The app that accompanies the book is now live for Android and iOS! Check it out for free at the Google Play Store and Apple iTunes store! 

How to Use PositiveU

Use this app as a space to safely keep a running list of all of the things that you like about yourself - skills, qualities, physical attributes, talents, relationships, and more.

Add notes of specific memories connected to your list items to make recall even easier. When you are feeling low and these things are hard to remember, come back to this app and re-read your list.

Add it into your daily schedule to review twice a day, morning and night, to help your brain re-balance to create a Positive U!

The Science and Theory Behind PositiveU

(More info on this covered in the book as well!): Your brain builds up habits of thinking the same way as you build other habits in your life - for instance, try this for me right now: cross your arms. Which arm naturally falls on top? Now try to cross them the other way. Was it hard? Did it take more time? Did you mess up a few times before you were able to do it? Does it feel weird when you hold that position? This is called the Arm Crossing Exercise, from the book How to Like Yourself.

You see, your brain is an "efficiency machine" - everything it does is to try to make you more efficient. It moves as many things as it can to an automatic system where you don't have to think about all the little steps it takes to do something once you've learned it (i.e. walking, chewing, talking). This can also happen to your thought patterns. The thoughts you have most often then start to happen without you even thinking about them - they just churn around in the similar way they have always churned around, with similar language and similar worries and similar things you say to yourself, when left unchecked. 

When you have a negative inner voice or low mood or inner critic, your thoughts will often get stuck ruminating around these same negative thought patterns, and it can be very hard to turn this around (just like trying to cross your arms the other way). Because it takes so much more effort when you are in a low mood, this app helps you out in times of need. 

When you have the time, energy, and mood to be able to remember all of your positive qualities, write them down on this app for easy recall later. Add a few ideas at a time, one a day, or all at once. Then, use it like a daily or twice daily (or more!) mental exercise to start to change your brain habits and patterns and to start to flex a different part of your brain. To see this idea in action, if you were to cross your arms the other way for a week or more from the example we started with above, it wouldn't feel as weird or as hard the more often you did it the other way. You might even become arm-crossing-ambidextrous!

The fancy term for this is "neuroplasticity" and refers to your brain's ability to adapt and to change to new things. Any time you learn new information or a new skill, you are using this ability your brain has to change and shift. It can often feel harder to re-learn things you have already learned as opposed to learning brand new things, but it is equally as possible change your brain's old habits! You're just re-writing a new system and pattern.

When you purposefully activate this new part of your brain by using the PositiveU app, and review your positive list of yourself during difficult mood or self-esteem moments, you are helping to re-shape your brain's patterns. You are activating a new and different positive neural network (the little information pathways your brain uses to communicate and think). Every time you use a neural network, it sends out proteins to that network to help strengthen it so that it is easier for your brain to use for next time (like how practicing an instrument makes you better and faster over time, your brain strengthens the little communication pathways as you practice and learn - like re-paving a highway and adding more lanes for the areas where there is the most traffic). 

When you purposefully use this app to counteract the habits your old negative neural networks have formed, and you activate this positive self-esteem neural network instead, it helps to re-balance the negative mood effects that can be caused by low self-esteem or low mood. Over time, recall will be easier, and your brain will be more balanced in its ability to recall both the positive and negative things in life - not just the negative. Your brain will also be able to make the switch between positive and negative thinking much easier as you get more flexible in your ability to direct your thoughts.