5 slow but powerful ways to make positive changes in your life
If I had a dollar for all the times I’ve promised to make a positive change in my life,
Start going for a daily run...learn French...paint
but then never followed it through, I’d be a very rich man.
Haven’t we all had those bursts of inspirations, with a strong urge to make a change in our life? A sudden bolt of inspiration or motivation to do something more.
You start with a bang, with superb commitment and enthusiasm, only to quit a few days or weeks later.
Most of us are never able to hold ourselves to these goals.
According to survey data, only 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions succeed at keeping them. Most resolutions are in fact abandoned by the third week of January.
Only 8 percent of New Year’s resolutions are kept. Most resolutions are abandoned by the third week of January.
However that does not mean it is impossible.
Achieving your goals is part of a mindset.
Goals could range from personal to career to relationships.
All you need is a basic framework to create a mindset where you make goals, stick to them and achieve them.
1. How to eliminate clutter and focus on the essentials?
If you want to cut out the fat from your life, you need to focus on the essentials.
The book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” talks about the “Importance of Simplicity, Clarity, and Priority.”
The author Greg McKeown, a graduate of the Stanford School of Business, explains
“Instead of attempting to achieve everything, one needs to figure out how to do the right thing the right way at the right time.”
Check out this video of his -
The author did first-hand research among CEOs, executives and other professional ventures of the Silicon Valley. He demonstrates how early success can lead straight to professional and personal failure.
The heart of the problem, is the insidious idea that we can do it all.
As individuals find success, they're often overwhelmed by expectations and the variety of options, and they end up losing the single-minded focus that made them successful in the first place.
So ask yourself: what in your life affirms the need for simplicity, - to focus on only one thing or very few things at a time?
What priorities in your life require the need to focus on before pursuing other interesting (but less worthy) pursuits?
2. How to live mindfully, fully aware of your reality
Mindfulness is the opposite of “mindless” living- where you simply function on autopilot throughout your day.
Living this way can leave you feeling like you’re stuck in a rut.
On autopilot, you tend to get lost in ‘doing’ so you find yourself constantly striving and struggling on ‘getting the next job done’. Not actually living.
Research shows that the average person functions like this 47% of the time.
This video talks about how it feels to be “Mindful” and live in the moment.
Mindfulness helps you cultivate equanimity. You are aware of your triggers and learn to pause so that you may respond, rather than simply react.
Mindfulness is the art of understanding your thoughts and accepting that they are just an interpretation of reality.
It is the art of understanding your thoughts and accepting that your thoughts are not reality. They’re just thoughts: An interpretation of reality.
And you have the power to control your thoughts.
Richard Ryan and K. W. Brown of the University of Rochester explain that
- “Mindfulness” allows you to witness the passing of feelings, social pressures, even of being esteemed or criticized without taking these evaluations personally.
- This will allow you to stop worrying and ruminating on bleak events in the past.
- As you focus on living in the present, your attentional focus narrows.
- You feel as if your awareness merges with the actions you're performing.
- You feel a sense of mastery over situations, activities become rewarding by themselves. Although the tasks are difficult, you are able to perform effortlessly.
The University of Wisconsin has a Mindfulness Training Program as part of their Department of Psychiatry. After the program, this was the feedback they were given.
As the survey results show both teachers as well as students found an improvement in the students’ mental states.
3. Exercise for the mind, not just for the body
The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore.
Exercise controls weight, combats health conditions and diseases, and improves your mood.
Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that leave you happier and relaxed. It boosts your confidence and improves your self-esteem.
The movie star, Matthew McConaughey, has said this to say -
It's no fun to sit down and talk about what exercise has to do with life... go drip that sweat, run until we're fatigued, to where the mind can't ponder the past or the future, well, then you've got something... It's fun to feel healthy, and it's fun to feel good.
When you decide to exercise, understand that it is a sustained habit you are trying to build.
Try to keep the following steps in mind
- Set a time and stick with it
- Use small reminders everyday
- Start small, and focus on bringing daily exercise into your routine
- Increase intensity as time progresses
- Mix up your exercise so you don’t get bored
- Set aside rest days
Men’s Health talks about how exercise fights depression and the many positive effects on the brain it has.
4. What positive thinking actually involves
Research is beginning to reveal that positive thinking is much more than just ‘being happy’ or displaying an upbeat attitude. Positive thoughts can actually create real value in your life and help you build real skills.
Negativity closes your brain off from the outside world. You focus on the negative emotions of fear, anger, and stress. These emotions prevent your brain from seeing the other options and choices that surround you.
Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology conducted a study at the University of North Carolina. She talks about the “broaden and build” theory. Positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and gather more resources from your surroundings.
How do you bring about positive thinking?
Meditation- In the same study, an experiment was conducted between two groups of meditating and non-meditating people. The study demonstrated that those who meditate daily display more positive emotions and valuable long–term skills.
Even several months after the experiment was over, the people who meditated daily continued to display increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, and decreased illness symptoms
The spiritual society Art of Living, mentions these benefits of meditation.
A survey about workplace meditation was conducted on 60 people which found that 60 percent of them were better able to handle stress after taking the class.
Meditation is one of the best ways to combat stress in your life. According to a survey by Buddhify, it is the second most common reason people get into meditation.
Writing and Expressing yourself- An experiment was published in the Journal of Research in Personality on 90 undergraduate students. They were split into two groups. One was asked to write about an intensely positive experience each day and the other wrote about a general control topic.
Three months later, the students from the first group showed better mood levels, and experienced fewer illnesses. Although this is far from a definitive study on the topic, it does give us an idea about the benefits of writing.
Maintaining a journal can help you clarify your thoughts as you logically put them down on paper. Writing is a creative activity which can help engage your right brain in problem solving.
5. Developing a sense of compassion for those around
The Dalai Lama has said that the problems of the world “are best understood and viewed through the lens of compassion.”
We, humans have a natural capacity for compassion. However, everyday stress, social pressures, and life experiences can suppress it.
But you can train yourself to be more nurturing towards others and develop your compassionate instinct. This process requires patience, steady care, proper tools, and a supportive environment.
The brain we have inherited from millions of years of evolution is both a gift and a curse, if not understood and used wisely. It is easy for us to get lost in our very basic emotions and motives, or become personally distressed by the problems of others.
If you orient yourself to compassion, be prepared to experience a whole new orientation of your mind.
Compassion therapy tries to develop this compassion in people,
“we train people to remember, remember, remember, notice, notice, notice kindness and then to build upon those remembrances.”
Meditation, journal writing, focusing on mindfulness all help you live a compassionate life.
Compassion is a way of life.
All life is fascinating and beautiful when the veil of our routinized thinking lifts, even for a moment
We feel stuck in a rut because we’ve trained our brains in a certain way. Our daily habits are deeply ingrained in our brain circuitry. But if we repeat small behaviors frequently enough, our brains begin to carve out new neural pathways. Over time, these neural pathways allow new behaviors to become automatic.
If you understand and apply the simple method for mindfully creating new behaviors and habits you can begin re-creating your life, one positive new change at a time.
What changes can you make today to bring about more Positivity in your life?