Studies show that the average person has between sixty and ninety thousand thoughts daily. Nearly 90% of these thoughts are negative thoughts. In other words, it would not be wrong to say that our nature is more prone to negative than positive thinking.
Thinking negatively and trying to calculate the dangers or risks that may occur around us is a legacy left to us by our ancestors.
Long ago, to survive, people had to remember which mushroom was poisonous and which animal could be deadly to them. They had to calculate where the danger might come from and give their full attention to the risky situations around them so they could survive. They also developed their minds in this direction. For this reason, it is a human condition to instinctively keep negative situations and events in our minds and tend to forget positive events. But in the modern world, where our existence is no longer under constant threat, our tendency toward negative thinking comes back to us as stress, anxiety, and worry.
Sometimes the problems we face become real; sometimes, we create them inside our heads. Sometimes we make minor issues bigger in our minds.
So can we teach ourselves to think positively?
The answer to this question is "yes" because our brain's ability to adapt is incredible. Our brain's ability to make new connections is called neuroplasticity. When we learn something new, new links are created between our neurons. We reorganize the connections in our brains to adapt to new situations. In other words, thanks to neuroplasticity, we can get rid of our negative thinking habits and gain new ways of thinking.
Reshape your brain with mindfulness.
Mindfulness can do more than create momentary and pleasant calm and relaxation for you. Scientists think it can be a powerful tool for improving, changing, and strengthening major brain networks. Mindfulness techniques have been proven to promote positive change in brain pathways related to stress, focus, attention, memory, and mood. Some studies have even found that being in a constant state of mindfulness can physically alter brain structures over the long term, including age-related brain degeneration.
In a seminal 2011 study, Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital examined magnetic resonance imaging of participants' brains before and after an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. They also compared their brains to a control group that did not undergo mindfulness training. The researchers observed that their brains showed noticeable structural changes after undergoing mindfulness training compared to the controls. For example, they noticed increased gray matter density in the hippocampus, a structure associated with storing memories and controlling emotion (which we want more). They also saw a reduced gray matter, particularly in the amygdala, associated with stress, fear, and anxiety. Moreover, the less stressed the subjects were, the smaller their amygdala appeared.
This finding showed that mindfulness techniques could reduce stress not by eliminating external stressors of daily life but by softening the influence of the brain region that is often responsible for our disproportionate responses.
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