Positive Thinking for Powerful Skills
We’ve all heard the term ‘the power of positive thinking’, and we might even be conscious of our positive thoughts. Maybe we even make an effort to be positive. But ‘positive thinking’ has, until recently, been seen as quite a vague term. What does it really mean? Is it just an ideal? What really are the benefits?
Well, research is increasingly recognising the true impact of positive thinking; it is, indeed, definable and measurable. What’s more, that research is now revealing the impact of positive thinking not only on your mood and wellbeing, but also on your cognitive skills.
Believe it or not, negative thoughts do have a pretty important purpose. Just like your fight, flight, freeze response kicks in at the first sign of danger, your negative brain also functions as a survival tool.
When faced with a negative emotion such as fear, our brains immediately narrow down our thinking. For example, you come across a nasty-looking snake in the desert – you turn and run. That seems like the sensible option…the only option. Your brain doesn’t slow down and run you through your actual options – you simply don’t have time during the fight, flight, freeze response. There could, in fact, be a number of possible safe scenarios: Perhaps it’s not poisonous. Perhaps there’s something around to cover it with. Perhaps there’s a nearby tree to climb up. But your negative mind simply doesn’t have time for this. Nope. It’s simply, ‘Let’s get outta here!’
So if negative thoughts and emotions lead to a narrower field of thought, then it follows that positive thinking should do the opposite.
So how can we apply this?
Honing positive thinking could be as simple as doing more of the things that make you happy. Whatever it is that gets your endorphins flowing, do more of it. Perhaps you love dance or music. Maybe reading or taking a walk. Or maybe simply getting together with friends. Whatever it is, make more time for it.
But if you find yourself feeling negative, try to avoid the downward spiral. Write down your negative thoughts and respond logically to them: ‘I’m no good at anything’ – ‘Really? What about that friend you did a favour for? Or the great grade on your paper?’ Challenge those negative thoughts and schedule some much-needed positive me-time or social time.
Where do skills come into it?
Skills are all about problem-solving. When faced with a problem to solve, the last thing you need is a narrow mind and limited patterns of thought. But that’s exactly what negative thinking does. Essentially, it shuts off parts of your cognition that could be working away to explore possible solutions.
Apply this to an exam situation, or a looming assignment deadline, and you can see the problem. If you fail to think positively, even in the face of stressful situations, you could be causing yourself a self-fulfilling prophecy. Think positively, and you open up your brain to a whole world of new possibilities.
So, it’s over to you. With exam season coming up, now could be the perfect time to try it out. Make time for what makes you happy. Schedule it into your revision timetable if you have to! And whatever you’re doing, walk into it with confidence, power and positivity.