Mind over Matter. Apparently, I said this to my kids a lot when they were growing up. We were having a conversation the other day where I asked my daughters what words or phrases they remembered hearing over and over. “Mind over matter” was at the top of their list along with a few others. Do your best. You can do it. Be nice.

When they would get in an attitude funk, complain about being picked on at school, something not going right, or feeling unfair, I would say to them, “Mind over matter.” Despite their negative feelings, they could make the choice to have a positive mindset and not let the situation ruin their day or their week.

Here is the definition from Merriam-Webster:

Used to describe a situation in which someone is able to control a problem physical condition, etc. by using the mind.

Mind over matter is not easy. In fact, in times of challenge it can be very difficult to keep a positive mindset. However, a positive mindset is more important than you may know to your brain health and overall well-being.

The bad news first – when we are in situation of chronic stress and anxiety it harms our brains. Health studies show that stress can kill brain cells and even reduce the size of the brain.

The good news – Positive thinking improves our brain function and enhances our well-being. Research has shown that the brain grows new cells every day. The science is called neuroplasticity and means that the brain has the ability to change continuously throughout a person’s life.

With a conscious effort to think positively in response to situations we can reprogram our brains and change our life. Who wouldn’t want that?

I did not know about this research when I was sharing the importance of shifting the mind with my daughters. I learned from my own experience, when I allowed myself to ruminate over negative situations it brought me down. These negative thoughts led to negative behavior that spilled over into other areas of my life. Mind over matter – I told myself. I told my girls. By choosing to have an optimistic outlook despite circumstances, I felt better, and my interactions with others were also better.

Here are 5 steps you can take to change your thinking:

  1. Be aware of your thoughts. If you are not conscious of what you are thinking and how it is unhealthy you cannot change it. Be ok to simply sit with your thoughts and emotions. Be curious about them. Identify them.
  2. Realize negative thinking does not serve you well. When you become aware of your thoughts and how you interpret and respond to them, you will be empowered to take control. You can control your emotional state, and choose thoughts, reactions, and behaviors that best serve you.
  3. Let the negative thinking go. When you are aware of your thoughts, you can learn to hold on to the ones you want and dismiss the ones you do not want. This will take some practice but becomes easier with time. The key is to not let the negative mindset take root.
  4. Replace the negative thought with a positive one. Do your best to let go of the negative thoughts. It can be helpful to write down the negative thought and write down a positive, affirming thought to replace it.
  5. Feed your mind with positivity. Your brain processes everything so be intentional about filling your mind with positive things. Make sure that what you are reading, watching, or scrolling through on the internet is lifting you up. Think of it as brain food.

Positive thinking looks at the bright side of life and focuses on opportunities versus problems. As you practice this new mind shift, you will get faster getting yourself back in a positive mindset. When you think positively you can overcome more. You can achieve more. Your future will be better than your past.