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Energy for Change

Updated: Dec 28, 2019

What we believe to be true can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we anxiously ruminate on an anticipated event, believing that 'it's all going to go wrong', we create a stress-response that makes things less likely to go well. It is obvious that replaying the thought "I'll never be happy" is only going to bring us further down. It seems that we humans have what some have termed a 'negativity bias', whereby for survival reasons our brains are wired to focus on potential threats or problems. Over-thinking difficulties takes us beyond useful problem-solving into creating unnecessary stress. Could it be that we can actively 'help' to create the very circumstances that we fear?

Self-fulfilling prophecies can be positive as well as destructive. How might this work?

In his book, 'You are the Placebo', Dr Joe Dispenza describes many documented cases where a person's health dramatically improved purely because they believed that a pill with no medically active ingredients would heal them. (The reverse was also true, when people believed something would harm them and they became unwell). Such health improvements were shown to be scientifically measurable, including on the level of epigenetics, by which, even though a person's genetic code remained unaltered, specific genes were activated or deactivated, producing radically different impacts on their body.

Being aware of the states of mind we are dwelling in is a core principle of mindfulness. We can learn through our own experience that certain practices can produce beneficial changes. It is not difficult to test whether doing a mindfulness practice in the morning helps to bring about clearer, calmer states of mind that can have positive repercussions throughout the whole day. Practicing in this way, rather than automatically running the problem-focused thoughts that often arise, allows us to make better decisions and reduces the likelihood that we'll create unnecessary difficulties for ourselves and others.

The principle that our states of mind form our life experience is a central tenet of Buddhist thought that has been well understood and practiced for thousands of years.

You have probably heard the saying about seeing a glass of water as half-full or half-empty. Our brain's 'negativity bias', pre-set to pick up on problems, can easily send us down the half-empty track where we focus on lack rather than abundance, dissatisfaction rather than enjoyment, and so on. I've noticed that on mindfulness courses, it is common for people to mention the periods of a guided practice where they drifted off, rather than the moments they felt present and focused, and the home practice they didn't do, rather than what they achieved.

What is the most direct way to counter this 'negativity bias'? In addition to regularly practicing mindfulness, cultivating gratitude has been shown to be a powerful agent for transforming our states of mind for the better. I have seen this work in other people, as well as in myself, as an almost instantaneous 'flip' from an unhappy mood to a joyful one. Try keeping a gratitude diary, even for a few days, where you note down ' three good things’ (small or large) each day and see for yourself what the effect is. If you notice the benefits, keep it going! What do you have to lose except low moods and worries?

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