When you see the title of this blog, you might jump to the conclusion that I’m going to be talking about those inspirational quotes and memes about positive thinking that pop up so often on Facebook. Actually, no, what I’d really like to talk about is algorithms.
If you use social media such as Facebook or Instagram, you may have noticed that once you interact with a certain friend, page, or group, they then start to pop up in your newsfeed more often. You might not have really paid much attention to it, or you might have simply passed it off as coincidence, but it’s something that is increasingly prevalent across the internet.
This re-arrangement of your newsfeed is performed by algorithms; computer code used to measure user affinity.
Simply put: if you engage with something on Facebook, then more of it will be presented to you.
Every action you take – whether that is a ‘like’, a comment, or a share, etc, will give those algorithms valuable information so that they know what to place next in your newsfeed.
So how does all this relate to positive thinking?
Well, have you ever considered that your very own personal browser (the one behind your brow, rather than the one on your laptop) could be doing the same thing? In that, each time you pay attention to something (clicking a mental ‘like’, as it were), your mind could be doing its best to present you with more of that?
Let me give you a personal example to illustrate my point.
A few years back I was looking for a new car. Now, when it comes to cars I’m a pretty practical sort of person. I don’t care about little sporty numbers or fancy makes; I just want them to get me from A to B safely and reliably. So I did some research to find which make and model would be perfect for me. The car I decided upon was a Honda Jazz. I picked it because it came up in reviews as being very reliable, and having lots of boot space despite being a fairly small car, and this fit my needs exactly. Then I printed out a picture of the car in question, and put it on the refrigerator door so I could look at it every day.
You might be wondering why I did such a thing. Well, I believe that when you want something, it really helps to give yourself regular prompts and reminders so that your mind stays focused on it, which leads you to take action and bring that thing into being. This is not just true for cars, but for any life goals.
For instance, when I coach somebody who wants to lose weight, one of the first things I ask them to do is buy an item of clothing in the size they would like to be, and hang it somewhere prominent to act as a reminder of their goal.
So anyway, back to my fridge. I’m not really into cars, and I’d not previously been aware of this particular model of car before. But after I printed that picture and put it on the fridge door, over the next few days I saw Honda Jazz cars popping up everywhere I went!
Now, these cars didn’t magically appear in front of me. They were always there – it’s just that I wasn’t paying attention to them before. And this is how it generally is for everything in life – once you start paying attention to something, then your mind will be primed to notice it, and it will seem to pop up more often.
It’s very simple to try this out for yourself: just think about a very specific object – for example a white feather, or a box of matches. Put a picture of it somewhere prominent so you see it every day. Over the next few days, notice whether similar objects keep appearing in random places.
I wonder if you could imagine what it would be like if the mind didn’t just work this way about feathers or boxes of matches, but about feelings too? So, the more happy, positive, grateful thoughts you choose to think, the more of those type of thoughts are presented to you by the algorithms in your brain?
Try it and see. Think of a happy memory… a peaceful place you once visited… something or somebody that you’re really grateful to have in your life… then place little reminders of these things where you will see them often. It really works wonders for your state of mind.
PS – I found my perfect little Honda Jazz (known as Juicy McJazz to her friends), about three days after putting that picture on the fridge.
Lisa Murphy is a counsellor and hypnotherapist based in Cambuslang, Glasgow. Lisa specialises in anxiety, weight-loss and healthy eating.