Archive for the ‘Positivity’ Category

The Importance of How We Speak

November 29, 2019

The founder of American Psychology, William James, said the voice may drive, or at least be an equal partner, in the production of the speaker’s emotions. Recent research by Aron Sigma and his colleagues has demonstrated powerful psychological and physiological effects of how we say something. In research on cardiovascular risk factors, they found that talking in a loud, rapid voice like an angry person increases blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of anger in the speaker, especially when matters of an emotional nature are being discussed. They note that the experience of anger, by itself, did not drive cardiovascular activity.

Our own anger builds when we describe loudly an anger-producing event. Recounting anger-producing past events in a soft and slow (anger-inconsistent) voice produces lower speaker blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of anger than when describing events in a loud and fast (anger-consistent) voice. It is noted that applications of this research to mood control are easily implemented and require little, if any, training. To moderate the escalation of blood pressure, heart rate, and anger in emotionally turbulent situations, we should speak softly and slowly, avoiding the bellicose vocal style that is by itself sufficient to drive blood pressure and aggression.

Although this research has not been extended to include the speaker’s audience, the results can be anticipated. The speaker and audience are engaged in an emotional conflict modulated by the tone of the speaker’s voice. So far, only the matching (congruence) of speaker and audience speech rate and loudness, but not physiology, has been measured. However, our experience suggests that we respond to a loud, aggressive voice with cardiovascular and emotional reactions of our own, perhaps barking back an angry rejoinder that further increases the arousal of everyone. So, speaker and audience can become locked in an explosive, mutually reinforced escalation of physiology and emotions having unpleasant and perhaps grave consequences, including cardiovascular incident and violence. We need to control our voices at these critical times, so our physiology and behaviors will follow. If we lack this vocal control we should simply keep our mouths shut!

HM hopes that one’s speech did no adversely affect the holiday gathering. Although this post was too late for Thanksgiving, it should be remembered for Christmas and for New Year’s resolutions.

Happy Thanksgiving 2019

November 27, 2019

This is the day to be truly thankful for our memory. As readers of this blog should know, our memory is our vehicle for time travel. It stores information as a result of what is experienced. Then it takes this knowledge and projects it into the future for planning and deciding how to respond to various events. It is the source of our creativity. It is also the place where our emotions are found along with our relations to our fellow human beings.

This is why it is important to use and treat our memories properly. We need to adopt growth mindsets where we continue to learn throughout our lifetimes. This provides not only for a fulfilling and rewarding life, but it also decreases the risks of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Meditation is also important for learning how to control and use our precious attention. Our effective use of attention is critical for cognitive growth. Mindfulness is important for effective relationships with our fellow human beings.

All these topics are continuing themes in the healthymemory blog along with articles on important topics on which we need to be informed.
healthymemory.wordpress.com.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mister Rogers

November 26, 2019

A new movie has put Fred Rogers back into the news, along with an article by D.L. Mayfield titled Mister Rogers wasn’t just nice: He also wanted to take down consumerism, in the Metro Section of the 23 November 2019 issue of the Washington Post. According to Rogers’ biography, The Good Neighbor, by Maxwell King, Hallmark asked Rogers to collaborate in decorating their flagship store in midtown Manhattan for Christmastime. Rogers and a friend traveled to New York to check out the scene. Other celebrities and influencers had created garishly festive and over-the-top displays that Rogers found offensive. He wanted to go a different route.

Rogers returned home and developed his design plan. The result was this: a Norfolk Island pine tree, the height of a 3- or 4-foot-tall child. There were no ornaments or decorations, just a simple green tree, planted in a clear Lucite cube so that onlookers could see the roots of the tree. In front of it there was a plaque that simply said, “I like you just the way you are.”

Mayfield writes, “I think about that little tree,and how differently the mind of a pastor and educator and psychologist (for Rogers was all three) works from those of marketeers. At first blush it seems beautiful, because it is: centered on a child, tree just their height, reinforcing the message Rogers most desperately wanted his young neighbors to hear. Working to combat shame, isolation, trauma; working to help build resilience in the lives of kids he could never hope to reach one by one. By creating a tree reminiscent of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” he reminds us that what is small is good, recognizing that even little trees need good roots to grow tall and strong.”

