I looked around and was silenced mid-sentence. Fingers halted in empty air over the keyboard, I was doing a fair impression of a goldfish. It was not what I expected to see. But it just goes to show how much our inner world can influence the outer and how complex the chain of events can be that lead from ‘cannot’ to ‘can’.
There is much written these days about the power of positive thinking; some from a scientific and psychological perspective, some bordering on the lunatic fringe… and just about every possible shade in between from the sleekly professional, to views as fluffy as an angora rabbit. What most of us will come across hangs somewhere in the middle and takes a common sense approach to how we can make our daily life a better place to be.
We recognise negative thought as a limiting behaviour… our thoughts narrow our focus and refuse to move from their problem at hand. We react to specific situations and fail to see the other possibilities around us, creating a downward and inward spiral that effectively blocks us from finding a solution to the problem; either that, or we are so engrossed in taking immediate action that we are blind to all else.
Positive thinking has many well documented benefits for health and wellbeing. In one test, two groups were set up in order to control the experiment where the main group were asked to write about an intensely positive experience every day for just three days. Three months later their health and emotions were measurably better than the control group. It isn’t just writing that helps; anything that lifts the mood is a step in creating that positive mindset. Doing something you love, being with people with whom you are happy, creating art, music or craftwork, maybe riding a bike… or simply playing, allowing yourself to take time out just for fun.
One recent study looked at how and why a positive mindset could bring specific and long term effects. The findings showed that, amongst other measurable benefits, positivity enhances creative thought, by widening the focus so that all manner of possibilities can be admitted into the moment.
But possibilities are not concrete realities… and to translate the one into the other there is another ingredient, that is required and one not so simple to create… belief in ourselves. We are very good at hiding the cracks in the way we value ourselves. Buried deep, there is often something akin to the impostor syndrome, where we simply don’t think we really deserve the happiness, health, love, success…or any number of other states our surface mind strives to achieve. It is a belief which may have grown though out our lives, with small incidents and large adding strength to its presence.
Many are aware that they are not as confident as they may seem to others, but this elusive lack of belief is hard to pin down and often goes unnoticed. While it lurks in the shadows, we are entirely capable of sabotaging our efforts without even knowing it. We may also choose not to make an attempt for fear of not succeeding as we feel we should… a fear rooted not in any real assessment of our capabilities, but in an invisible and insidious belief that we are bound to fail.
Conversely, when we do believe in ourselves we are capable of achieving great things. That belief too tends to be something that has built up slowly over a period of time and with the confirmation of innumerable small successes. It is something we can encourage, by acknowledging those things we have achieved… from the small to the large… from evicting a spider from the bathtub to getting that promotion or publishing a book. We build a portfolio of associations that make us feel confident and bolster our belief in ourselves and what we can do… and who we are.
And sometimes everything just comes together. Time, place and mindset combine to produce the perfect moment for big things to happen. Take this weekend, for example. My son was out on his trike and chose to turn up at my door after a very long ride. Ani, who sees him rarely, had been ‘singing’ for several minutes and doing the ‘postman dance’, a very specific circular prancing that alerts me when we are going to have visitors or ‘intruders’ (like postmen…). I parked the trike and helped him inside. As we reached the door to the living room, with the dog bounding around him joyously, he said he felt he ought to be able to just walk across the room. I too, against all logic, felt that it ‘should’ so.
I helped him to the sofa, with the ecstatic dog bringing him balls faster than he could throw them. She has a habit of dropping them too far away when she is excited. I needed to look something up on the computer…and turned round to see my son walking across the living room to the table. This was where the goldfish impression came in…because, of course, my son can’t walk unaided…except on May Day… and, apparently, here…
When my mouth had finally closed and settled into an inane grin, we talked about what had happened. He had ‘just thought he could’; the room had that effect… a place that had been the scene of many moments of progress and triumph, large and small, when he came back home after the brain injury and our days were entirely focussed on his recovery. We had adopted a consciously optimistic stance, even while we acknowledged the more dire and official prognosis. We chose, here in this place, to believe he would recover and the association of place is positive… I could understand why he had felt that way. Then too, he had just arrived under his own steam, on a trike that was allowing him freedom to explore without someone pushing a wheelchair; something that cannot help boosting his self-belief. If ever there was a time and place to try, this was it. And he succeeded, placing yet another link in the chain of belief that will allow him to walk unaided again.
I think we underestimate the power of place and time. It is easy to recognise the effects of being somewhere that makes you feel good… a heather strewn dawn on the moors will do it for me, every time. Asking ‘why’ may throw some light on the associations we have with a location; it doesn’t matter to me which moor, for example… they all take me back to childhood, happiness and being with people I have loved. To be in such a place, with such associations, is always uplifting and opens the doors of possibility. Such a place is the ‘right’ place to find belief and embrace our hopes and dreams, opening ourselves to whatever possibilities the universe might offer. And the right time… whenever that feeling surfaces that you can be who you were always meant to be…is now.