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Is The Glass Half Empty? How Affirmations Change Your Brain

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You know the old saying, is the glass half full or half empty? It is used to drive home the point that when life feels like it’s going sour, sometimes it can actually just be your perception that is sabotaging your happiness

However, the trick is that it’s not always as easy to see the state of your perception in the simple way that it is presented as with the half filled glass. We have personal bias and attach our own personal connotations language. 

How The Brain Will Prove Itself Right

The human mind wants to be right and when we get into a downward spiral of negative thinking, the brain keeps on doing it’s thing and finding reasons why it is right to think that way. Our brain also has a group of nerves on our brainstem called the Reticular Activating System. 

This part of our brain runs quite a few things, but what I am going to focus on here is the fact it personalizes our perception of life. For example, it filters the information you don’t want into background noise and highlights the information you deem important. 

You can try this out now by scanning the room you are in and looking for the color green. Do it now. Did you notice more green than you noticed before you specifically looked for that color? Now here’s the fun part, scan the room for the color red now. 

You may have noticed how your eyes dart around the color red as if it’s highlighted by a computer program in your mind. Well, it is and this would be known as the Reticular Activating System. So how does this tie into positive thinking shifting our view on life?

That would be due to the fact that our brain is neuroplastic, meaning it will restructure itself and is completely influenced by the way you use it every day. So when you find yourself in a rut of consistent negative thoughts, the brain will begin to strengthen the neurons that fire together. This means your brain will begin to get comfortable and naturally follow the perspectives laid out by these negative neural pathways. 

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” – Muhammad Ali

What this then does to your Reticular Activating System will bring it to naturally focus on and highlight the negative perspective within your daily life. Just like the colors in the room, the negative perspectives will present themselves more prevalently compared to the weaker neural pathways of positive thoughts. This makes the glass half full perspective “background noise” and the glass half full the path most traveled. 

However, the downside to the neuroplastic nature of the brain is also its upside. When you practice positive affirmations no matter how foreign they may feel, your brain begins to wire the neural pathways of positive thinking and compassion towards oneself. The more you practice positive affirmations the more comfortable you will feel with it and the more that optimism will naturally begin to present itself in your perception. 

Bring Your Affirmations Straight Into Your Subconscious

This is a practice I personally follow which focuses on listening to or repeating positive affirmations when your subconscious mind is driving. When you are performing mindless or repetitive tasks, this is where the subconscious mind takes over such as when you are falling asleep. 

Using affirmations at this time can bring them to sink into your subconscious even while your conscious mind is focused on something else. Then you can get creative with how you listen to the affirmations. You can take a recording of yourself speaking them and listen to it while you are cleaning, falling asleep, or even working out. You can repeat them to yourself or sing them out loud while you are performing a repetitive task. Then there is also the option of listening to someone else repeat the affirmations such as a video found on youtube.

You can even bring the affirmations into your meditation practice and use them like a mantra to focus on the mind in. To produce the deepest effect with affirmations, allow yourself to be filled with the appreciation, pride, or bliss that comes if you choose to lean into believing them no matter how foreign it feels. 

“Affirmations are not bound up in rules. An affirmation can be long or short, poetic or plain. If you love a phrase and find that it helps you, that is a valid affirmation.” – Eric Maisel

Self Love Dialogue 

For those of you who like writing, grab your pen and paper because this practice involves your writing skills. Take time to write yourself a love letter and start a compassionate self dialogue. This less formal way of affirming my perception of myself has felt to both stimulate more emotions due to its more casual nature as well as very quickly shift the way I continue to talk to myself. 

What I have found to be the most fulfilling is to write about the places I feel a lack of self love or weakness in my life. I affirm my present self as the version of myself I want to embody and even write out my thankfulness for how these skills have affected my life. 

You can practice a love letter complimenting yourself, acknowledge an aspect of yours that you appreciate, or write yourself a letter of forgiveness if that feels like something you’ve been holding back from giving yourself. If you’re not sure where to start, try paying attention to where you specifically feel uncomfortability, because that can present a place where you can create a powerful shift. 

Remember no matter how foreign it feels to start this practice, you are creating new neural pathways and should give yourself credit for initiating the way you want to see life. By using the power of your brain you can choose to see the glass half full. 

Jordyn Roe is a writer for TheJoyWithin.org which guides people to uncover their natural sense of joy through meditation and personal empowerment. She is passionate about exploring the evolution of human consciousness. As a Reiki and meditation teacher, she truly enjoys watching others flourish and access their fullest potential.

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