The Sunny Side of the Street: Four Ways to Rewire Your Brain for Positivity

“For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7, Holy Bible.

Let’s talk about brainwashing yourself.

Okay, I’ll admit that sounds a little strange; but when you get right down to it, brainwashing is a kind of pounded-in, acquired training you find very difficult to break. That’s not always bad. I’m not talking about Manchurian Candidate-level conditioning, just self-teaching that helps you succeed. This involves simple, practical ways of rewiring your subconscious mind from negativity to positivity, so instead of being what a colleague of mine calls a “PITA negatron,” you automatically look for the best side of any situation.

Every affirmation you tell yourself each morning, every photo you look at to motivate yourself, every mantra you consider, every firm belief in this Secret or that—it’s all a way of reprograming your subconscious mind to “direct your feet to the sunny side of the street,” as the old song says. And that’s great!

There’s a reason we have so many sayings about maintaining positivity: “Every cloud has a silver lining.” “It’s an ill wind that blows no good.” “Reframe challenges as opportunities.” “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” We throw these sayings around to fight off the demons of negative self-talk, worry, and depression. They help you “Just Keep Swimming” as Dory said from the movie Nemo, pushing toward maximum productivity with a song in your heart and a spring in your step.

I’m sure a few of the curmudgeonly among you will greet that statement with rolled eyes and a “Hrmph,” but give it a try. As one of my mentors used to say, “Everything’s difficult until it’s easy.” It may sound simplistic, but it’s deeper than you think. It’s no newsflash that you get better at something the more you work at it, but this doesn’t just apply to tasks. It also works for ways of thinking. The more you try to think positively, the more positively you’ll think. (← Click to Tweet)

Here are just a few ways to help rewire your brain toward positivity:

1. Do nice things for people. Recently, someone in front of me at the Starbucks line paid for my coffee! So I paid for the person behind me! All of us went away happy, our days a bit brighter. A result of positive thinking? You bet!

2. Look for the positive. We’re more likely to remember negative things, because back in the caveman days, it helped keep us alive. So before bedtime, think of several positive things that happened that day. Strive for at least three, preferably more, even if you have to stretch to get them. Celebrating someone’s birthday at the office might be one high point. Maybe your best friend got a raise. You got a call from your son. Little gems like these can glow so brightly they light up an otherwise drab day.

3. Choose happy. Depending on your upbringing and personality, you may have an unreasonably high setting on your “happiness thermostat.” Change it! Just because your parents demanded straight A’s on your report cards or your first boss required perfection in all things doesn’t mean you have to be 100% perfect to be happy. Instead of a killer 100° on the happiness thermostat, treat yourself to a cooler 80° and smile and breathe deeply.

4. Cut bad thoughts off at the pass. You can’t avoid all negativity—and sometimes, you need a little stress to get you up off your duff. But you can’t let negative thoughts eat you alive, either. So when negativity attacks you, think of something positive. Don’t sweep anything under the rug, but don’t let pessimism overwhelm you. Overcome it. I tell myself, “This too shall pass.” They’re clichéd but true and have worked for so many others.

The Good, the Bad, and… the Silly

Don’t let yourself fall into the negativity trap. Bad things do happen, but don’t dwell on them constantly—because then you’ll expect more bad things to happen, and may program your subconscious self into creating self-fulfilling prophesies. Look for the good, even if you have to force yourself, so you’ll eventually default to expecting the best.

And by the way: if you’re working yourself into a lather because your mocha isn’t perfect, or you’re ticked off because everybody in the department got a new computer except you, watch this amusing video—and then follow the directions.

© 2017 Laura Stack.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland