Positive thinking involves development of thought patterns that can foster optimism and alter negative personal beliefs and emotions. With practice, the mind opens to greater possibilities for expanded thinking and creativity. Typically, positive thinking involves techniques such as visualization and positive affirmations.
The practice of positive thinking, which was long discounted by the scientific community, has gradually gained acceptance and is often referred to within the relatively new paradigm of positive psychology. Positive thinking offers great potential for change and is often integrated into drug and alcohol treatment and rehab.
More recently, researchers have found that a practice known as “priming” takes positive thinking to a much higher level.
What is priming and how does it work?
Priming is a process in which exposure to certain stimuli greatly increases the chances that a person will have a positive response to a second stimulus. Researchers have found priming to be subtle and powerful. In one study, they found that holding a cup of warm tea or coffee while talking to another person produces warm thoughts about the conversation, and about the person.
The smell of cinnamon as you walk into a bakery is a primer that may cause your mouth to water for a hot cinnamon roll. Athletes routinely prepare by thinking about making successful free throws or imagining what it feels like to smack a baseball out of the park. The stimuli (priming) is at the forefront of the mind when the activity takes place.
Priming is a powerful tool that can be used both positively and negatively, and is often used to great advantage in advertising and marketing. When used properly, priming can make affirmations more effective than traditional positive thinking techniques alone.
Putting priming into action
Although priming is extremely effective when used in a therapeutic setting, the process doesn’t need to be elaborate and you can use the tools in your personal life. The process works quickly and involves use of simple, positive statements to encourage yourself and improve your overall attitude about your life and the world around you. Here’s how:
- We all have negative thoughts, emotions and attitudes that would benefit from affirmations. Think about your problem areas, and then write down simple, positive words that create good feelings, counteract the negativity and prime your mind to feel peaceful and happy.
- Turn the words into complete sentences. Make them clear and easy to remember. Write them down.
- Make your affirmations specific and in the present tense. For example, “I am in control of my anger issues”, or “I choose to be feel happy and positive.”
- Don’t make your affirmations silly, unrealistic or absurd.
- Repeat your positive affirmations several times throughout the day. First, clear your mind of negative thoughts, and then breathe deeply as you focus on the words.
- Use helpful reminders. For example, place sticky notes on your bathroom mirror or laptop cover. You can also post colorful pictures that remind you of your affirmations.
- Affirmations are powerful primers, but you can also prime your mind by watching positive videos, reading motivational books or articles, or listening to music.
- Work toward improvement – not perfection.