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. With a little practice of banishing negative thoughts and focusing on what you do want—instead of what you don’t want—can empower you to be your own wish grantor.
The Power of Positive 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 you keep focusing on the reward, you 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.
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 and go out into the world to shop for it. Maybe it’s more nutritious and energy giving foods or more dinner parties. You’ll see yourself making incremental changes that lead up to big rewards.
It takes practice to change your thinking from negative to more positive but you can do it. Here are three brain hacks for tricking your mind into feeling happy and successful:
Brain Hack #1: Meditate to be Mindful
Regular meditation practice, which can be done through walking
, journaling, or even eating, 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 it is for you to concentrate on the present.
For this brain hack, take out your journal or a sheet or paper and write your top five resolutions and spend time meditating on each one. You can say each one out loud, write them out repeatedly, or picture yourself achieving them in your mind’s eye.
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 as well.
Brain Hack #2: Relive Happy Events
Go ahead—think about your first kiss, that exciting vacation you had with family or even your favorite dream!
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. 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.
Brain Hack #3: Help Someone Achieve Their Resolution
Service to others
is more than just building up good karma. Taking the focus off yourself and doing good deeds for others signals a sense of empowerment and abundance to your brain.
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 an optimal body weight, for example, volunteer at a food bank 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. Or, if driving your friend to the gym will help him keep his resolution, you will feel more optimistic about keeping your own resolutions, too.
Stay positively focused on your resolutions from the start for better success throughout the year. Good luck and “Happy New Year!”