HEALTHY LIVING
06/07/2014 11:46 am ET Updated Jun 09, 2014

The Power Of Positive Thinking To Get What You Want In Life

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By Carin Rockind for YouBeauty.com

“Live your best life!” “Create your own destiny!” “Manifest your dreams!” Bumper stickers, Facebook posts and magnets promise a better future, but is there any truth to it? Can you create your own reality?

The short answer: Yes. Vision boards, mantras and writing down your dreams in explicit detail can help to actualize your desires. Ask Kanye West, for nearly a decade he'd wanted Kim Kardashian and last weekend, he finally married her!

Years ago, The Secret was all the rage. The book promised that if you clearly, deliberately, intentionally envision what you want, eventually it will be yours. Desire a plush beach house? The book said it will become your reality. Want a million dollars? You can have it. Coveting a midnight blue Mercedes? You get the idea. I loved this idea, but my inner pragmatic skeptic voice questioned it.

The Secret is based on the law of attraction, the belief that “like attracts like" -- positive thoughts lead to positive reality and negative thoughts lead to negative reality. This is true, but not because the blue Mercedes you’ve been coveting will simply appear at your doorstep. Rather, manifesting works because of your brain's wiring. There's a science to this.

Here's how it works. Your brain is like a massive, massive computer. It holds more than 100 billion bits of information from every moment of your life on electric cells called neurons. Neurons fire together to tell the rest of your brain and body what to do. However, the brain can't possibly recall every bit at once, so it creates shortcuts (called neural pathways) to remember more. The more you experience something, the stronger the pathway. For example, every time you see a hard surface attached to four legs, your brain immediately identifies the object as “a table” without you having to stop and think about what it is. The same is true of a habit. If you're a social smoker, your brain has developed a strong pathway between drinking, nightclubs and cigarettes. That's why it's hard to quit.

Fortunately, the brain can create new neural pathways. This is why we can form new habits and commit new learning to memory. The more you focus on something, the stronger the pathways.

For months, I've wanted a Mini Cooper Convertible. An image of me riding around in a white one came to mind a few weeks ago (desire). I kept thinking about it, over and over (creating a strong neural pathway). So every time one was near, my brain more easily spotted it, as though the road was filled with signs that I needed one (confirmation bias, a term that means your brain is looking for or interpreting information to confirm its beliefs). For fun, I searched the Internet and -- voila! -- there was one for sale nearby. Did I manifest the car? Perhaps. Did I prime my brain to find it? Perhaps. Either way, I created my reality.

When your brain focuses on something, it thinks you want more of it and moves to action in that direction. So if your brain is focused on getting a raise, it will create the plan to get it in order to get confirmation that you have earned one. And if we think back to Kanye, he couldn't magically make Kim fall in love with him, but maybe he took every positive interaction as encouragement to pursue romance.

Here's the key: You must take action. When I saw the car for sale, I had to call the owner. When you see the man of your dreams, you must say hello. When the business opportunity arises, you must step forward and say, “YES!”

Here are a few tips I use to keep my dreams front and present in my mind:
Post-It Promises: Inside of my kitchen cabinet are a dozen sticky notes of my deep desires written in the positive, such as “I am a healthy, wealthy TV talk show host” and “Convertible! Yes!” Write each of your desires on its own page and look at them every day.

One-Minute Visioning: I take one minute every day to envision something I want -- the relationship, home, work experience or travel I desire. I envision it in full color, using every sense. So if you want to go to Italy, smell the olive trees, feel the sun, hear the beautiful language in the open-air market. One minute a day.

Verbalize Your Desires: I was raised in a very superstitious home where I was taught that if you say what you want, you are calling in the evil eye to jinx it. I've learned the opposite is true. When you talk about what you want, other people will help you get it. That's how I got this column. I told people that I dreamt of writing motivation for women. Turns out one of those people knew the YouBeauty team. I then had to contact the editors repeatedly, but I contacted them so many times, that I became part of their neural pathways and here I am!

Happy manifesting.

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