Samstag, the first portion of an Exclusive extract taken from his book Positivity is Confidence, Courage Motivation, Paul McKenna showed How to reduce stress. Reboot your brain. Today, he shares his insights How to improve your self-esteem Regain control of your life Feelings and thoughts.

You can feel either good or bad about something. The first is to recall something that happened. Another is to think of what might happen in the future.

Here’s the thing: your nervous system can’t tell the difference between what really happened and the imagined. The same reaction feelings will be produced in either direction.

That’s why you can get so worked up worrying about a bad thing that may or may not happen — whether or not it takes place doesn’t make much difference in the end. You’ve suffered either way.

As Mark Twain famously said: ‘I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life — some of which actually happened.’

There is much more to stress than the fact it can cause negative emotions and thoughts.

When we are in a state of excessive stress, continually looking for threats and seeing danger at every turn, we don’t have enough bandwidth for other kinds of positive thoughts and feelings.

There are only two ways to feel good or feel bad about anything. One is to remember something good or bad that has already happened. The other is to imagine something good or bad that could happen in the future

You can feel either good or bad about something. The first is to recall something that happened. One is to visualize something that might be good or terrible in the future.

Positivity gets pushed out because there simply isn’t any space for it. That’s why, today, we are going to get to work on reducing your stress levels.

This will open you up to the possibility that you can become a more confident, resilient person in the coming days. First, let’s look at the way we can either create or reduce unnecessary stress in our lives through the pictures and the sounds we create in our imagination.

When we recall something or imagine something, we create movies in our mind — often with a soundtrack. It’s the internal pictures and sounds that create our feelings from moment to moment.

Let’s say, for example that we receive an invitation to a party. If we imagine ourselves alone in the kitchen, without knowing anyone else, then it is uncomfortable and we decline to attend.

If we create a video of ourselves laughing, smiling, and being relaxed with others, it gives us a positive feeling that can lead to making a new decision. We navigate through our lives every day with the films we create in our heads and what we tell ourselves.

Once we have more control over our thoughts and feelings, we have control over our choices and behaviours — and ultimately our lives. Obviously, we can’t have control over everything that happens to us in life. However, we can choose how we react to these events.

Paul McKenna (pictured) offers advice to help you rebuild your self-esteem and confidence

Paul McKenna, (pictured) provides advice that will help rebuild confidence and self-esteem

My observation is that many people are too focused on creating negative images in their minds to drive themselves motivated. Living a life that is constantly oriented away from happiness and towards fear isn’t a great way to enjoy your life. It doesn’t have to be that way. My help will allow you to change your mindset and make your brain feel more positive.

The body’s stress response mechanism works like a car alarm. When there’s an imminent threat, it triggers the body’s stress response system, which produces adrenaline and cortisol.

Then we are alerted and feel a surge of fear, anger or anxiety.

In an extreme situation, we experience the ‘fight-or-flight’ response which dates back to when we were living in caves and had to either fight a wild animal or run away.

The stress response does not only activate when there’s a physical threat; it also triggers when our ego is threatened.

The stress response kicks in when there’s a possibility of someone making a bad impression on us. These things may not seem like real ‘threats,’ but your nervous system can’t tell the difference between a physical threat to your ego and an imagined one.

In modern life, there are many minor stresses each day — a row, a traffic jam, running late, etc, and all these small threats add up to a stress overload.

However, how we view things can make all the difference. The father of stress research Dr Hans Selye famously said: ‘It’s not stress that kills us. It’s our reaction to it.’

I’m going to help you adjust your perception and interpretation of events that used to stress you. The following plan comes from Positivity, Confidence Resilience and Motivation. It was published January 6.

These steps will help you respond better, increase your creativity and resilience in solving problems. You will eventually see more success in life. Your ability to accept the world as it actually is and not fear its future will make you happier.


Let’s start with a powerful technique that will help you react more calmly when everyday events trigger a stress response.

The heart is often referred to by psychologists as the “second brain”. It is home to neurons which communicate with the brain and can influence the natural relaxation or stress response.

You can relax your body by shifting your focus from your head towards your heart. Your mind will become more clear and you brain releases natural relaxing chemicals. If you’re feeling anxious, racing thoughts or stressed out this is a great exercise to do.

  1. Place your hands on your heart, and concentrate your energy there.
  2. You should take at least three deep, slow breaths. Focus on your feeling in your hands and the center of your chest.
  3. Now, recall a time when you felt really, really good — a time you experienced love, joy or real happiness!
  4. You can go back to this memory just as if right now. See the images, hear the sounds and feel what you experienced.
  5. Imagine your heart speaking to you as you experience this positive feeling within your body. Ask your heart how it could help you take better care in the present moment.

