As human beings, we’ve all experienced moments of anxiety, low self-esteem and self-doubt in the face of adversity. And we know that sometimes these negative emotions can last a full day, week, and even an entire year or longer. But did you know that taking the time to speak positively to yourself has been proven to reduce stress levels, increase your health and make you more successful? Over the years, many research studies have been published examining this link.
The truth is, when we are continually faced with difficult decisions or subject to prolonged emotional pressure (such as the challenge of building a new business, experiencing the end of a long-term relationship, or dealing with the uncertainty of failure), stress has the power to consume us, leaving us feeling exhausted, negative, and almost as if we’ve actually been physically assaulted. According to many social cognitive psychologists, that is exactly what is happening in the brain.
In the book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect social psychologist, Dr. Matthew Lieberman, discusses groundbreaking research he and his wife (Dr. Naomi Eisenberger) published in 2003 linked for the first time a neurological connection between emotional or social discomfort and physical pain.
Their findings have tremendous implications for the way we interact with and manage stress both personally and professionally. For example, anyone who has ever taken on a new challenge within his or her community or at his or her office has probably been subject to some form of negative social stress. But when that stress is left un-checked, it can magnify and deepen, eventually leading to long-term mental and/or physical ailment.
When this happens, we can end up falling into a pattern of poor decision-making or misfortunes as a result of fear and negative mind mapping related to our insecurities and self-doubt. The deeper the map of negativity is in our brain, the easier it is to follow. Like the rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland, we may begin to feel trapped and confused.
During these moments, it is important to reinforce positive thinking in your life and to create new mental paths that lead toward success. But how do you redirect or reframe a negative thought? How do you re-wire a negative path?
The first step in positive mind mapping is increasing awareness of your non-conscious reaction before it has impacted your judgment or focus, or practicing mindfulness. Taking the time to question how something feels and learning to recognize the signs of emotional stress is a critical tool for dealing with life's challenges.
Dr. Kirk Brown of the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Department of Psychology has written extensively on the benefits of mindfulness practice, which VCU defines as “presence of mind, the capacity to be receptively attentive to what we encounter moment to moment.”
As part of his research, Dr. Brown and his colleague created the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), a 15 item tool for assessing mindfulness of moment-to-moment experiences.
In addition to Brown’s work on mindful awareness, the staff at the Mayo Clinic published a list of examples of ways to identify and reframe negative thoughts into positive affirmations. Their online resource shows that self-regulation is an extremely effective tool for managing stress, but that catching yourself in a negative thought and redirecting or reframing it can also be energizing.
In my own life, I have experienced many stressful challenges. I know all too well the signs of stress and how it impacts my ability to think clearly and how it can lead me into a destructive pattern of misfortune and failure. Over time, I’ve learned that failure can be valuable—if we are open to its lessons. But I also know that repeating thoughts and actions that lead to failure can be detrimental to our ability to grow, especially when we face them alone.
This is why surrounding yourself with other positive influences is another effective tool for overcoming emotional stress. Whether it is a close friend, co-worker, manager, coach, or family member, a conversation with someone who has been supportive in the past can positively affect your outlook and help you back on track.
At Laurie Carey Consulting, we utilize a deeper understanding of the brain and its functions to create programs that train you how to develop the mental muscle you need to generate positive and empowering outcomes in your life.
We are in control of our own minds, however sometimes the influences of the world around us can place us in a state of confusion, or unawareness of our emotional thinking. Seeking advice to create insights to refocus our thinking towards a positive outcome can be as simple as a little coaching.
To learn more about the brain and how to get the support you need to generate long-lasting positivity, check out our upcoming programs. Success is just a thought away.