Rogers wrote, “Until television became such a tool for selling, it was such a fabulous medium for educating. That’s what I had always hoped it would be.” Mayfield continues, “I believe he was angry at how most television companies sponsored the shows treated children, how it dehumanized them, pandered to them and ultimately trained them to become consumers of products they did not need.”

HM remembers how optimistic he was about the potential of the internet when the blog began in October 2009. He saw the potential for building healthy memories through cognitive growth and healthy interactions among internet users. That theme has changed to how the internet has developed to boost consumerism, create divisions among different groups of people, and its use in warfare.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Flexible Optimism

November 24, 2019

This the tenth post in the series of posts based on Dr. Martin Seligman’s important book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. This is also the last post planned for this book. Seligman waxes philosophically in this final chapter titled “Flexible Optimism.”

As was mentioned previously in this book, depression has been on the rise since World War II. Today young people are ten times likelier to suffer severe depression than their grandparents were, and depression takes a particularly heavy toll among women and the young. There is no sign that this epidemic of depression is decreasing.

One of the reasons Seligman offers for this problem he terms the waxing of the self. He writes that the society we live in exalts the self. It takes the pleasures and pains, the successes and failures of the individual with unprecedented seriousness. Our wealth and our technology have culminated in a self that chooses, that feels pleasure and pain, that dictates action, that optimizes or satisfices. He writes that we are now a culture of maximal selves. We freely choose among an abundance of customized goods and services and reach beyond them to grasp more exquisite freedoms.

The second reason Seligman offers for this problem is what he terms “The Waning of the Commons.” He writes that the life committed to nothing larger than itself is a meager life. Human beings require a context of meaning and hope. We once had ample context, and when we encountered failure, we could could pause and take our rest in that setting—our spiritual furniture—and revived our sense of who were were. He calls this larger setting the commons.

HM shares Seligman’s concerns. However, he makes no mention of the means of addressing both these concerns. There is no mention of meditation or mindfulness anywhere in the book. And they provide the best means of addressing these concerns. There are many healthy memory posts on these topics. Use the search block at
healthymemory.wordpress.com to find them.

There are ample data indicating how meditation aids individual health. HM would like to see data comparing any differences in pessimism between people who meditate daily and a comparable sample that does not meditate. And the practice of mindfulness is one of the best, if not the best of facilitation positive interactions and concerns among individuals.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Learning to Argue with Yourself

November 23, 2019

This the ninth post in the series of posts based on Dr. Martin Seligman’s important book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. As we all likely have argued with others, to be optimistic we also need to argue with ourselves. There are four important ways to make disputations convincing:

*Evidence?
*Alternatives?
*Implications?
*Usefulness?

The best way of disputing a negative belief is to show that it is factually incorrect. Fortunately, much of the time we will have facts on our side, since pessimistic reactions to adversity are typically overreactions. So we adopt the role of detective and ask, “What is the evidence for this belief?”

Seligman notes that it is important to see the difference between this approach and the so-called “power of positive thinking.” Positive thinking often involved trying to believe upbeat statements such as “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” in the absence of evidence, or even in the face of contrary evidence. Many educated people, trained in skeptical thinking, cannot abide this kind of boosterism. In contrast, learned optimism is about accuracy.

Research has shown that merely repeating positive statements to yourself does not raise mood or achievement very much, if at all. It is how you cope with negative statements that has an effect. Usually negative beliefs that follow adversity are inaccurate. Most people catastrophize: From all the potential causes, they select the one with the direct implications. One of your most effective techniques in disputation will be to search for evidence pointing to the distortions in you catastrophic explanations. Most of the time you will have reality on your side. Seligman writes, “Learned optimism works not through an unjustifiable positivity about the world but through the power of ‘non-negative’ thinking.”

