The effect of negative beliefs
Nowadays, many studies prove that our mindset has a significant impact on our behaviour. And various disciplines, such as positive psychology, neuroscience and educational science, are investigating this topic. Let’s take a basic example: If, when faced with a difficult task, you keep repeating in your head: “I can’t do it, I’m a total failure, I have zero skills, the others are always better than me” – how likely is it, that you will succeed with this task? Quite unlikely. The power of thought makes feelings and beliefs become realities in our minds. However, this does not mean that these thoughts are true! We all have encountered negative beliefs that make our lives harder than they need to be. From childhood onwards, we ‘collect’ the first of these beliefs and often carry them around with us for the rest of our lives. We aren’t even aware of most of these negative beliefs, which is why it can be challenging to break free from their influence. Yet this is essential for our success and wellbeing because whether they are conscious or unconscious, negative beliefs inevitably influence us. They gradually become an integral part of our identity and our view of the world. For example, if you are told that you are not worthy of love from an early age, this belief will keep influencing your identity and behaviour. It will reinforce itself by creating a positive feedback loop: you behave according to your negative beliefs and experience a situation according to that behaviour, reinforcing your conviction that your belief is true.
Why our mindset is so important
Our inner mindset influences our actions; our actions become our behaviour, which then shapes our lives. According to scientific studies, we have about 60,000 individual thoughts per day, of which, on average, only three per cent are positive . For evolutionary reasons, we react more strongly to negative experiences and thoughts than to positive ones . But what used to be an essential survival mechanism of our brain now often keeps us from being truly satisfied and happy. What, then, can we do when negative thoughts constantly get in the way of our happiness, success and self-esteem? That’s where mindset training comes in handy. If we realise that our thoughts are just thoughts and not necessarily reality, then the relentless inner critic loses a lot of its leverage. But that is easier said than done. Fortunately, there are many different methods that you can use to learn to focus more on the good things in life. Be it a gratitude journal, positive affirmations, meditation or, for example, the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) by Steven C. Hayes . All these approaches show you how to learn a new method to deal with negative thoughts.
The impact on health and fitness
Our mindset affects all aspects of our lives. Our work, our interactions with family and friends, and even our workouts! An example: Psychologist Alia J. Crum, Principle Investigator of the Stanford Mind & Body Lab, studies how our mindset influences domains such as exercise, diet, and stress. In 2007 she conducted a study that examined whether one’s mindset affects the relationship between exercise and health . The participants were 84 housekeepers working in various hotels in the USA. These women are on their feet all day long and use a variety of muscles just by doing their job. However, when asked, “Do you exercise regularly?”, two-thirds of the women answered “No”. Next, one half of this group was given a simple 15-minute presentation and told that their work (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle. The result: although the actual behaviour of both groups did not change, four weeks later, the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before – and they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index. That illustrates just how much our inner attitude also influences our health and wellbeing. And it explains why professional athletes, coaches and fitness trainers always take the mindset into account when it comes to mastering the next competition or a new challenge.