my health and I’ll be able to run around with the kids’ or ‘because with the money I’ll save I’ll buy myself that watch I’ve always wanted’,” Lukins explains.
Fitness specialist Jen Dugard agrees. She says that mindset is a valuable tool, especially when you’re embarking on a new health or fitness goal. She suggests the following tips to help develop a positive mindset:
- “Focus on what makes you feel good when you are working toward your goal – your brain can actually only process one thought at a time so when you find yourself thinking that you can’t do something or that it is too hard catch that though and replace it with a positive one about what you can do.”
- “Celebrate the little wins – and set little goals that all add up to the bigger one. This way you will feel like you are always making progress and remain more mentally positive.”
- “Gain some accountability – from someone that will give you encouragement and pick you up on the tougher days. Get them to help you to re-set any negative thought processes and to help you get back on track.”
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