Rarely nothing that happens to you has just one cause; most events have many causes. Should you do poorly on a test, all of the following might have contributed: how hard the test was, how much you studied, how fair the professor is, how the other students did, how tired you were and so forth. Pessimists typically latch onto the worst of all the possible causes—the most permanent, pervasive, and personal ones.

Disputation usually has reality on its side. Since there are multiple causes, why latch onto the most insidious one? Rather, latch onto the most innocuous one. Focus on the changeable (not enough time spent studying), the specific (this particular exam was uncharacteristically hard), and the non-personal (the professor graded unfairly) causes. You may have to push hard at generating alternative beliefs, latching onto possibilities you are not fully convinced are true. Remember that much pessimistic thinking consists of just the reverse.

Of course, facts won’t always be on your side. The negative belief you hold about yourself may be correct. In this situation, the technique to use is decatastrophizing. You ask yourself, even if this belief is correct, what are its implications? How likely, you should ask yourself are the awful implications? Once you ask if the implications are really that awful, repeat the search for evidence.

Sometimes the consequence of holding a belief matter more than the truth of the belief. Is the belief destructive? Some people get very upset when the world shows itself not to be fair. We can all sympathize with that sentiment, but the belief that the world should be fair may cause more grief than it’s worth. Sometimes it is very useful to get on with your day, without taking the time to examine the accuracy of your beliefs and then disputing them. Here the example Seligman provides is a technician doing bomb demolition. He might think, “This could go off and I might be killed”—with the result that his hands shake. In this case Seligman recommends distraction over disputation. Whenever you have to perform now, you will find distraction the tool of choice.

Another tactic is to detail all the ways you can change the situation in the future. Even if the belief is true now, is the situation changeable? If so, how can you go about changing it?

How to Be Optimistic

November 22, 2019

This the eighth post in the series of posts based on Dr. Martin Seligman’s important book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. This post is taken from the chapter titled “The Optimistic Life.” The first question is when to deploy optimism? There are times not to use the techniques that are about to be discussed.
Consider
*If your goal is to plan for a risky and uncertain future, do not use optimism
*If your goal is to counsel others whose future is dim, do not use optimism initially.
*If you want to appear sympathetic to the troubles of others, do not begin with optimism, although using it later, once confidence and empathy are established, may help

The model developed for being optimistic is known as the ABC model as was developed by the pioneering psychologist, Albert Ellis. ABC is an acronym for
Adversity
Belief
Consequences

Consider the following examples:

Adversity: My husband was supposed to give the kids they bath and put them to bed, but when I got home from my meeting they were all glued to the TV.

Belief: Why can’t he do what I ask him? is it such a hard thing to given them their bath and put them to bed? Now I’m going to look like the heavy when I break up their little party.

Consequences: I was really angry with Jack and started yelling without first giving him a chance to explain. I walked into the room and snapped off the set without even a “hello” first. I looked like the heavy.

Adversity: I decided to join a gym, and when I walked into the place I saw nothing but firm, toned bodies all around me.

Belief: What am I doing here? I look like a beached whale compared to these people! I should get out of here while I still have some dignity,

Consequences: I felt totally self-conscious and ended up leaving after fifteen minutes.

Adversity: After being on a diet for a couple of weeks she goes out for drinks with some friends and starts wolfing down snacks. Immediately afterward she feels she has “ruined” her diet.

Consequences: She decides to really make a pig of herself and eats a cake in the freezer.

Once you are aware of your pessimistic beliefs there are two general ways to deal with them. The first is simply to distract yourself when they occur—try to think of something else. The second is to dispute them. Disputing is more effective in the long run, because successfully disputed beliefs are less likely to recur when the same situation presents itself again.

