How to Discover Your Best Possible Self
Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author of "One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan," one of Amazon's Top Gluten-Free and Weight Loss Diets. She is also a mother of three children - all labeled as either autistic, gifted, or creatively artistic. (You may read more about Abby at the bottom of this article.)
“Losing weight is a mental challenge. If you can take control of your mind, as well as your body, the weight loss will follow.”
How many times have you heard that quote? If you’ve ever watched The Biggest Loser, you’re probably familiar with that voice, “You can do it! Think positive and just keep going!” It may be easy for coaches to scream while you’re fighting with your own body to make it up that dreadful hill, but there is actually some truth in what they’re saying. Positive psychology teaches that you really can do it if you just think positively. The problem lies with getting to that point of thinking when you’ve been down on yourself for so long. How can you change bad thinking?
One of the first scientific studies on positive thinking was a study on positive emotions by a group of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill led by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson. This study, published in 2008, by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that people can actually create real value and build skills in life with positive thinking, and its impact can even be seen on health. Let’s take a look at the discovery of this study and how it may help you.
POLL: Ideal or Possible
Are you a person who looks for your "ideal" or "possible" self?
What Negative Thoughts Do to Your Brain
What would your response be if a black bear came out of the woods walking towards you while you were gardening in your backyard? It most likely would be fear, and you most likely would run towards the first door to safety. Never in your mind’s eye would you actually stop to think about the different paths you could take to deter this mean ole boy from eating you alive.
For years, research has shown that your brain is programmed to a specific action when negative emotions trigger. When that bear crossed your path, your entire focus was to get away from the bear. Running for cover may be the only thing on your mind, even though you may have had other options such as playing dead or plucking its eyes out with your garden rake. Unfortunately, the brain ignores other reliable options when your thoughts are fixed on negative emotions.
Limited focus and shutting out the world is a natural instinct when you’re fighting for your life. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about stumbling across bears too much in modern society. However, your brain is still programmed in the same way for other negative emotions. Have you ever been so angry that it keeps you from working efficiently? Or, were you ever so overwhelmed by your to-do list that you end up doing none of it? What happens from the guilt when you don’t exercise and eat right? Not only do these negative thoughts make you feel worse; they also hold you down from doing what you want to do.
“Power without a purpose is meaningless and worthless. A purpose that is firm can change the impossible to the possible. That is the power of our cause.” ~Nick Scott
The Benefits of Positive Thinking
In the study presented earlier in this positive psychology article, the impact of emotions was tested on five groups of subjects. Each group was shown different videos. Groups 1 and 2 were shown images that created positive feelings of joy or contentment. Group 3 was shown clips that were neutral and didn’t create any specific feelings. Group 4 and 5 were shown segments that created negative emotions of either anger or fear. After reviewing the films, each test subject was asked to imagine situations that created the same feelings from the films they watched. Afterward, they were instructed to complete a form that started with a phrase, “I would like to….” The form had 20 blank lines to complete. Those in Groups 1 and 2 wrote the most while Groups 4 and 5 wrote the least. This experiment proved that focus is broader with positive emotions, while closed minds were created by feelings of negativity.
Even better, positive feelings like joy and contentment also produce a much bigger benefit. Positive emotions actually amplify a skill set which helps develop useful resources for later use. You may be familiar with a young man by the name of Nick Scott. Devastated by a tragic car accident when he was only 16, he was paralyzed from the waist down. During the first couple of years, his life was turned upside down as he wallowed in his self-pity. He became overweight and very discouraged, and he didn’t have a purpose for life anymore. However, Nick knew deep down inside that he needed to ignite his mind and body. “Perspective” is the one thing that Nick gained after losing everything. After doing so, his positive energy flowed and helped him build several new skill sets. He is now a professional speaker, author, professional bodybuilder, personal trainer, and wheelchair ballroom dancer. Nick has been able to conquer anything he puts his mind to.
Powerful Beyond Measure
"Create value and build skills with positive thinking."
How to Create Positive Energy
None of us are strangers to frustrations. We live in a world that promotes perfectionism, and we have an ideal image for ourselves. Though we all want to be healthy, focusing only on body perfectionism (or whatever may keep you preoccupied) can keep you nearsighted and neglecting the really important things in life. In turn, stress only bottles up more negativity which will make you hold tighter to what you really want to let go of.
No matter the negative feelings you may have right now, you can widen your outlook and reshape who you are. If you’ve never had anyone tell you to get rid of the negative things in your life, then you’re being told here. Surround yourself with positive people, a job promoting team effort, and things that make you smile. Setting goals will help you become a more positive person.
Don’t get to your latter years asking, “Why didn’t I do this or that?” It will cause you much frustration. Find your perspective as suggested in The Ideal Self vs. The Possible Self from the Dream Positive, a positive psychology blog by CPPN. Your best bet would be to take a hard look in the mirror and lead a meaningful life by “changing [y]our view and letting go of the frustration” and “move on to shaping your life and yourself to approach your possible self.”
Your possible self is the key! Stop looking back, and find value in yourself. Broaden and build from this point forward.
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About the Author
Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, published author, and a naturopathic doctorate candidate. For more than a decade, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Hundreds have also consulted with her on gluten- and lactose-free diets due to health concerns such as Celiacs, depression, and developmental disabilities. Abby is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. She has been married for more than 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 20+ year cancer survivor.