How did I get here? It’s a question we all ask ourselves when life isn’t quite living up to our expectations. The inevitable setbacks we experience — from a stalled career to a fizzled relationship — can pile up, priming our mind to expect more stress and letdowns in the future.
The key to climbing out of any rut, however, may be as easy as honing our ability to notice everything that’s going right. “What’s unique about positive thinking and positive emotions is that they have the power to expand our awareness,” reveals psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, author of Positivity ($12.49, Amazon). “Whereas negative emotions dramatically narrow our perspective so we can only see the bad stuff.” According to a long-term Harvard study, optimistic women are 30 percent more likely to achieve their goals than their pessimistic peers.
And experiencing a miracle can be brought on by that slight shift in thinking, confirms Marianne Williamson, author of A Year of Miracles ($13.45, Amazon). “When I believe in people’s goodness, they’re more likely to show me kindness; and when I believe in miracles, I’m more likely to find them around me.”
Science proves it: According to a feel-good snowball effect called the “frequency phenomenon,” when we focus on something good, we notice more of it, says psychologist and interfaith minister Valerie Galante, PhD, M.Div. “We naturally see what we’re looking for, thinking about, and expecting from life.” Here, experts reveal how to easily achieve a miracle mind-set and instantly turn stress into serenity.
Feeling uncertain? Create a vision board.
You’ve always dreamed of starting your own bakery, but just the thought of leaving the stable corporate job you’ve held for years makes you anxious. “When you take a big leap, it’s natural to be uncertain because you don’t know what’s going to happen”, says Jen Sincero, success coach and author of You Are a Badass. And the stress of the unknown can cause you to hyper-focus only on what can go wrong.
To reframe your thoughts so an impossible dream seems possible, Sincero suggests crafting a vision board — a poster filled with images that represent your ideal future. In one study, subjects who did so were twice as likely to feel confident they’d achieve their dreams. This tactic works especially well for women because we’re naturally intuitive and able to tap into the right, visual hemisphere of our brain more easily than men, notes Sincero. “I’ve seen women use vision boards to manifest goals — and miracles! — down to the tiniest detail. It’s like having a craft day with God!”
Doubting yourself? Shift from fear to love.
Your daughter invited you to join her in a charity walk-a-thon, but after gaining weight, you find yourself worrying that you won’t have the stamina to keep up. Now all you can think is: I can’t do this. I will be huffing and puffing. I will embarrass my daughter. “Your thoughts matter,” explains Galante, “because your brain will begin to look for evidence to back up what it’s been told.”
To defeat self-doubt, she encourages us to “intentionally shift from fear-based thinking to love-based thinking.” Instead of fretting about what you’re lacking, slip into what Galante calls “a loving mind-set,” where you refocus on all the things that you love about what you’re doing — like spending time with your daughter and helping people in need — no matter the outcome. Explains Galante, “When you’re in ‘love mode’, you won’t be fearful you’ll fail, as the two emotions can’t exist at the same time, so doubt miraculously disappears!”
Confused or disappointed? Enhance joy with gratitude.
You’ve been looking forward to becoming an empty nester, dreaming your life would be filled with new adventures. But instead, it’s nothing like you’d imagined, and now you’re drowning in conflicting feelings. The reason? New research has found that feelings of disappointment cause two different neurotransmitters in the brain to fire at once — one that dampens positive emotions and one that enhances positive emotions. And the ratio of how much is fired of each determines how deeply we feel disappointment.
To ensure your brain fires more neurotransmitters that enhance positive emotions, Sincero suggests practicing gratitude each day. A recent study reveals that counting blessings and writing gratitude letters to loved ones reduced blue moods by 41 percent in six months. You can also reap the benefits by referring to your list of blessings when you suffer a setback to remind yourself of all the small miracles that have already happened in your life — and prove more are on the way.
Feeling overwhelmed? Pray into possibilities.
Old friends are coming to stay tomorrow, but instead of feeling excited, you’re reeling under the stress of last-minute tasks as you try to make the reunion picture-perfect. Before you know it, you’re kicking yourself for offering up a room for the weekend because it’s making you so tense. “With every thought we have, we can either summon or block a miracle from our awareness,” says Williamson. “So the stress-filled pressure we put on ourselves can dim our joy and keep us from living fully.”
The key, she says, to silencing your anxiety-inducing “perfection monster” and opening your mind and heart to the miracles all around you is as easy as saying a short, positive prayer or affirmation. “Prayer changes my life by changing me; it gives me confidence in a power that can do for me what I cannot do for myself — and it can work wonders to break up negative thinking, even if you aren’t religious. It’s like pressing a reset button on your brain,” shares Williamson. She recites this empowering prayer when she’s feeling overwhelmed or trapped in an anxiety loop: “Help me be fully present for my life today. Let every moment carry new beginnings, infinite possibility, joy, and peace.”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.