Here is an example Seligman provides regarding distraction. “..,think about a piece of apple pie with vanilla ice cream. The pie is heated and the ice cream forms a delightful contrast in taste and temperature. You probably find that you have almost no capacity to refrain from thinking about the pie. But you do have the capacity to redeploy your attention. Think about this one again. Got it. Mouth-watering? Now stand up and slam the palm of your hand against the wall and shout “STOP!” The image of the pie disappeared, didn’t it? This is one of several simple but highly effective thought-stopping techniques used by people who are trying to interrupt habitual thought patterns. Some people ring a loud bell, others carry a three-by-five card with the word STOP in enormous red letters. Many people find it works well to wear a rubber band around their wrists and snap it hard to stop their ruminating. It is good to combine one of these physical techniques with a technique called attention shifting. To keep your thoughts from returning to a negative belief after interruption, direct your attention elsewhere. Actors do this when they must suddenly switch from one emotion to another. When something disturbing happens and you find thoughts hard to stop, say to yourself, ‘Stop. I’ll think this over later.’ Writing troublesome thoughts down the moment they occur and setting a later time to think about them works well; it takes advantage of the reason ruminations exist—to remind you of themselves—and so undercuts them. If you write them down and set a time to think about them, they no longer have any purpose, and purposelessness lessens their strength.”

Although ducking our disturbing beliefs can be good first aid, a deeper more lasting remedy is to dispute them: Give them an argument. Go on the attack. By effectively disputing the beliefs that follow adversity, you can change your customary reaction from dejection and giving up to activity and good cheer. Consider the following:

Adversity: i recently started taking night classes after work for a master’s degree. I got my first set of exams back and I didn’t do nearly as well as I wanted.

Belief: What awful grades. I no doubt did the word in the class. I’m just stupid and I’m to to be competing with young kids.

Consequences: I felt totally dejected and useless. I was embarrassed I even gave it a try, and decided to withdraw from my courses and be satisfied with the job I have.

Disputation: I’m blowing things out of proportion. I hoped to get all As, but I got a B, a B+, and a B-. Those aren’t awful grades. I may not have done the best in the class, but I didn’t do the worst either. The guy next to me had two Ds and a D+. The fact that I’m forty doesn’t make me any less intelligent than anyone else in the class. I have a full time job and a family. I think that given my situation I did a good job on my exams.

Consequently, he does not withdraw from the class and feels better about himself.

Optimism and Good Health

November 21, 2019

This post is the seventh in a series of posts based on Dr. Martin Seligman’s important book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. There are four ways the theory of learned helplessness strongly suggests that optimism should benefit health.

The first follows from the research of Madelon Visintainer’s findings that learned helplessness in rats made them more susceptible to tumor growth. This research was bolstered by more detailed work on the immune systems of helpless rats. The immune system provides the cellular defense agains illness. It contains different kinds of cells whose job is to identify and then kill foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and tumor cells. T-cells recognize specific invaders such as measles, then greatly multiply and kill invaders. Another kind, natural killer cells (NK cells), kill anything foreign they happen across. Researchers looking at the immune systems of helpless rats found that the experience of inescapable shock weakens the immune system. T-cells from the blood of rats that become helpless no longer multiply rapidly when they come across the specific invaders they are supposed to destroy. NK cells from the spleens of helpless rats lose their ability to kill foreign invaders.

A second way in which optimism should produce good health concerns sticking to her regimens and seeking medical advice. Consider a pessimistic person who believes that sickness is permanent, pervasive, and personal. She is not likely to give up unhealthy habits nor to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

A third way in which optimism should matter for health concerns the sheer number of bad life events encountered. It has been shown statistically that the more bad events a person encounters in any given time period, the more illness she will have. People who in the same six months move, get fired, and divorced are at a greater risk for infectious illness—and even for heart attacks and cancer—than are people who lead uneventful lives. Pessimists encounter more bad events and are less likely to take steps to avoid bad events and less likely to do anything to stop them once they start. So putting two and two together, if pessimists have more bad events and if more bad events lead to more illness, pessimists should have more illness.

The fourth reason that optimists should have better health concerns social support. The capacity to sustain deep friendships and love seems to be important for physical health. Middle-aged people who have at least one person whom they can call in the middle of the night to tell their troubles to, go on to have better physical health than friendless people. Unmarried people are at a higher risk for depression than couples. Even ordinary social contact is a buffer against illness. People who isolate themselves when they are sick tend to get sicker. Pessimists become passive more easily when trouble stikes, and they take fewer steps to get and sustain social support. This connection between lack of social support and illness provides the fourth reason to believe that an optimistic explanatory style is likely to produce good health.

