Love Fiercely

2018 seems to be already going by so fast, I cannot believe we are now in February –  I have been thinking a lot about what I want this year to be like. I have been assessing ways about me that work & ways that I am or have been in the past, that I do not want to take into this new year – hopefully you also have thought about personal goals, as well as ways you want to operate & think that will benefit you moving forward.

 

Too often in the world today – we encounter negativity & at times you come across people who choose to be negative over living a full life. You may wonder why I say they don’t live a full life… well, negativity robs you from living in the moment. Negativity keeps you from focusing on the good & instead you look for the next wrong | the following injustice | & what you don’t agree with. If you aren’t careful – you can miss out on the greatest things in life, because you are sidetracked by what you do not agree with or like. Too many times we are making investments into things & you may be asking – what do you mean by living a full life & how in the world does that connect to being negative?!? 

 

Negativity is actually a default setting in our brain as a human, & yet it robs you – it takes from you in so many ways… Research actually shows that negativity makes a bigger impact on our brains, because we have what is called a “Negativity Bias.” This means that our brain is built with a greater sensitivity to things that are unpleasant.

 

According to Psychology Today, John Cacioppo, Ph.D., decided to do a study where he looked people’s reactions to pictures with the purpose of finding out if they aroused positive or negative feelings. His research found that images like; {a puppy | a Ferrari, or a pizza} created positive feelings & others produced negative feelings for example; {a mutilated face, a crime scene, or a image of someone they had lost.} There were even images known to produce neutral feelings {a plate, table, or a hair dryer.} Meanwhile, he recorded electrical activity in the brain’s cerebral cortex that reflects the magnitude of information processing taking place. The brain, Cacioppo demonstrated, reacts more strongly to stimuli it deems negative. There is a greater surge in electrical activity. Thus, our attitudes are more heavily influenced by downbeat news than good news.

 

This is why I believe gossip & bad news is so appetizing to individuals. Scientists say that the reason for this is to keep us from going through negative situations continuously, it was a way to tell our brains to avoid pain & negativity… however, it seems to have become a type of thing people feed on – instead of avoid, almost like a high from a drug that they cannot quit.{The source for this information is included on the quote above.} God can only bless who you really are, not who you pretend to be. You will never get what you’re after if you’re always trying to get it by being someone or something you’re not. God has a destiny unique to you. Don’t settle for someone else’s blessings when God wants to give you your own.

 

 I have found that if you do not deposit Gods word & His truth – you will have nothing to draw on when you need to make a withdrawal in hard times.

 

JAMES 1:3

The testing of faith produces patience.

 

Though we may not admit it, what other people think about something can affect what we think about it. This is how critics become influential and why our parents’ opinions about our life choices continue to matter, long after we’ve moved out. But what kind of opinions have the most effect. An important new study in the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that negative opinions cause the greatest attitude shifts, not just from good to bad, but also from bad to worse.

 

The researchers at Science Daily found that the opinions of others have a strong influence on individual attitudes when the opinions are negative. Furthermore, the research also found – those with negative opinions of the product were likely to become even more negative if asked to participate in a group discussion. Research also shows that most people complain once a minute during a typical conversation. Complaining is tempting because it feels good, but like many other things that are enjoyable — such as smoking or eating a pound of bacon for breakfast — complaining isn’t good for you. {The source is included on this quote.}

 

Your brain loves efficiency and doesn’t like to work any harder than it has to. When you repeat a behavior, such as complaining, your neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information. This makes it much easier to repeat that behavior in the future – so easy in fact, that you might not even realize you’re doing it. Yet, you cannot blame your brain. Who would, in their right mind – build a temporary bridge every time you need to cross a river… It makes a lot more sense to construct a permanent bridge. So, your neurons grow closer together, & the connections between them become more permanent.

 

Scientists like to describe this process as, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

 

Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.

 

Something that was so crazy to me & almost scary was that: complaining actually damages other areas of your brain. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus – this is an area of the brain that is critical to problem solving & intelligent thinking. Damage to the hippocampus is very serious, especially when you understand that this area is one of the primary areas in the brain that is destroyed when someone faces Alzheimer’s.

 

I have learned that if you are only grateful when things go right, you are living a life that is too focused on the negative. Gratitude is positive & it comes by choice, not through coincidental happenings.

 

If you are currently grateful for what your life looks like… {including the unpleasant things, because you know they have a greater purpose.}You will most likely be able to find yourself in a life you can feel more positive about. & you may even begin believing that good things can happen around you. Instead, it is so easy to be negative because it’s convenient to give up your power & point the finger at others… that is what weak people do. Strength comes when we choose positivity, even when negativity is all around you. 

 

Too often in life, we blame others when bad things happen – or when things don’t go how we thought they should/would, it is not our fault… So consider this alternative thought process: Who or what is to blame when GOOD things happen to you? A question you need to ask yourself is – do you acknowledge that you are responsible for the good things – as in, you worked hard, you earned it, etc… but blame external events or other people for your failures? The interesting thought here is, how come when good things happen they are a result of what we do? On the contrary when bad things happen – they are not our fault? I think that this is a natural human response in life, but I have learned that it takes courage to accept that you create your life experience!

 

Here’s an interesting thing to consider:

Have you noticed that positive people seem to get what they want out of life, & even if things don’t go their way – they still enjoy their lives… while negative people whine & live upset about their negative experiences & they even do this with the good things that happen in their lives – negative thinkers, are never satisfied… even when things are good, they find something to be upset about!

 

When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace & joy.

the Dalai Lama

Below are a compilation of research & studies that I found as I was looking into what negativity does to your brain. The research & knowledge below is not original to me – but I feel that it can be very effective in understanding what negativity can do to your brain | how it will effect your life | & overall health. To find the original research & source on the information below click here here | or here. 




HOW NEGATIVE THINKING AFFECTS YOUR BRAIN

 

A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology studied the effects of worrying on performing a task. Subjects were required to sort things into two categories. People who reported that they worry 50% of the time or more showed a significant disruption in their ability to sort objects as the difficulty of the sorting task increased.

In a follow up study by these researchers they were able to show that demonstrated that the disruption was a result of increased levels of negative thoughts. When the brain is faced with complex tasks, negative thinking hurts your ability to process information & think clearly. 

If the researchers are correct, thinking negatively about your problems not only doesn’t help solve anything, it actually makes it harder for you to think of a helpful solution. 

 

AMYGDALA & MEMORY

If you have a tendency to overreact to stress, it could be due to changes in your brain brought on by negative thinking. Negative experiences are stored in the brain by the amygdala. The amygdala is also responsible for the brain’s fight or flight response. The prefrontal cortex regulates our response to stressors.

Someone who is faced with a stressful situation like being in a traffic jam normally assesses the level of threat to their safety and concludes that the threat is less than the annoyance factor & talks themselves through relaxing until it is over.

In contrast, someone who has been previously exposed to stress that was life-threatening & is suffering from PTSD might see the traffic jam as a threat to their safety & respond as if they are under attack. They lack the ability to distinguish between the true threat & the perceived stress & over-react.

 

THALAMUS PERCEIVES STRESS

The thalamus is responsible to sending sensory & motor signals to the rest of the body but it does not understand that negative thoughts aren’t the same as real danger. When you think negative thoughts, the thalamus assumes that it needs to prepare the body to flee. As a result, our bodies experience real stress symptoms of rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, & a state of over reaction.

Imagine just sitting quietly & suddenly having the physical symptoms of fear. You can sense your heart rate increase, your breathing increases, you perspire, & your blood pressure goes up. You start looking for the cause of the symptoms, but when there is no rational explanation for the fear response it is the thalamus causing you to have a panic attack.

Negative thoughts affect our brain by triggering this same stress response. Chronic stress affects the body physically & can have negative effects on our health & well-being.

 

CORTISOL & STRESS

Stress from negative thinking creates changes in the brain that may affect your likelihood of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, schizophrenia & mood disorders.

People who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have been shown to have abnormalities in their brains. The amount of grey matter versus white matter. The difference is that grey matter is where the information is processed by neurons whereas white matter is a fibrous network that connects the neurons. Chronic stress produces more white matter connections but fewer neurons.

The balance of grey matter & white matter in the brain is important for the timing of communication in the brain. It is believed that the disruption in connections affects both your mood & your memories of the associations with that mood. The problem is that our brains are good at learning from bad experiences but bad at learning from good experiences.

 

According to Dr. Rick Hanson, creator of The Taking in The Good Course, a brain training program to use your mind to improve your happiness, says that people who completed a program of training themselves to replace negative thoughts with positive ones “experienced significantly less anxiety & depression, & significantly greater self-control, savoring, compassion, love, contentment, joy, gratitude, self-esteem, self-compassion, satisfaction with life, & overall happiness.”

 

Improving our brains by eliminating negative thinking is possible. Replacing negative thinking with positive thinking is like training your brain just like you would a dog. You give a dog a reward for good behavior & your brain is similar in that positive thoughts create pleasure in the brain, which is a reward. Once we feel pleasure, we want more of it, so give your brain positive thoughts & keep it on a steady diet of self-rewarding pleasure.

 

 




 

THERE IS A SOLUTION

There are 2 things you can do when you feel the need to complain or be negative…

1. Make the choice to have an attitude of gratitude – when you feel like complaining, instead shift your attention to something that you’re grateful for.

 

  • Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the right thing to do; it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood and energy and substantially less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels.

    • Any time you experience negative or pessimistic thoughts, use this as a cue to shift gears and to think about something positive. In time, a positive attitude will become a way of life.

2. When something is truly worth complaining about – choose to engage in what you can call… solution-oriented complaining. This means that you are trying to find solutions, not just complaining or being negative. You are instead, talking about what is not right or what you don’t like – with a purpose in mind.

 

 


Solution-oriented complaining should do the following:

  • Have a clear purpose. Before talking about something you feel negatively about – know what outcome you’re looking for. If you can’t identify a purpose, there’s a good chance you just want to complain for complaining sake, & that’s the kind of negativity you should stop IMMEDIATELY.

  • Start with something positive. It may seem counterintuitive to start a complaint with a compliment, but starting with a positive helps keep people from getting defensive. For example, before going into a complaint about poor customer service, you could say something like, “I’ve been a customer for a very long time & have always been thrilled with your service… & yet…”

  • Be specific. When you’re talking about something not positive, it’s not a good time to dredge up every minor annoyance from the past 20 years about that thing or person. Just address the current situation & be as specific as possible. Instead of saying, “You were rude to me…” describe specifically what the person did that seemed rude & offer a solution or an example – show them how they could approach a type of communication more effectively.

  • End on a positive. If you end a complaint with, “I’m never shopping here again, I will never forgive you, or I never want to see you again…” the person who is listening will have little-to-no motivation to act on your expression in a positive way. In that case, you’re just venting, or complaining with no purpose other than to complain or be negative. Instead, choose to have & stick to your purpose, as well as keep hope that the desired result you have can be achieved, for example, “I’d like to work this out – so that we can keep our relationship in a healthy place.”

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