Pay attention to your heart and take action as quickly as possible.

This exercise can be used to help you stop reacting in an automatic way.

Don’t try to fight against your reaction, just pause for a moment and in that time the reaction itself will naturally evolve.

The unconscious doesn’t automatically defend itself. It relaxes, and your conscious can bring more calm awareness to situations.


Read the entire procedure before you attempt this method.

  • Think back to a time that you felt at ease, in control and calm. It’s time to go back and see what you have seen, hear what you heard, and feel how great it felt. If you can’t remember one, imagine how wonderful it would feel to be totally at peace — if you had all the ease, comfort and self-control you could ever need.
  • You can make these images brighter, your sounds more crisp, and your feelings stronger by running this thought through your head. Feel these positive feelings by rubbing your thumb and middle fingers together. Associating pressure to this emotion is called “pressure”. This memory can be repeated until calm and peace is achieved.
  • You can now go back through the relaxing memories at least five times more while still pressing your middle finger and thumb together. Once you are satisfied with the effort, all that is left to relax and feel calm will be enough.
  • Think of something you have experienced in the past that was mildly stressful. Feel calm by rubbing your hands together. Now imagine yourself in that situation. Visualize everything happening the way that you wish. See what you’ll see, hear what you’ll hear and feel how good it feels to be calmer and in control.
  • Keep pressing your thumb and fingers together. Recall that calm feeling and try to picture yourself in that situation. Now, think of some problems and how you will handle them. See what you’ll see, hear what you’ll hear and feel how good it feels to be so much calmer and in control of this situation.
  • Take a moment to reflect upon this situation. Note the change in your mood from just five minutes ago. Is it possible to feel more at control and less stressed? Repeat if you don’t feel the same. This exercise will only get easier every time.
Remember a time you felt calm, at peace and in control. Return to it, seeing what you saw, hearing what you heard and feeling how good you felt

Think back to a time that you were at ease, in control and calm. You can return to that time by seeing and hearing the things you’ve heard. Feel how wonderful you feel.


Many times, I tell my clients that the limitations they see are just their own negative stories. You have the ability to alter your own stories.

I’m now going to show you how to let go, stage by stage, of any old stories you may be telling yourself, so that your natural emotional equilibrium can return to balance.

We are going to take the major unhappy memories out of your mind and put them on an imaginary wall of very small black and white pictures and just before they disappear, see them for what they are now — just thoughts.

  1. Now think about the situation you’ve been worrying and stressing out about.
  2. Now, begin to notice what you’ve been telling yourself about that situation.

‘There’s nothing I can do to change this.’

‘I was just born this way.’

‘I’ve been told by an “expert” that I can’t change.’

3. Listen to your inner voice, and pay attention to where it comes from. Are you able to hear the inner voice from your front, back or side?

4. Think of the words floating out of your head. Now imagine that you can hear them coming from 12 feet away. It will sound as though they are speaking from somewhere over there.

I often tell clients that what they think of as their limitations are really just negative stories they tell themselves. We all have the power to change stories within ourselves (stock image)

Clients often forget that their perceived limitations may be based on negative stories about themselves. All of us have the power within to make changes in our own stories. Stock photo

Listen to it tell you the old tale from twelve feet away. Notice how it sounds different when it does this.

This one simple change will allow your mind to rebalance and remove you from being attached with the same story. This is a sign that you can hear a different voice and that there are other stories out there.

5. As slowly as possible, reduce the volume on that story.

6. Notice that you are now free to tell yourself a new story — a story of possibility, hope, and power. Your new story may be written down or spoken out loud. You will find your story more real the more you repeat it.

Now you will feel significantly more calm and have more emotional balance.

So let’s move to the next step of my three-point plan to unearth the new, more positive you, with a masterclass in resilience and some more confidence-boosting exercises.


The brain-training strategies I’m sharing will become easier to apply with practice. Your default mode will be to turn off stress, and to trigger relaxation responses. You cannot distinguish between an imagined and real experience in your nervous system. You felt stress as though it was happening right now every time you imagined a stressful scenario.

Imagine these scenarios and respond calmly. You will feel better able to manage them.

This article should be read before starting this procedure.

Note the five biggest stressors that you experience in your everyday life. We will now lower each stress.

Select one of these five situations. Think about the situation you are in. Now, use the calm anchor that you have created above to help you. Imagine that you are bringing that peaceful feeling to your stressful situation. Visualize everything being perfect. See what you’ll see, hear what you’ll hear and how good it feels.