The brain and the immune system are connected not through nerves but through hormones, the chemical messengers that flow through the blood can transmit emotional states from one part of the body to another. It is well documented that when a person is depressed the brain changes. Neurotransmitters, hormones that relay messages from one nerve to another, can become depleted. One set of transmitters called, catecholamines, become depleted during depression. If your level of pessimism can deplete your immune system, it seems likely that pessimism can impair your physical health over your whole life span.

Content Analysis for Verbal Explanations (CAVE)

November 20, 2019

This is the sixth post based on a book by Martin Seligman, Ph.D., titled Learned Optimism The subtitle is How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. The problem was how to characterize individual players in sports and their teams with respect to the optimism dimension. To do so they developed the CAVE technique. CAVE is an acronym for content analysis of verbatim explanations. This can be done by reading the sports pages. Causal statements made by a player can be evaluated on a 1 to 7 scale with respect to its permanent, pervasive, and personal qualities. This enables getting a player’s explanatory style without using a questionnaire. They found that such a profile roughly matches what would have happened if the questionnaire had been taken by the player. By doing this they created a technique that is a virtual time machine.

This virtual time machine provided an extremely powerful tool. This enabled the study of optimism of people who either could not (e.g., deceased individuals) or would not take the ASQ as long as there were verbatim quotes from these individuals. They could “CAVE” an enormous range of material for explanatory style: press conferences, diaries, therapy transcripts, letters from home, and so forth.

The CAVE method provided evidence that we learn our explanatory style from our mothers. In 1970 grandmothers were interviewed. Their children, now mothers themselves were also interviewed. They CAVEd these interviews and found that there was a marked resemblance between the level of pessimism of the mothers and their daughters. This is one of the ways we learn optimism, by listening to our mothers explain the everyday events that happen to them.

This time machine provided the first evidence that the reality of the crises we go through as children shapes our optimism: Girls who went through economic crises that were resolved came to look at bad events as temporary and changeable. But children who experienced the privations of the Great Depression and remained poor afterward came to look at bad events as fixed and immutable. Seligman writes, “So our major childhood crises may give us a pattern, like a cookie cutter, with which, for the rest of or lives, we produce explanations of new crises.

British professor George Brown spent ten years walking around the most poverty-stricken areas of South London, interviewing housewives at great length. He interviewed more than four hundred, looking for the key to the prevention of depression. Over 20% of the housewives were depressed, half of them psychotically. He was determined to find out what separated those women who got severely depressed in that trying environment from those who were apparently invulnerable.

He isolated three protective factors. If any one of them were present, depression would not occur, even in the face of severe loss and privation. The first protective factor was an intimate relationship with a spouse or lover. Such women could fight depression off well. The second was a job outside the home. The third was not having three or more children under the age of fourteen at home to take care of.
In addition to invulnerability factors, Brown isolated two major risk factors for depression: recent loss (husband dying, or emigrating) and, more important, death of their own mothers before the women had reached their teens.

Seligman concludes with three kinds of influences on a child’s explanatory style. “First, the form of the everyday causal analyses he hears from you—especially if you are his mother: If your are optimistic, he will be too. Second, the form of criticism he hears when he fails: If they are permanent and pervasive, his view of himself will turn toward pessimism. Third, the reality of his early losses and traumas: If they remit, he will develop the theory that bad events can be changed and conquered. But if they are, in fact, permanent and pervasive, the seeds of hopelessness have been deeply planted.”

The CAVE methodology has proved informative for a wide range of research issues. There is a chapter titled “Politics, Religion, and Culture: A New Psychohistory.” The interested reader is encouraged to read Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Brain and Your Life.” These blog posts just capture a few major ideas from this book. In the book you can find questionnaires for assessing the optimism of you and your children.

Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASQ)

November 19, 2019

This is the fifth post based on a book by Martin Seligman, Ph.D. titled Learned Optimism. The subtitle is How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. The ASQ was developed to have a survey instrument for assessing attributional style. The ASQ is open-ended and consists of twelve little scenarios. Half are about bad events (e.g.,”You go out on a date and it goes badly….”, and half are about good events (e.g., “You suddenly become rich….”). You are asked to imagine the event happening to you and to fill in the most likely cause. So, to explain the first scenario you might say, “I have bad breath,” and for the second, “I’m a brilliant investor.”

Then, you are asked to rate the cause you suppled, on a one-to-seven scale, for personalization. (“Is this cause something about other people or circumstances [external], or is it something about you [internal]?). Then you are asked to rate it for permanence. (“Will this cause never again be present when looking for a job [temporary] or always be present [permanent]?”). Finally, you rate it for pervasiveness (“Does this cause affect only looking for a job [specific] or all other areas of your life [pervasive]?”)

For the first try to validate the questionnaire it was given to two hundred experienced sales agents, half of whom were eagles (very productive) and half turkeys (unproductive). The eagles scored much more optimistically on the questionnaire than the turkeys did. When these test scores were matched to actual sales records the agents who scored in the most optimistic half of the ASQ had sold 37% more insurance on average in their first two years of work than agents who scored in the pessimistic half. Agents who scored in the top 10% sold 88 % more than the most pessimistic tenth.

Seligman writes that the ASQ is a theory-based test, but it is based on a theory very different from the traditional wisdom about success. Traditional wisdom holds that there are two ingredients of success, and you need both to succeed. The first is ability or aptitude and IQ tests and the SAT are supposed to measure it. The second is desire or motivation. Traditional wisdom says that if you lack desire you will fail. Enough desire can make up for meager talent.

Seligman believes that the traditional wisdom is incomplete. He writes, “A composer can have all the talent of a Mozart and passionate desire to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing. He will not try hard enough. He will give up too soon when the elusive right melody takes too long to materialize. Success requires persistence, the ability to not give up in the face of failure.” He believes that the optimistic explanatory style is the key to persistence.
The explanatory-style theory of success says that in order to choose people for success in a challenging job, you need to select for three characteristics:
1. aptitude
2. motivation
3. optimism
All three determine success.

Work with the Met Life sales force found that the ASQ greatly increased productivity. They also found that optimists kept improving over pessimists over time. The theory had been that optimism matters because it produces persistence. At first it was expected that talent and motivation for selling should be at least as important as persistence. As research continued it was found that persistence became decisive.

How You Think, How You Feel

November 18, 2019

This title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in a book by Martin Seligman, Ph.D., titled Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. This is the fourth post on this book. By the late 1960s Joseph Wolpe and Tim Beck had drawn the same conclusion about depression. The conclusion was that depression is nothing more than its symptoms. It is caused by conscious negative thoughts. There is no deep underlying disorder to be rooted out: not unresolved childhood conflicts, not unconscious anger. Emotion comes directly from what we think: Think “I am in danger” and you feel anxiety. Think “I am being trespassed against” and you feel anger. Think “Loss” and you feel sadness. HM would like to note that biological causes of depression should not be ruled out, but most psychological processes, with the exception of thinking, should be ruled out.

Rumination is having the same depressing thoughts over and over. It is called rumination because people are chewing over and over the same thoughts. Seligman writes that rumination combined with a pessimistic explanatory style is the recipe for severe depression. Seligman continues, “The difference between people whose learned helplessness disappears swiftly and people who suffer their symptoms for two weeks or more is usually simple: Members of the latter group have a pessimistic explanatory style, and a pessimistic explanatory style changes learned helplessness from brief and local to long-lasting and general. Learned helplessness becomes full-blown depression when the person who fails is a pessimist. In optimists, failure produces only brief demoralization.”

Seligman continues, “The key to this process is hope over hopelessness. Pessimistic explanatory style consists of certain kinds of explanations for bad events: personal (“It’s my fault”), permanent (It’s always going to be like this”), and pervasive (It’s going to undermine every aspect of my life.)

