“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” -Buddha
There is no more powerful or challenging change we can make in our lives than looking at how we think. The human mind generates hundreds of thousands of thoughts every day and, for most people, the majority of them are negative. Negative thought patterns are so repetitive and familiar that often we don’t even witness them, or worse still, we accept them as the truth.
The remarkable thing about the plasticity of our minds is that changing our thought content is as simple as learning to watch and bear witness to our habitual negative thinking and deliberately replacing them with positive thoughts. Positive thinking is often mistaken for pie-in-the-sky happiness or overwhelming joy, which is too large a leap to make from the negative banter in our heads. Actually, positive thinking begins with thoughts like curiosity, openness and wonder. Choosing to not “know” allows for thoughts that can move you away from entrenched negative or judgmental thinking and open you to seeing your world in a new way.
I began wearing a positivity bracelet two years ago when I was seeking a way to change my own thinking. At the beginning of this process, it can be overwhelming to begin to look at the number of negative thoughts that are leading your life. It was at this time that I discovered the idea of a positivity bracelet. The positivity bracelet links your negative thinking to a conscious, physical act of moving the bracelet from one wrist to the other and back again throughout the day as you mark your negative thoughts and replace them with something open and neutral.
As with any change of behavior, it is the first weeks of making the change that are most crucial. Some behavioral therapists suggest you can change any behavior in 21 days of consistent attention. Perhaps it depends on how long you have kept the habit and how strongly entrenched it is in you. For me, it took 82 days of wearing a positivity bracelet to replace the majority of my negative thinking with more positive thoughts. Some days were discouraging, but like any good habit that nurtures what you are trying to develop, it feeds on itself.
The process is kind of like cleaning out an old closet that you can’t even see into. As you discard the clutter of habitual thinking, you actually find a refreshing space of attention available to contain other more positive thinking. You have room to become your own friend, and slowly, day by day, this deep internal shift impacts everything you touch. The practice allows you to create and listen for the thoughts that will move you closer to the life you actually want.
I still use this practice two years later when I lose track of my positive direction. But now I am so fast at catching any negativity that comes up in me that I rarely slip down the slippery slope of doubt and fear. Working with your thoughts is a way of life that begins with the abiding recognition that as you think – so you are.
This year, confident in the changes I have made in myself, I began to teach positivity at the local high school. It began as a Positive Charge group with the mission of transforming one of the interior courtyards in the school to a positive memorial garden and has slowly mushroomed into health class curriculum. All the kids in the classes made their own positivity bracelets with wide rubber bands, each student added their own words to remind them of making the shift to more positive thinking. Their results held up, and because these students were so young, after only a few days they could see the power of paying attention to their thinking.
This has emboldened me to get the whole school on board. Consequently, our Positive Charge club is selling wristbands. My grand experiment is to see how much positivity we can instill in the high school youth. I will keep you posted.
Soon, the bands will be available on goodcleanlove.com with a practical positivity training program. Expanding positivity is my continued resolution and I finally have the courage to watch the circles grow larger around me.