There’s a 99.9% chance that when you hear the word “cortisol,” you immediately think of stress. The heart racing, the sweaty palms, the shortness of breath – it all sounds familiar, right? As expected, feeding into these responses and stressful thoughts leads to even higher cortisol levels. And while cortisol, known as the stress hormone, comes in handy during moments that are either dangerous or high stakes, it also impacts us during the most inconvenient times. Never forget that anxiety-inducing time when your boss dropped a bomb that left a tense air in the (Zoom meeting) room. (Yep, you know exactly what we’re talking about.)
Don’t worry – you’re not the only one who feels betrayed by their brain. Turns out that in many ways, we’re “hardwired” to think negative thoughts. The brain loves cortisol and that’s a fact backed by research and science-backed publications.
A 2013 study found that those with high-pressure jobs or more stressful lives had higher cortisol levels upon waking up in the mornings. Yeah, in the mornings (!) – when we’re supposed to be reveling in me-time before spending the rest of the day calling into meetings or tending to children.
But there is a way to change things up. And it all comes down to positive thinking.
We know, it’s easier said than done. But it is possible. It just takes commitment and practice. Keep reading for two tips that can help rework your usual thought patterns.
1. Try The Bounce Principle
Recommended by Inc. editor John Brandon, the bounce principle calls for paying close attention to your thoughts. Any time you find yourself thinking negatively or feeling anxious, acknowledge the thought, and challenge yourself to combat that thought with a positive one. Take it one step further by writing down each time you have a negative thought. This will serve as a physical record of where your mind wanders to when cortisol levels seem to reach their peak. With time, positive thinking will become second nature.
“Positive thoughts are harder. They take more work,” writes Brandon. “You have to develop new patterns and new ways of thinking. Cortisol is always there, fighting back.” But if you try this principle, he says, “I'm confident that, by the end of the day, you will start seeing life a bit differently.”
2. Use The Yoga Wake Up App
The Yoga Wake Up app offers countless audio-guided meditation practices to help you take your mind off the day’s stressors and focus on what’s most important in that moment – you. A study in Sweden found that this type of visualization is connected to positive thoughts and an uplifted mood.
"What this study shows is that our imagination of a sound or a shape changes how we perceive the world around us in the same way actually hearing that sound or seeing that shape does,” writes Christopher Berger, doctoral student at the Department of Neuroscience and lead author of the study. “Specifically, we found that what we imagine hearing can change what we actually see, and what we imagine seeing can change what we actually hear." Basically, bringing the focus back to the present is key.
Ready to get started? Download the Yoga Wake Up app, find the meditation session that feels right for you, and press play.