The brain has an incredible, uncanny ability to effect change. Our minds aren’t passive observers, simply perceiving reality as it is; our minds actually form the reality we know. The reality we experience is a product of the mindsets we possess.
While this may seem like an overstatement, research proves just how powerful our minds—and their boundless thoughts—can be. Take a look below to better understand how mindset truly does matter, and learn one simple, daily technique you can use to shift your own.
Magic Pill or Mindset Shift?
Minds can bring about healing. Placebo effect studies show that just by taking a sugar pill and giving the impression it’s an actual medication can lower blood pressure and boost the immune system; the placebo, non-medical sugar pill can trigger very specific neurological effects.
Make no mistake—there is no power in this pill. The power lies in the mindset surrounding that sugar pill and how it activates our body’s natural healing abilities.
In a study regarding perception, hotel workers who shifted mindsets from “work is work” to “work is exercise” experienced drastic changes in health. Initially, all workers believed their daily jobs provided an inadequate amount of exercise. But upon entering the study, half of the participants were told their routines met the daily exercise requirements. The participants who experienced this mindset shift also experienced physiological changes like weight loss and lower blood pressure.
In another study, researchers concluded that stress itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Participants in the study who believed stress to be harmful and reported experiencing high levels of stress increased their risk of premature death by 43%. Those who did not perceive stress to be harmful, on the other hand, but still experienced high stress levels were no more likely to die.
One’s mindset plays a significant role in the way we experience the world. Understanding and having the ability to shift your mindset, then, can improve health and life outcomes. The good news? Shifting your mindset (or changing perspective) can be done at any point in life due to the brain’s neuroplasticity. Neural networks can evolve and grow throughout one’s life, meaning that self-defeating and distorted beliefs can—through some effort—be shifted to become more self-serving, opportunistic beliefs.
A Daily Mindset Practice
Putting in the work is key to advancing a mindset shift; a very fundamental component to making sure those efforts are properly utilized is through consistent practice.
The brain, just like any other muscle in the body, needs to be strengthened. While challenging, habitually attempting to adopt a positive outcomes mindset is truly beneficial to the mind and, consequently, the body.
To build a mindset habit through daily practice, start by asking yourself these four simple questions at the beginning of each day:
- What am I most grateful for today?
- What new action do I have the opportunity to practice today?
- What reminds me of the miracle of simply existing?
- Who can I support in some way today?
These questions, asked at the start of each day, acknowledge abundance. Getting into the habit of asking yourself (and answering) these questions at the top of your day can help not only to set an abundant tone, it can slowly alter those neurons, so that you subconsciously shift your mindset towards a perpetual state of gratitude and abundance.
Starting your day with this positive outlook does not mean denying reality or negativity. In fact, gratitude expert Dr. Robert Emmons writes, “[t]o deny that life has its share of disappointments, frustrations, losses, hurts, setbacks, and sadness would be unrealistic and untenable. Life is suffering. No amount of positive thinking exercises will change this truth.”
These questions are not meant to discredit uncomfortable, negative, or traumatic experiences. Rather, they are meant to help you shape—or reshape—your reality so that you become more able to adapt, cope, and heal.
This daily practice is a way of training and deepening our attention towards gratefulness. By nurturing this capacity, we can cultivate clarity and resilience, which can support us in reframing and learning from the more difficult circumstances that unfold in our lives.
Task yourself with these four questions every morning for the next two weeks. Initially, it may feel daunting or even cumbersome; force yourself to trudge through the discomfort. At the end of two weeks, reflect on any changes you feel from your practice.
We may not be able to completely override physiology, but we can nudge it in the directions that we want and that serve us best.
This article has been clinically reviewed by Jamillah Hoy-Rosas, MPH, RDN, CDCES, and VP of clinical operations at One Drop, and Dr. Harpreet Nagra, PhD, VP, behavior science and advanced technologies at One Drop.