There’s a notable saying which goes, “If you think you can’t, you won’t. But if you think you can, you will.” We’ve all heard similar versions of this motto at some point in our lives from either our parents, mentors, friends, or loved ones. Most of us have probably rolled our eyes with scepticism and annoyance upon hearing this cliché too. However, the science behind the power of thinking positive may actually prove that self-confidence is indeed the key to success.
In her YouTube video from Awesomeness Fest titled “How to change your frequency to change your reality”, Christie Marie Sheldon shared that “everything you see in the out-picturing of your life really is the effect of your life. And everything that created it was created by all your thoughts, beliefs, ideologies and every judgement you’ve ever made. Those points of you make up your reality. That’s why your life is the way it is.”
In this sense, everything that happens to you is in itself, a construct. In fact, the New York Times reported that an experiment by psychologists at Yale University found that “a subconscious brain that is far more active, purposeful and independent than previously known. (Many) goals… are like neural software programs that can only be run one at a time, and the unconscious is perfectly capable of running the program it chooses.” What this essentially means is that you are in control of your thoughts – you can choose to adopt positive thinking and throw negative thoughts out of the window. By altering your thoughts, you can also change your reality.
Our brain happens to be inextricably connected to our sympathetic nervous system – also known as the “fight or flight” system – which enforces priorities manifested by our personal thoughts. Learning how your sympathetic nervous systems operate is especially integral for athletes and those seeking to enhance their endurance levels.
For instance, the vagus nerve, which is a part of the para-sympathetic nervous system that controls all of our organs, lowers cardiac output. When the brain detects any risks, it will reduce your cardiac rate to limit your physical activity, such that that more oxygen and blood glucose is diverted to the brain instead of the muscles. Moreover, the golgi nerve controls the maximum constructional force of muscles to protect the body from possible trauma, yet individuals are able to push their typical limits such as lifting colossal loads or even cars in dire situations. This is able to occur because the brain, which is also the body’s survival mechanism, overrides the golgi nerve.
So how exactly do these scientific occurrences help you achieve your fitness goals? Well, manipulating your mind doesnt just involve repeating mantras like, “I can do this!”’, especially if you don’t actually believe it to begin with. You need to take it a step further by convincing your brain that you are in a safe environment, and give it reason to trust your thoughts. Ironically, however, this does not mean that you need to possess a strong sense of self-belief. It has been found that high performers do not necessarily have a strong self-belief, but instead, possess a marked lack of self-doubt. This means that if you’re trying to push your limits in the gym, you should be holding onto thoughts like “I don’t think I can’t do it” instead of “I think I can do it.”
While the science behind self-confidence and positive thinking may not be as intuitive and arguably requires more in-depth research for a clearer understanding, it is important to increase our own awareness of your biological process in order to influence and manipulate your body and mind in the most effective way possible. After all, only you have the power to change your life and the reality you live in.