The power of positive thought

This article is written by David Haworth, our tutor in Malta & Gozo and author of many of our online personal development courses. You can find out more about the courses he teaches here, and about his online personal development courses here.

The human brain is both amazing and baffling, isn’t it? Sometimes we have no idea why we think what we think. Science helps us to understand how the brain does what it does, to a certain extent. We can understand how the brain and nervous system control our unconscious functions – our breathing and heart rate for example, and we can understand a little about how our conscious and unconscious thoughts control our state of mind, and our actions. 

Throughout your brain, there is a collection of synapses separated by empty space called the synaptic gap. Whenever you have a thought, one synapse shoots a chemical across the cleft to another synapse, building a bridge over which an electric signal can cross, carrying the relevant information you’re thinking about.

But every time this electrical charge is triggered, the synapses grow closer together in order to decrease the distance the electrical charge has to cross. The brain rewires itself, physically changing to make it easier and more likely that the proper synapses will share the chemical link; making it easier for the thought to trigger. Your thoughts reshape your brain.

The synapses you’ve most strongly bonded together (by thinking about something more frequently) come to represent your default personality: your intelligence, skills, aptitudes, and most easily accessible thoughts. The synapses that you use more are literally closer together – they trigger first, dictating the outcome of a particular event or stimulus in your mind, and dictating your response. 

And it’s not just your own thoughts that can alter your brain and shift those synapses; the thoughts of those around you can do it as well; When we see someone experiencing an emotion (be it anger, sadness, happiness, etc), our unconscious mind “tries out” that same emotion to imagine what the other person is going through. And it does this by attempting to fire the same synapses in your own brain so that you can attempt to relate to the emotion you’re observing. Empathy, right? Happy people make us happy people. 

But it’s also true with friends who constantly love to moan, whether it’s about their job, their partner, the government, whatever little thing they can pick apart. We sympathetically and unconsciously fire off the same synapses in our brain. Ouch! 

For example, most people know that “How are you?” is generally a friendly greeting, not an invitation for a detailed health bulletin. But my friend Max sees things differently….

“Well, I’m getting over my cold now but my sciatica is playing up terribly. And, you know, I have the most awful pain in my bum … and…and…”  

If you know someone like him, you might find yourself switching off, rather than suffer the next 15 minutes listening to his aches and pains. Society is full of these characters! In fact, we are all totally capable of behaving in this way from time to time, aren’t we?

Put yourself in Max’s shoes. What is constantly going through his mind?

He must be totally preoccupied with his own health… or his perceived lack of health.

Max is in his early forties. I have known him for 10 years and he has never been any different. He is, would you believe it, a fit and active father of five.

So think about it.  Max constantly fills his head with pictures of his imagined ailments and injuries.  I have no doubt that from time to time he does suffer ordinary aches and pains as we all do, but whereas most of us pass them off as the everyday occurrences of life, Max dwells on them, builds pictures in his mind and then, as soon as he gets the opportunity, tells all his friends and acquaintances about them.

What does that do?  It reinforces every one of those ailments in his own mind (and it probably affects the minds of those he talks to too). The pictures get bigger and brighter and more vivid and what were once little aches and pains become bigger aches and pains because he dwells upon them. Max is addicted to his own story.  He enjoys telling people how bad he feels.  And for him, it’s an addiction that needs to be broken.

And what will his five children be like when they grow up, do you think?

Interactions with Max-types can make your short-path-personality as jaded and bitter as theirs over time. This is why it is so important to spend time with people who lift you up, who are positive, happy, and optimistic; people who generally see the good before the bad.

Even better, spend time with groups of like-minded and positive people. Collective consciousness is incredibly powerful – it has the power to change our thought patterns and mindset for good, or bad. We can all think of historical figures who have used and abused the power of collective consciousness for good, and for bad. For us, in this time of global connectedness and collective consciousness, we have the choice to use it for almost infinite good, to make lasting and meaningful change in the world. What do you want to change in the world? Because you can!

You are in control of your own unconscious mind, your state of mind, and your own happiness, if only you knew it.