Everyday, we make decisions based on our mindset. Research has shown that our decisions are impacted by the beliefs we have and the state of mind we’re in. Mindset is important because it can have a significant impact on our lives. Having a healthy mindset means being able to make clear and confident decisions that align with our values. Fortunately, these ideal decisions end up benefiting us mentally, spiritually and physically. On the other hand, having a negative and fixed mindset can be harmful to one’s health and interpersonal relationships. The views we adopt for ourselves profoundly affect the way we lead our lives.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to always have a growth mindset. I learned this from Dr. Carol Dweck who, after decades of research, discovered the power of mindset. She found that whatever we do can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. So in school, work, sports, and the arts, those with a fixed mindset - those who believe that abilities are fixed - are less likely to thrive than those with a growth mindset. This mindset is based on the idea that abilities can be developed and that nothing is set in stone. They believe that with hard work and practice, anything can be achieved. And this is a common yet easily forgotten idea that we are told as kids. We were urged to remember that we could do anything we wanted as long as we put our mind to it. It seems that adults need to be reminded of this.
A healthy mindset reaches not only the mind, but the soul. Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Buddhist monk, states that anger, despair, jealousy and delusion are the barriers to our happiness. Anger in particular can be dangerous because it can lead to violent actions. The main way we can cool our anger is by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness means to be present and in the moment - it can be achieved by meditating, mindful breathing and mindful walking. He found that people who practice mindfulness end up losing their anger completely and spreading their happiness to others. What mindfulness does is that it helps you empathize with the other person. Whether you’re in a conflict or argument, those who practice mindfulness don’t get emotional and actually try to understand the situation. They realize the other person’s suffering, and that compassion overrides any anger they may have.
Lastly, mindset can also determine our physical health. The way we perceive ourselves and fitness in general is found to have impacts on our health risks. In one study, mortality risk was 71% higher for those who perceived themselves as less active than their peers. Researchers found three possible causes for this: stress, motivation and mindset. We feel stressed when we’re not active enough and have no outlet to vent out stress. For motivation, those who believed they were less fit were less motivated and less likely to do any exercises. For those who were fit, having a negative mindset resulted in a nocebo effect - the opposite of a placebo effect. This is where if you have negative expectations, the physiological effect of a treatment is reduced. One example of this is when hotel housekeepers and their exercise habits were studied. For those who didn’t count their work of cleaning rooms and pushing heavy carts as exercise, their health was average. For those who were told their work was exercise and believed it, they had lost weight and had lower blood pressure. This view had caused more of a physical impact on them, and may have resulted in a placebo effect.
We now know the benefits of having a healthy mindset. There are many activities you can practice to bring about positivity:
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Hammond, C. (2018). How your mindset determines your health. BBC Future. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180410-how-your-mindset-determines-your-health
Hanh, T. N. (2001). Anger: Wisdom for cooling the flames. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.