Hope and vitality. These are the desires that often accompany the anticipation of a new year yet so many of us stumble and falter reverting to habits that do not serve us.
How do we harness the hope and vitality we so desperately crave yet often feel inadequate or incapable of realizing?
Psychologist Carol Dweck of Stanford and her seminal research on mindset provides us with an excellent starting place. Preparing ourselves to thrive begins with a growth mindset. Dweck describes a growth mindset as one which recognizes that extraordinary qualities can be developed and enhanced. In contrast, a fixed mindset sees human qualities as relatively stable, and success being dependent on innate intelligence.
Look around and start to pay attention to how people you admire react to situations. Someone who you view as inspirational both personally and professionally likely is motivated to learn, has a desire for hard work, is less discouraged by difficulty and tends to look at failure as an opportunity for growth and learning. This is what a growth mindset looks like. People with a growth mindset are more willing to experiment and step outside their comfort zone because if they fail, they look at it as a necessary step to “becoming” and believe anything is possible.
Carol Dweck emphasizes that the first step toward obtaining a growth mindset is self-awareness. To be self-aware, we must practice mindfulness. Jon Kabat Zinn, professor of medicine at University of Massachusetts defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” Meditation can be a great tool to practice mindfulness. Meditation involves giving your attention to only one thing. Consider a small investment into a mindfulness meditation app to start. I like Calm and Chopra. These tools provide short guided daily meditations as well as several other resources. Practicing mindfulness allows us to recognize the pause we have prior to our reaction. It is in this pause where we can have the power to make choices that promote hope and vitality in our lives.
Dweck offers these four steps to working towards a growth mindset:
- Listen to hear your fixed mindset voice. This is where mindfulness comes in so you can observe and notice when you are using a fixed mindset. It may sound something like this: “I might embarrass myself if I try that. I’ve never done that before so I better not to be on the safe side.”
- Know that you have a choice. For example, if you do fail at something, you can choose a fixed mindset and judge yourself for it or you can choose a growth mindset and think about what you gained or learned from the experience.
- Talk back to a fixed mindset. When the fixed mindset responds, challenge it with a growth mindset. For example, if you hear yourself saying something like “I’m no good at sales.” Actively change your fixed response to a growth response: “Being good at sales is a learned skill. I am going to enroll in a class on sales and begin practicing and learn as I go.”
- Follow through and keep practicing using a growth mindset. When setbacks occur, look at them as valuable learning opportunities in your process toward growth. Maintain a focus on the process, not the outcome.
To recognize the benefits of mindfulness and be capable of choosing a growth mindset, we need to help our brain function better by feeding a healthy microbiome. There is a bi-directional communication between our gut and our brain. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) – are inflammatory toxins which come from components of the cell walls of certain bacteria in our gut. These toxins can cross the blood-brain barrier and negatively impact our ability to create new healthier habits. Studies show a standard American highly processed diet led to a 71% increase in blood LPS levels, while levels decreased by 31% in people on a whole-food balanced diet which feeds a healthy gut microbiome. Likewise, these whole food diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids have helps to protect against cognitive decline. Omega-3s increase the secretion of anti-inflammatory compounds in the brain and can have a protective effect, especially in older adults.
.Another way the Standard American Diet may negatively impact the brain is by reducing the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) This protein is found in various parts of the brain and is needed for learning and the growth of new neurons and new pathways (or synapses). We need these new synapses to form when we are attempting to create new healthy habits. BDNF also supports long-term-memory. Therefore, any reduction can have negative impacts on these functions. To read more about how to change your highly-processed diet for the better read Engineered for Overconsumption and Fueling a Healthy Microbiome.
Working toward a growth mindset, practicing mindfulness, and eating to fuel a healthy gut microbiome are all considered adaptive changes. In other words, they take time, patience, practice, and support. We at Eutierria Wellness are ready to support you on your journey with a variety of classes; functional and integrative nutrition, and life coaching; cognitive, reiki and massage therapy. Learn more about what we do and who we serve by visiting the Promise of Vitality website. Email firstname.lastname@example.org today to schedule your free 15-minute phone consultation to learn more about if our approach is a good fit for you in your journey towards hope and vitality.