By Daniel G. Amen, M.D.
Our minds are prone to negativity. That means it will find stress and anxiety anywhere and everywhere if you allow it to.
Our minds are also prone to patterns. The brain either seeks them out or makes them up (so to speak) in order to make sense of the world around us.
These are both natural and normal functions of the brain, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they were never helpful. They served our ancestors well in surviving a world much different from our modern one. Today, however, they serve a less positive purpose than they used to.
Since our brains are still hardwired for survival, it’s always on the lookout for threats (real or perceived). It will discover or create negativity unless you train and discipline it to do otherwise.
That’s why this simple routine is so incredibly useful. Here it is:
Start every day with the phrase: “Today is going to be a great day.”
As soon as you wake up before your feet hit the floor to begin your day, say this to yourself. Out loud, if possible.
Today is going to be a great day.
Remember, your brain is a pattern-seeking device. By speaking this simple truth out loud at the beginning of the day, before anything else enters your mind, you instruct your brain about the type of pattern to look for that day.
Without these instructions, your brain will be in a default mode, looking for the threats to survival and bending towards negativity. However, once your positive instructions are given, your brain can begin to uncover reasons why today will be (or, why today is) a great day.
I also recommend that you don’t stop there.
Begin each day by creating a positive frame, but also end each day by reflecting on what went well. In the morning, you asked your brain to look for positivity-patterns. Now, before you lay your head on the pillow, meditate or journal about what did go well that day.
No matter how trivial or seemingly insignificant, recognize and reflect on all the positive things you experienced from the moment your eyes opened in the morning until you get back into bed at night.
- My breakfast was amazingly nutritious
- I had more energy than usual today
- My boss smiled and acknowledged my good work
- Those were some incredible cuddles with my kids this evening
- Dinner was delicious
- Traffic was lighter than yesterday
It’s not about the life-changing events that happen occasionally. This routine is about teaching and training your brain to seek out and uncover the positive patterns instead of the negative ones.
As I wrote in my book Feel Better Fast And Make It Last:
“You have a choice in where you direct your attention, even in times of loss. This simple strategy can make a powerfully positive difference in your life.”
I strongly encourage you to implement this routine into your everyday life.
Beginning and ending each day with a positive pattern is one of the most effective ways to overcome automatic negative thoughts. In fact, this routine may be your best shot at turning them into automatic positive thoughts instead.
Now that sounds fantastic!