The human brain and nervous system is a fascinating thing. For one thing, it’s always analysing your surroundings for safety. Scientists have shown that the human mind has a natural negativity bias that overestimates life’s obstacles and challenges, and might not give you enough credit when it comes to analyzing your ability to overcome them. With this perception of greater challenge than ability to conquer, it’s no wonder our nervous system is often in survival mode making it difficult for us to feel balanced.
The good news is that we have conscious control over our minds (for the most part). Scientists suggest that there’s a ratio of positive to negative thinking that can help us turn this natural negativity bias around. It takes three positive thoughts to offset one negative thought.
You can overcome your mind’s natural negative response by taking control of your thoughts and steering them toward the positive. This positivity practice pays off by bringing your nervous system out of the fight/flight response and activating the rest-and-digest response which allows for healing and recovery in your body.
It’s time to start reframing the situations you perceive as negative and making it easier on yourself to be productive. Here are some simple techniques to help you get started:
There are a lot of things in life that you can’t control. Unexpected events will come up, plans will change and it’s up to you how you’ll handle them. You have a higher likelihood of reacting negatively when a coworker calls in sick the day of a major presentation, or when it rains during your outdoor event if you’re concerned with controlling all the details in your life.
Controlling tendencies mean you want to know what, who, when, where, and how things will happen. Otherwise, you freak out. Which is not practical for living in a high-speed world where there are many factors beyond your control.
Try focusing on the things you do have control over and letting yourself off the hook for the things that are beyond your influence. The more you can learn to let go and be okay with not having a definite outcome, the more you’ll feel free from your own expectations. Often it is our own expectations that keep us tightly wound and grasping for control.
When you allow yourself to embrace uncertainty, you open yourself to possibility and creativity which is the mindset that allows you to see that there are numerous ways a situation can resolve.
Enjoy The In-between
The in between is the space between recognizing there’s a problem and finding resolution. Many people have difficulty waiting for solutions to problems. It’s uncomfortable. It’s uncertain. Closure feels much better, but rushing into a resolution can mean that issues aren’t addressed properly leaving more things to work out after the fact.
Coming to the right decision (for you) isn’t something you can rush. Often there’s a period of time where you’re living with the questions before a resolution begins to come to the surface.
Outside-the-box solutions tend to appear while you are doing other things — tidying the house or walking to your car — because they need the opportunity to surface on their own.
It’s ok to hold two opposing opinions or decisions simultaneously. Rather than making an impulsive choice, gather all the facts, conduct research and weigh decisions with reflection until the best solution emerges. Once you learn to relax in the in-between, you might learn to enjoy the problem solving process.
Create Transition Time
In a culture that values productivity, it’s no wonder that transition time is a lost practice. Think about your daily schedule. Chances are you don’t leave yourself some breathing room between work tasks. Are your appointments scheduled back-to-back? Is your day packed so tightly that you don’t have a cushion for life’s surprises — or bathroom breaks?
It’s common to think you’re getting ahead by using the extra time between tasks to cross one more item off the list instead of taking a deep breath, relaxing, and showing up a few minutes early.
When your schedule lacks transition time, you’re constantly under the gun, rushing from one thing to the next. It’s no wonder that you’d feel overwhelmed or stressed out when something in your day doesn’t go as planned.
You can drastically reduce this stress by creating comfortable margins. Add transition time to your calendar so you can prioritize your ability to be present, focused and live IN your day as opposed to letting the day run you.
We live in a culture that expects immediate results and praises productivity. It’s natural to think that multitasking is the only way to get all the things on your to-do list done. It might even feel like doing one thing at a time is underproductive.
However, studies show that multitasking isn’t as efficient as focusing on one task at a time. When you juggle emails and text messages, it undermines your ability to focus and stay on-task, and fatigues your brain in the process. You might not realize it, but multitasking also undermines efficiency and quality of life. It often results in a half-focused effort that leaves you overwhelmed and stressed out.
For your own health and efficiency, it’s time to reconsider your multitasking ways, so it doesn’t become your normal course of action. Ofcourse, there will be some cases where you can’t avoid doing more than one thing at a time. But these can be significantly paired down. Do your best to prioritize and engage in fewer tasks at one time. You’ll enjoy the satisfaction of slowing down your pace and completing one project before starting another.
Ha! Easier said than done. Especially if your standards are so high that even you have trouble meeting them.
When your standards are especially high you’re less likely to meet them. If you fall short, it’s an open invitation for your mental chatter to berate you so you get it “right” next time… only you’re not likely to flourish under your own negativity.
Try adjusting your standards going into a meeting, a date, or a workout according to what you feel is your best effort for that day. If you give an honest effort (according to how you are that day – every day is different) you’ll have something to be proud of, regardless of the outcome.
Self-acceptance will come easily if you can release your need to be “perfect” (even just a little bit) and stop criticizing your efforts. This opens up your mental space to look at what you did well and focus on your positive effort instead.
Even though our minds are wired to analyze negativity and threats, we can put these 5 tips into practice to support positivity and productivity in all aspects of life. To get started, release any all-or-nothing thinking and pick one or two tips to implement right away.