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Brain Science / Mindset

Cultivating a Positive Mindset

Nothing matters more than taking control of what happens in your noggin. And the best news EVER: you get to choose what goes on up there! Worst news ever: only you are in control of that, no one else is responsible for what happens up there.

Smiling changes your mood.

So does laughing and if you belly laugh you get even more benefit.

Laughing is an antidote to anger, because one cannot laugh and hold anger simultaneously.

Thinking positive, happy, joyful thoughts steals energy and electrical activity from negative neural pathways.

Gratitude writing helps cardiac patients improve their health over those that don’t practice gratitude after a cardiac event.

The more you travel the feel-good neural pathways through laughter, smiling, good thoughts, and positivity, the stronger you make those routes, and the more automatic they become. It gets easier for your brain to choose those actions (happy/good pathways) and outcomes (feeling good and making positive choices), kind of like a default, or habit.

Many people dismiss the importance of putting good things in their heads. It’s easy to see the correlation of putting vegetables, healthy grains, and healthy fats into our bodies: good input, good health. But what about our brains? The most impressive organ we have, the most mysterious, and the one we focus much too little upon.

It’s not easy to “see the results” of going down a specific neural pathway over and over – that is until you begin to look around your world and wonder why things are the way they are. Perhaps that happens once you read a blog post 😉 calling your own personal narrative into focus, or because something happens in life that makes you explore who you are and why. And that usually begins by sorting through your thoughts. You know, those things contained in your brain.

So it matters what goes on in there and I’d like to offer some ideas about cultivating positivity in your world (especially at the time of this writing, at the beginning of the CoVid-19 outbreak in the United States).


Gratitude Journaling

This seems easy and perhaps that makes it also sound ineffectual. But science proves to us otherwise. The action of writing good words changes our brains in ways that few other behaviors can. When you search your life, mind, world, and heart for the things you are grateful for and focus on them you train your brain to go down those pathways and make them stronger.

Pictures That Bring Joy

I’m a fan of memes. I’m a fan of crazy animal pics of them doing the odd and unabashed things they do. And I love me a picture of one of my kids from when they were super small and unaware of the level of their cuteness. There is deep value in these things because they again help you go down the happy neural pathways on command.

You know how Pinterest lets you create boards of images with a theme, saving them for you to revisit later? Do that same thing on your smartphone and on your computer. Create a file/folder/album of pictures of things that make you laugh and feel good. Snarky things don’t go here. Memes that prove a point to some other group don’t go here. If its anything less than the standard set by one puppy licking the face of a baby while the baby is giggling joyfully in a sunny meadow, then it can’t go here.

Visit it often.

Social Curation

This one can be tricky but is totally doable because I did it. But it takes some inner strength and bravery.

This is about getting control over what pops into your news feed on things like Facebook. Over time it will train the algorithm to show you less crap and more good stuff. It will snuff out much negativity. And if you’re diligent about hiding and unliking and following things that violate the cultivation of positivity, you will reap the rewards of a good newsfeed that doesn’t suck the life out of your head and heart. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Unfriend people who are negative. Yes, actually unfriend them. Why the heck would you want toxic people in your newsfeed? (Yeah I get it that family members can be some of the worst offenders and that unfriending them can set off family feuds. Instead, Unfollow them so you’re still friends, but you never see their shenanigans in your feed).
  2. Unlike pages that tend to share sarcastic stuff or stuff that encourages people to feel bad about stuff. You know what these pages are – they are antagonistic, politically leaning, target people who don’t believe what you do (no matter what that is), or that promote commiserating about the bad things in life.
  3. Unlike news stations.
  4. Leave groups that are ok with bitching, whining, moaning, and tend to fight amongst themselves.
  5. DO join groups that are about feel-good stuff, and there are TONS! If you get into one, you’ll find many others because the members tend to travel in herds of feel-goodness.
  6. Find groups that dive headfirst into things you love like house plants or Harry Potter.
  7. Follow pages dedicated only to good news and sharing positive stories of humanity.
  8. Hide any and all ads that don’t align with feeling good.

This stuff isn’t tough to do in the physical sense – I mean just click some stuff. But it’s not easy to give up what supports old neural pathways and ways of thinking. It’ll take a little time to retrain your newsfeed algorithm, but it’s well worth the effort.

Power Playlists

Sometimes we need to keep moving and doing stuff and sitting and scrolling n our smartphones just isn’t reasonable. So maybe a different sensory cultivation is necessary – like auditory. Chances are you use a music app like Spotify, Pandora (is that still a thing?), or Apple Music and you can create your own playlists in there. Creating a positivity playlist has some dos and don’ts as well, though. So here they are:

  1. DO add music that is uptempo and creates the want to dance or move.
  2. DO add music you’ve never listened to before.
  3. DO play it on shuffle so your brain doesn’t tune out because it’s the same order every time.
  4. DO make sure the messaging is positive.
  5. DON’T just add music you like, because anything with negative/sad/angry emotions tied to it will have the opposite effect.
  6. DON’T listen to this playlist any old time – use it wisely when you need a specific pick me up (you can create multiples for different needs like work time, positive emotions, working out, etc…).
  7. DO wear earbuds/headphones when listening so distractions get tuned out.

Upgrade Your Environment

Clutter can bring us down and paralyze us mentally. Spaces that we don’t enjoy because of decor or arrangement can sap our energy and mood.

Antidote? Grab a can of paint and brush.

Get some organizational tools for your office or bedroom to reduce clutter.

Rearrange the furniture in the living room or the countertops in the kitchen.

Shifting your space and making it feel better to be in is powerful! And who doesn’t love a little brush-up in their environment every now and then?


At any time in life, these tools are helpful. But right now, early 2020, they are more like essentials.

Use them wisely and broadly and you will reap the benefits of a more positive mindset. Note that doing the opposite, surrounding yourself with sarcasm, complainers, sad and angry music, constant bad news, will yield the opposite. It may already be doing that (since that’s the case for most people in this digital age).

Get positive pathways. Curate positivity.

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