Keep your thumb and index fingers still in tact. Now imagine yourself in the same stressful scenario. Imagine a couple of problems and how you will handle them. See what you’ll see, hear what you’ll hear and feel how good it feels to be so much calmer and in control.

Take a moment to reflect upon this situation.

Does it make you less stressed? If not, repeat until you do. Continue this procedure with all five scenarios until you feel more in control.

With practice, you will get better at using the brain-training techniques I am sharing here (stock image)

You will improve your ability to use the brain-training methods I share here with practice (stock photo).

You are now ready to build your Ressilience is key Supercharge your self-confidence: Seven steps to a stronger, more positive you

Resilience has become a buzz-word — everyone seems to want it, without necessarily understanding what the word actually means.

Many people think that resilience is the ability to overcome adversity. Resilient people are those who can persevere through difficult situations and remain positive when things get tough.

It is correct. However, resilience also means adaptability and creativity.

There’s a law in the science of cybernetics which shows that the element of a system with the most flexibility in its behaviour will take control over the whole set-up.

This could refer to a company, a political party or even a person.

You will be more flexible when you face a challenge and you’ll likely stay in control. That’s because you create more choices for yourself.

Doggedly sticking to one path will stop you from exploring other avenues and can close your mind to opportunities for success.

Flexibility is the best way to control your destiny.

The more flexible you are when facing a challenge, the more likely you will stay in control and get what you want. That’s because you create more choices for yourself (stock image)

You will be more open to changing your mind when you face a challenge. This will help you stay more in control of the situation and achieve what you desire. That’s because you create more choices for yourself (stock image)

Imagine a reed moving in the wind. This will help you visualize it. If it’s too stiff, it will snap, but if flexible, it survives by adapting to the environment.

The most significant distinction between humans and animals is their imagination.

Look around you: most of what you see will have once been an idea in someone’s imagination.

All the creative geniuses in history used their imagination in ways others didn’t — then combined this with perseverance.

Thomas Edison failed more than 1000 times to invent the lightbulb. When a reporter asked: ‘How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?’

Edison replied: ‘I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.’ That’s resilience.

Now I’m going to share some exercises that will help foster flexibility in your thinking so you become like that reed blowing in the wind when challenges strike.

We’re also going to work on boosting your confidence — a state of being that I define as feeling comfortable in your own skin.

A book I wrote about confidence, and how you can achieve it, was published several years ago. And an old pal scoffed: ‘Oh great, a training manual for annoying people!’

But actually, those we tend to think of as confident — the loud, brash types who like to hear their own voices — are often far from it.

They’re just very good at appearing in control, which is what can make them so annoying.

True confidence is a sign of self-worth. These people are quiet and self-confident, which makes them much more pleasant than the irritating type.

The golden rule when it comes to confidence is: ‘What you practice, you become.’ All you need are the techniques to help you discover your more confident self.

The power of posture

Our posture and the images and sounds we make in our heads are three of the most important factors that influence how we act and feel at all times in our lives.

Nobody has ever marched into my office with their head held high and exclaimed: ‘I’m depressed!’

These people tend to slouch and look at the ground.

Movie star Sir Roger Moore once told me that when he first went to acting school, he had a teacher who asked: ‘How tall are you?’

‘6 ft 1 in,’ he replied.

‘So, why don’t you stand as though you are 6 ft 1 in?’ said the teacher. Roger stood straighter and he began to receive more work.

The golden thread that will make you stand tall

It is as easy as a few simple steps that you can achieve this effect. It is as if a gold thread descends from the heaven, down through my top and into my core. This thread will hold me straight, and take my weight so that I can stand upright with good posture.

Just a few seconds is all it takes to recall the information and allow your body to respond to the effects.

This is especially useful for those who are stressed, tired or spend too much time hunched over computers. The technique can be used often and your body will eventually want to maintain a relaxed, upright position.

Extra Confidence: Strike a Pose

How we feel about our bodies and minds can be affected by posture. Which is why ‘power poses’ are so effective.

You can move your limbs even when you feel overwhelmed or have negative thoughts.

Amy Cuddy from Harvard Business School is a social psychologist who has been well-known for her studies on the impact of posture upon state of mind.

The guidance given to her subjects was not provided. They were simply asked to sit or stand in specific poses — some were power poses that exude confidence and others were not.

After that, the interview was tough. Judges assessed their performance and behavior without any information.

The subjects who were given power poses outperformed the ones who were given lower-status poses.

Within two minutes of taking up one of the poses I’m sharing with you here, your physiology — and hence your whole mental state — will change.

You may find these poses difficult or silly.

