How often do you think about how you prime yourself? When my son was in high school, I found I needed to pay close attention to his choice of music. He loved anything hip hop, and seemed to “pig out” on it. While much hip hop music is benign, I noticed that when it spilled over into rap, it seemed to have a harder edge and contained more hardcore lyrics. That was certainly not the kind of thing I wanted priming my son mentally or emotionally.
Psychologists report that what you watch, listen to, and read (and even the conversations you engage in, I might add), have a direct impact on your mood, temper, and behavior, even how kind or cruel you might be.
Like certain foods, your mental diet can significantly affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically for better or for worse. And that kind of impact spills over into your relationships as well – at home and at work.
For example, when I was a young woman with two small children at home, both my kids would nap at the same time every afternoon. During that time, I’d take advantage of the quiet and read. A good friend of mine gave me my very first romance novel – I think it was called The Flower and the Flame. After that came a host of others of the same genre.
One day my husband came home unexpectedly while the children were napping, and I was reading one of those romance novels. I recall looking at my husband and thinking, “Well, he certainly doesn’t look like Fabio. And he doesn’t speak to me like Fabio speaks to his woman.”
In case you’re not familiar with Fabio, he is the Italian-born, American-naturalized fashion model of masculine virility who appeared on the cover of dozens of romance novels at the time. His face and physique became the image of the book’s male lead character – at least for me it did.
Looking at my husband that day, I remember feeling a mild disappointment that he didn’t look more like Fabio. That was the moment I knew the books had to go! Who could compete with that tanned, air-brushed body exuding unparalleled strength and sensuality? Certainly, no one I knew. But with that awareness came the realization of the negative priming those novels could have. That’s when I switched to reading novels by Pat Conroy and Anne Tyler. Don’t laugh.
A 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology discovered that a boost in moods and happiness could be experienced in just two weeks by listening to upbeat music. And the best part? The happier people are, the better their health, their relationships, and their overall level of success.
Studies done by NY University professor and psychologist, John Bargh, also pointed to the impact that words on the printed page have on a person’s behavior. He found that when his research subjects were exposed to positive words, they seemed more patient and less likely to interrupt others, while those exposed to negative words seemed less patient and more willing to interrupt rather quickly.
We prime ourselves every day by what we subject ourselves to – what we read, listen to, or watch. We aren’t just priming ourselves emotionally, but relationally. Therefore, if you want better relationships, doesn’t it stand to reason you should be priming yourself daily, renewing your mind daily, with the positive.
How can you prime yourself? How can you “pig out” on the good stuff? Here are just a few things you may wish to practice:
- Every morning when you get out of bed, find a positive affirmation that works for you. The one thing I say to myself every morning out loud and with energy is Psalm 118:24: This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. That helps me start the day off on a positive note, while reminding me that I get to choose the mood I will carry throughout the day.
- Instead of flipping on the negative news commentary first thing in the morning, find something inspirational to read that will remind you to be the person you think you are. This will kick off your day with a heighten awareness of putting your best self forward in all situations.
- Instead of engaging in office gossip or bad-mouthing of any kind, become someone who looks for the best in every person you meet and encourage that person in the most genuine way possible.
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