Positive or Negative: What Is Your Brain’s Default Mode?

startup business, software developer working on computer at modeWe see and hear a lot of recommendations for how we can not only improve ourselves but also find balance in an increasingly frenetic world.  But not everyone is ready to practice yoga or begin mindfulness training. So I’m going to share something I often suggest to clients when they feel as if they are on a runaway train and life is a blur:

Take control of your brain.

When we aren’t actively focused on something—for example, if we are daydreaming or vaguely replaying our day—our brain goes into default mode—neuroscientists actually call it the default network. Scientists don’t understand this particular phenomenon very well, but I have spent the last few years noticing my own and others’ default patterns or habits.  When driving in the car or walking from one place to another, our default mode is either positive or, more often, negative.

Examples of negative thought patterns are:

  • Reviewing your day and lamenting what you could have said instead of what you did say
  • Wondering what others think of you
  • Reviewing your to-do list even if you have it written down in three places
  • Worrying about how long the line at the grocery store is going to be

The best way to stop a habit is to replace it with another one.  If you notice that your default mode tends to be negative, try substituting one of these positive habits:

  • Visualize a map pointing out everyone who loves you—and imagine beaming love at them.
  • Make a list in your head of everything you are grateful for. Be specific—for example, don’t just list “my health” if it is good; list all the things are great about being healthy: Your brain works well, enabling you to have an interesting job, and your knees work well, allowing you to practice yoga.
  • If you find yourself complaining about something, think of what your life would be like without it. For example, if you are annoyed about sitting at a long traffic light, think about the chaos and gridlock that would exist if the light weren’t there!

Your brain is always working.  Help it move in a positive direction that serves you—who you want to be and where you want to go. Just because life moves fast doesn’t mean it can’t be wonderful and meaningful and special. As you plunge headlong into the last month of the year, give positive thought patterns a try!

About the Author

Madeleine_2_WebMadeleine Blanchard is the co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

2 thoughts on “Positive or Negative: What Is Your Brain’s Default Mode?

  1. This is a terrific blog post. I have felt that my gratitude journal was too general and tends to list the same things over and over again. I have kept that journal for about a year now, listing out 5 things I’m grateful for every night before I go to bed. It has helped retrain my brain, but now I will add in some more specific details for each item as you suggest. That will take it deeper and make it more vivid. Happy Holidays!

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