In fact, don’t just take one word, take a pile of words. What I’d like you to do, right now is simply imagine a pile of words on the floor to your left. I’d like you to consider words such as winter, miserable, cold, sleet, hail, shivering, damp. Okay? Done it?
Now imagine another pile of words but to your right. In this pile imagine words such as suntan lotion, sunglasses, summer, beach, bucket & spade, smiles. Get the picture?
So which pile do you prefer? Am I safe to lay money on the second pile on the right?
What we sometimes take for granted is the power of words. In certain situations they can provide a catalyst for change. Imagine going in for an interview or to make a presentation whilst repeating within your own mind the simple word YES!! Or, perhaps going for a driving test or exam whilst thinking the word Succeed.
Close your eyes, yes actually close your eyes and think of a word that would encourage you to move forward. But don’t just think of that word, picture it, imagine if it has a sound connected to it, how does that individual word actually feel? The more you tune into positive words the better you can feel if you apply yourself.
It’s like if I were to ask you how many bright yellow cars are there around? You may say one or two, depending on where you live. But now I’ve focused your attention on bright yellow cars I wonder how many more you’ll see when you’re out and about next?
If you choose to focus on something POSITIVE, whether it’s a word or an image, you start re training your brain to automatically lean towards the POSITIVE! It’s rather like thinking about the first record you ever bought – remember that? I vaguely recall my first record being Herman’s Hermits (now I’m showing my age). As I recall the track “I’m into something good” from 1960 something, it takes me right back in time and changes how I’m feeling. I get a sort of mushy nice feeling!
Now, there’s some technical stuff behind all this and it’s not only how you operate your mind, but where you cast your eyes. The human eye is a fascinating thing you know and our pair of eyes help us to perceive the world in which we live. It’s only when something happens that affects your vision that you pay closer attention to it, and it permeates through into your awareness. A great deal of what we see and understand relates to the way we move our eyes to navigate, which helps us to understand and appreciate what we are seeing.
Research shows us that even the direction of which we look can impact on our thoughts too. When there is dark and miserable weather in winter, people tend to look down and reflect on feelings which are usually about the past and that glum feeling that matches the weather becomes repeated. However research has shown that when we look up we change our physiological state and this can positively affect our mental state. Things in life can look up too so it’s not just when the sun shines. Research also shows us that the orientation of our eyes played a central role in our survival. In primitive times we would have been hyper vigilant and switched on to a constant alert state so as to be watchful for any signs of danger of a sabre tooth tiger in close proximity.
In those days we had to use our eyes, as well as the rest of our senses, to attend to a hostile world. Research shows our brains are still wired to avoid predators we no longer encounter, so our adrenal system responds to modern daily stresses as if they were mortal threats.
In a recent new study researchers have known that the brain is constantly changing as it perceives the outside world, processing and learning about everything it encounters. Researchers now understand how the brain changes when confronted with various situations. Every moment our eyes are open our brains are changing in some very sophisticated ways.
Many people today are held back from achieving their potential by propagating fears and limitations and focusing on the negative … and then looking for more of the same or spend time trying to understand why they feel so depressed, analysing the problem.
Too much anxiety causes a neural hijacking that ‘overrides the thinking brain’ and sometimes our mind can become an incubator of anxiety, anger, depression and fear.
But here’s some good news!
We possess something rather remarkable called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). This can bring about change when we know what we want and we are focused on the desired result. You’ve no doubt heard many times, ‘the brain has to know what it wants’?
The RAS is the area that notices things that we focus our attention on. For instance, if you decide that you need a new car and you like a particular make and model in a certain shade of red, after you decided what you wanted your RAS would draw your attention to all those red cars that ‘matched’, whereas previously your attention would have been elsewhere and essentially filtered them out so you wouldn’t have noticed them so much.
For those people who have high anxiety or negativity their RAS becomes temporarily distorted and tends to focus on the same and then pattern matches to look for other high anxieties or negativities by association and conditioning. But if we focus on relaxation or positive thoughts, words and images, then the same RAS activates we feel more in control.
Our happiness and our ability to cope increases when we notice and focus on the good things. Primarily what we focus on then increases as the RAS can find those previously elusive solutions – because we have changed from a problem focus to a solutions focus. When we change our filters our viewfinder gets modified so we can see things differently. When we are positive we become more attuned to noticing opportunities and we cope better with setbacks and remove obstacles.
So now my clients who know me well understand why my first question every sessions is…. “And now, what’s been good about your week then”? Now it’s up to you to look out for what’s good in your life, or possibly more importantly, what would you like to change for the positive in your life?
My thanks go to Michael Hughes for his contribution to this article!