You’ve been telling people that you are the underdog. You have invited others to place themselves in power, both unintentionally and indirectly.

You must start right away and continue until you feel comfortable with these poses.

Embrace your inner wonder woman . . . 

POSE 1 Wonder woman — Place your hands on hips, stand tall with your legs apart and embrace the feeling of your inner confidence.

POSE 2 Winner — Stand tall, with your arms up high like a star, your fingers pointing skywards.

POSE 3 Boss — place your hands behind the back of your head, elbows wide, in a relaxed, confident way.

Do the following for each pose:

  • Keep the pose.
  • For two more minutes, hold the position. Continue to observe and feel the sensation.
  • You can relax and continue your day, feeling energized.

Solutions to all your problems

Over the years, I’ve learnt that a good question is worth its weight in gold — not only for the answers it brings but also for the positive frame of mind it brings.

A set of six questions derived from the decision theory field is my favourite way to help you solve your problems.

However, before we begin I would like to ask you three very important questions.

Before you start, think about what they mean. Don’t try to solve them yet.

Now ask yourself, ‘What would it feel like if you knew how to solve them?’ Then, ask, ‘What would it feel like if you knew you were going to solve them?’

You’re now primed to open your mind and come up with creative problem-solving solutions.

Insightful questions

To make these questions work for your problem, pick a worry or concern and answer every question honestly.

If your problem is, ‘I can’t lose weight,’ asking yourself what’s positive about the problem, often brings up nothing at all, at first.

If you look at the issue from a different perspective, you might find that your problem is not so serious.

This was something I did once with someone who had been unwell. They believed there wasn’t anything positive. After a number of attempts, he said, ‘Well, at least I know what’s wrong with me and I am getting treatment.’

The idea behind the exercise is to not solve the problem instantly, but rather to think about the issue differently.

So, think about one of your problems and then ask these questions…

Are there three things you can do to solve this problem?

What’s not how you want it?

How willing are you to go the extra mile to achieve what you desire?

Are you ready to give up on the things you love to achieve your goals?

How do you inspire yourself to take pride in what you are doing to reach your desired result?

What’s something you can do today to get things moving in the right direction?

You will learn new ways to manage the situations you’re exploring each time you answer and ask these questions.

Desperation Destroyer

Over the last couple years, I’ve been podcasting Positivity. I interview a person with psychological and not journalistic purposes.

Each guest is asked how they have overcome difficulties.

Priyanka Jonas, a singer, model, actress and actor, is very inspirational. She finds motivation in thinking about her successes from the past, big or small, whenever she experiences a setback. She feels more equipped to tackle any problem she faces.

This technique can help you do exactly that. It can be used whenever you feel depressed or in distress.

  1. Consider what you are desperate or needy about. This could be money or a job.
  2. You can see the self-talk, images and sounds that are associated with this specific situation.
  3. Take control of your inner world. Take any negative pictures, push them off into the distance in your mind’s eye and fade them out. Reduce the negative voices and talk to yourself until you feel calmer about what you felt desperate for.
  4. Next, make a nine-square grid and create a ‘success collage’ of some of the good things you have in your life or of happy memories — putting eight of them in the boxes, but keep the bottom middle box free for the time being. Picture people you admire and like, success stories, or other things you’re grateful for.
  5. Fill the box in the middle with a tiny black-and-white representation of what you feel desperate or needy about.


One of the hardest words we ever say is ‘no’. If you don’t prioritize your priorities, you may feel overwhelmed and need to make changes frequently.

Over the years I’ve found creating an A, B and C list helps me immensely.

Items on the A-list are items that need to be completed immediately or else there could be problems.

Items on the B-list are essential, but they can be put off.

The C-list includes everything else.

You should try it. You will feel less stressed if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It can also help increase your productivity.

Over the years I’ve found creating an A, B and C list helps me immensely

Over the years I’ve found creating an A, B and C list helps me immensely

  • Create a To-Do List of everything you need to do.
  • You should assign an A for urgent tasks that could have grave consequences and are important.
  • You can give a “B” to things that you consider important, but cannot wait.
  • To everything else, you need a “C”.
  • Assess and amend your daily list every morning and then focus on the A-list. You can move on to the next B if you still have some time.
  • Stick to this list for the next 21-days. You’ll be amazed at how productive and relaxed you feel about your work.

This article was adapted from Positivity: Confidence, Motivation and resilience Paul McKenna Publiziert werden durch Welbeck, January 6, at £14.99. © Paul McKenna 2022. For more information, click here £11.69 go to Call 020 3176 297 Delivery to the UK is free orders over £20. Promo price Valid until 15/01/2022.