How to Reset Your Mindset to Set Forward Your Life

Zarate, Rebecca A. “Optical Illusion: Can You See Vase And Faces
Simultaneously?” UA Magazine, 12 Nov. 2014

Quick. What did you see first? Depending on how you perceive it, the illusion fluidly shifts between a vase or two side profiles staring at each other. 

Varini, Felice. Cinq Cercles Concentriques. Medium, 2 Oct. 2016, medium.com/
@tqvinn/the-secret-to-anamorphic-illusions-853e3674209a. Accessed 16 Jan.
2021.

And this time, the anamorphic illusion above poses as a set of concentric circles, but once you shift slightly to the side,  the calculated craftsmanship of the piece becomes apparent. 

In both of these illusions, the perspective through which you view it completely alters the identity of the object. This analogy continues into our daily lives through our mindset. 

Mindset- “ A setting of the mind; the way you view the world; a lens that orients an individual to a particular set of associations and expectations” (TED) 

Our mindset has the power to completely alter the way we view the world, and therefore, the way we approach situations and make progress. While mindset is a difficult concept to fully understand due to its ambiguity, neuroscientists have studied to gather empirical data, it’s irrefutable that to a degree, our mindsets transform the results of situations.  

The infamous placebo effect provides concrete evidence of this.  Dr. Alia Crum, speaker of TED Talk “Change your mindset, change the game,” explained that in a famous study, patients who were aware of being given treatment, and therefore EXPECTING the effects of medication, had significantly improved medication responses. Following cardiothoracic surgery, patients who witnessed a doctor give them morphine (medicine to decrease pain) reported significantly lower levels of pain in the following hours than patients who were given medicine through a pump, and therefore unaware of the medication. Similar results followed in studies involving anxiety, Parkison’s disease, and hypertension medication, with medications being upwards of 20% more effective when patients were made aware of treatment administration. 

The difference in mindset here is the expectation of results. Some patients had a mindset where they expected improvements to their conditions, while others did not. And this, seemingly simple change in mindset, with the exact same medication, was able to invoke wildly different physiological responses that improved patient health. 

Okay, different mindsets can revolutionize outcomes. That’s incredible… but HOW can I alter my mindset? 

I recently had the pleasure of reading “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor, through which he introduced scientifically proven ways to improve your mood. The following tips aren’t just tricks but are critically tested methods that have led to statistically significant improvements in moods across studies. Although you’ve likely heard some of these methods repeated over and over, I encourage you to consider them again, given this newfound information about their proven effectiveness. 

  1. Meditate 

Neuroscientists have studied the brains of Monks who meditate frequently have an enlarged prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain largely responsible for happiness, demonstrating neuroplasticity. Meditation has the power to physically evolve the brain, allowing these physical alterations to manifest in concrete changes in our mood. Of course, you don’t need to dedicate your life to meditation, but try some out sometime! Try out a routine. I’m personally working on incorporating meditation into my routine, but am far from achieving it. But a favorite has been for just 5 minutes in the morning. Whether or not my prefrontal cortex is actually growing, I at least feel better for sure after. Give it a go, and let us know if it helps. 

  1. Active acts of kindness

A study involving over 2000 people tasked with completing five acts of kindness a day, reported feeling happier for many days after, long after the study concluded. Active, or conscious, acts of kindness are those which you complete deliberately, not on a whim. For instance, “Today I’ll pay for the meal of the person behind me in the drive-through” is a conscious act of kindness. 

  1. Exercise 

A group of depressed individuals was split up to receive 3 treatments: medication only, medication and exercise, and exercise only. Six months post-treatment, 38% of those who received medication only relapsed, but what’s shocking is that only 9% of those who exercised relapsed. Exercise isn’t just an effective solution, but a long-lasting one as well. Don’t be discouraged if you think you’re not fit or athletic, exercise is what you make of it and what you like to do. There are endless options that can be personalized to your liking, fitness, and schedule, whether you like a morning run, after school weight-lifting, or bedtime yoga for 10 minutes. It’s all up to you. Whatever feels good to you, try it! 

  1. Create something to look forward to, big or small

“One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent. “ (The Happiness Advantage, 52). In this current time, it’s understandably difficult to look forward to much. However, this time is also an opportunity to indulge in life’s simple pleasures, like trying a new hobby or binging your favorite movies.

Although I can’t leave the house, something I look forward to each week is my “no-work” Friday nights. Every week I look forward to this time when I promise myself I’m allowed to fully relax guilt-free. This simple construction, when I promise myself time to nap, indulge in movies, make snacks, facetime friends, etc is something that keeps me going every week and I encourage you to construct something similar. 

The work of neuroscientists provides us all a hopeful glimpse into the future. Their study of methods to improve our moods empower us with tangible, proven ways to increase our happiness: meditation, active acts of kindness, exercise, creating something to look forward to, etc. Combined with the practice of shifting our perspectives (ex. school is a chore→ school is an opportunity of learning for self-empowerment; work is tiresome→ work is an opportunity to develop critical skills and earn money while you’re at it), we can begin on a journey of transforming ourselves without having to transform anything about the reality around us.

Works Cited:

Achor, Shawn. The Happiness Advantage. Crown Publishing Group, 2010.

“Change your mindset, change the game.” Youtube, uploaded by Alia Crum, TEDx
     Talks, 15 Oct. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tqq66zwa7g. Accessed 16 Jan.
     2021.

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