What if you could be your own New Year’s resolution genie and make all your wishes for health, wealth and happiness come true with a blink of an eye? In a way, success or manifestation of your dreams is just a positive thought away. By banishing negative thoughts—focusing on what you do want instead of what you don’t want, for example—you empower yourself to be your own wish grantor.
Turning your boat around in a sea of negativity can seem daunting, but there’s a science to tricking your brain into positive thinking. With just a little practice, you may find yourself a dream-to-reality magician, and captain of your destiny!
This is more than wishful thinking! Neuroscientists have discovered our brains have remarkable plasticity
or ability to change shape over time. Feeling states such as happiness, love, compassion, bliss and gratitude have a neural basis that, with practice, can be accessed and activated for positive effects.
We’ve heard a lot about the power of thoughts and how the Universe is attuned to our desires. So, when thinking about your New Year resolutions, it’s important to focus on what you want instead of what you don’t want.
If we keep focusing on the reward, we will look forward to new behaviors and be more motivated to act rather than procrastinate.
Telling yourself, “I’m looking forward to cooking that new vegetarian dish,” lights up your brain’s reward center. Saying, “I have to cut out hamburgers if I am to lose weight,” locks your brain into a de-motivating power struggle.
There’s more to this dynamic. If you focus on the negative trait or pattern, you are holding yourself in a place of denial. That can wreak havoc on your self-esteem. Say you are overweight. If you envision yourself at your present weight but superimpose an outfit three sizes smaller, you are essentially erasing yourself. The person who wears that smaller dress size does not exist.
A better approach is to hold your real self in loving light. Ask what you need to feel ‘full,’ happy and more energetic. Then take that wish list from self and go out into the world to shop for it. Maybe it’s more nutritious and energy giving foods, or more dinner parties. You can make incremental changes that lead up to big rewards like trips to farmer’s markets, a cooking class or community gardening.
It takes practice to change your thinking from negative to positive but you can do it. Here are four tips for tricking your mind into feeling happy and successful.
Meditate to be Mindful
Regular meditation practice, and that can include walking, journaling, or just zoning out watching clouds, tunes your mind into your body.
When you are focused on the present, key parts of the brain—the insula which regulates emotions and motor control and the prefrontal cortex which controls attention—become stronger. So, the more you slow down and concentrate, the easier, and more happily, it is for you to concentrate on the present.
Neat Brain Trick #1:
Write your top five resolutions and meditate on each one.
Mind Your Matter
Because our brains are so malleable and suggestible, what we give our attention increases. If we are always thinking about not having enough money, or worry about how we are going to win an argument, for example, we are not giving the reward centers in our brain time to light up.
Strengthening the neural pathways that keep us distressed was a natural evolution. Staying vigilant against disaster and natural predators was how we survived. But we can train our modern brain to seek happiness and emotional freedom also.
Neat Brain Trick #2:
You’ll need a pal to help you with this. Have a friend stand behind you with you with his arms outstretched from his sides.
Standing up straight and looking eye level at a point on a wall, focus only on the point on the wall while your friend wiggles his fingers, like a fluttering bird, as he slowly brings his hands within your peripheral vision. Notice what happens the moment you spy the wiggling fingers.
Most people report a great exhale and release of muscle tension in the upper back. This exercise frees your brain from constricting, negative thinking and allows positive energy flow and creative thinking.
Relive Happy Events
Go ahead. Daydream about your first kiss, that exhilarating river raft trip or even your favorite night dream! Immerse yourself in the remembered pleasure and bathe your brain with endorphins and other feel good chemicals.
If critical or judgmental thoughts intrude, lock them out by amplifying the pleasant memories.
When you think about your resolutions and the steps you need to put them in place, show your brain the evidence of its attainability with a picture of past pleasures.
Neat Brain Trick #3:
Put on a soundtrack from one of your happiest moments in life with your resolutions placed in sight. Press the repeat button and listen until your brain is saturated with the positive information. This tells your brain you can and have achieved great states of happiness for yourself, so you know how to do it again.
Help Someone Achieve Their Resolution
Service to others is more than just building up good karma. Taking the focus off yourself and doing for others signals a sense of empowerment and abundance to your brain. If driving your friend to the gym will help him keep his resolution, you will feel more optimistic about keeping your own resolutions.
Neat Brain Trick #4:
Giving feels good. Spend some time volunteering for a group or cause that is in alignment with one of your most challenging or important resolutions.
If your number one goal is to achieve optimal body weight, for example, volunteer at a food bank garden or sports clinic. This tells your brain that you have the time, energy and resources to give to others, so you must be right on track toward your personal goals.
Be in the resolution from the start for better success in the end. Good luck and “Happy All Year!”