Maridav/ShutterstockWhat would you do if you heard 17 seconds was all it would take for you get what you want out of life? Some say that’s all it could take.
You might have heard of the Law of Attraction—a philosophy that basically says if you think positive thoughts, good things will come; focus on negatives and that’s what you’ll get. Now, we’re not saying every Law of Attraction theory holds true, but there’s one practice we can get behind.
Good thoughts or bad, your mind is always ready to wander. One theory says that’s because the neurons in your brain only have so much energy to spend on one thought at a time, says research psychologist Peter Killeen. “Your neurons can fire for a while with the energy they have in them, but not for long,” he tells Fast Company. “After a dozen seconds, each needs more energy.” When that happens, it becomes harder to focus, so your mind drifts off. (Find out how daydreaming could land you in the ER.)
That’s where the 17-second rule comes in. By holding on to a happy thought, you keep from dwelling on the negatives. “Several times a day, stop what you’re doing and visualize, with as much intensity as possible, the strong, positive emotion associated with achieving your ultimate vision,” writes small-business adviser Marla Tabaka on Inc. “A mere 17 seconds of holding these thoughts and feelings and your mind will begin its transition from a negative state toward an uplifted state.” Feeling uninspired? Read these 26 happiness quotes to get started.
The idea is that forcing yourself to imagine good things ahead for at least 17 seconds means you aren’t letting skeptical thoughts get in your way. Instead of dwelling on fears and regrets, you stay happy and optimistic. (Check out these other things optimistic people do every day.)
To make it even stronger, suggests Tabaka, hold on to that happy thought for four more rounds—a total of 68 seconds. You’ll feel better in the moment, but it could have a lasting effect, too.
“You’ll be more apt to notice, and act upon, opportunities that support your goals and vision,” Tabaka writes. “You’ll also believe in yourself more and experience more motivation to achieve your goals.” Basically, thinking of your happy vision more will put it top of mind when it starts—or could start—to come true. So instead of putting off your goals, you’ll start taking the opportunities that come your way.
Sounds hokey, but don’t scoff just yet—science shows changing your focus could make you happier. One study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that participants who visualized their “best possible selves” had bigger and longer-lasting mood boosts than those who counted blessings.
And hey, no matter how busy you are, we’re willing to bet you have at least 17 seconds to spare. Might as well give it a try!
Don’t miss these other 50 tiny changes that can make you happier.