Seligman’s theory follows: “there is one particularly self-defeating way to think: making personal, permanent, and pervasive explanations for bad events.” People who have this most pessimistic of all styes are likely, once they fail, to have he symptoms of learned helplessness for a long time and across many endeavors, and to lose self-esteem. Such protracted learned helplessness amounts to depression. People who have a pessimistic explanatory style and suffer bad events will probably become depressed, whereas people who have an optimistic explanatory style and suffer bad events tend to resist depression.” Consequently, pessimism is a risk factor for depression in the same sense as smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer or being a hostile, hard-driving man is a risk factor for a heart attack.

Cognitive Therapy is an effective therapy for depression for the following reasons:

First, you learn to recognize the automatic thoughts flitting through your consciousness at the time you feel worst.

Second, you learn to dispute the automatic thoughts by marshaling contrary evidence.

Third, you learn to make different explanations, called reattributions, and use them to dispute your automatic thoughts.

Fourth, you learn how to distract yourself from depressing thoughts.

Fifth, you learn to recognize and question the depression-sowing assumptions governing so much of what you do.

The concluding section to this chapter is titled “Why Does Cognitive Therapy work? This section is presented in its entirety.

“There are two kinds of answers to this question. On a mechanical level, cognitive therapy works because it changes explanatory style from pessimistic to optimistic, and the change is permanent. It gives you a set of cognitive skills for talking to yourself when you fail. You can use these skills to stop depression from taking hold when failure strikes.

At a philosophical level, cognitive therapy works because it takes advantage of newly epitomized powers of the self. In an era when we believe the self can change itself, we will try to change habits of thought which used to seem as inevitable as sunrise. Cognitive therapy works in our era because it gives the self a set of techniques for changing itself. The self chooses to do this work out of self-interest, to make itself feel better.

Ultimate Pessimism

November 17, 2019

This title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in a book by Martin Seligman, Ph.D., titled Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. This is the third post on this book. Ultimate pessimism is depression, which comes in three kinds. The first is called normal depression. It is the type each of us knows well. Seligman writes, “It springs from the pained losses that are inevitable parts of being members of a sapient species, creatures who think about the future. We don’t get the jobs we want, we get rejected by people we love, or our loved ones die. It is predictable when such things happen that we feel sad and helpless. We become passive and lethargic. We can believe that our prospects are bleak and that we lack the talent to make them brighter. We don’t do our work well, and might avoid work. Zest goes out of activities we used to enjoy, and we lose our interest in food, company, and sex. We can’t sleep.

But most of the time, by one of nature’s benevolent mysteries, we start to get better. Normal depression is the common cold of mental illness. Seligman writes that he has repeatedly found that at any given moment approximately 23% of us are going through an episode of normal depression, at least in mild form.

The two other kinds of depression are called depressive disorders: unipolar and bipolar depression. What determines the difference between unipolar and bipolar depression is whether or not mania is involved. Mania is a psychological conjoint with a set of symptoms that look like the opposite of depression: unwarranted euphoria, grandiosity, frenetic talk and action, and inflated self-esteem.

Bipolar depression always includes manic episodes, and is also called manic-depression (with mania at one pole and depression at the other). Unipolar depressives never have manic episodes. Another difference between the two is that bipolar depression is much more heritable. If one of two identical twins has bipolar depression, there is a 72% chance the other also has it. This is only 14% true of fraternal twins who are no more closely related than any other full siblings. Bipolar depression is treated with a “wonder drug, “lithium carbonate.” Seligman writes that in more than 80% of cases of bipolar depression, lithium will relieve the mania to a marked degree and, to a lesser extent, the depression. Unlike normal and unipolar depression, manic-depression is an illness, appropriately viewed as a disorder of the body and treated medically.

Seligman’s view differs radically from the prevailing medical opinion, which holds that unipolar depression is an illness and normal depression is just a passing demoralization of no clinical interest. He writes, “This view is the dominant one in spite of a complete absence of evidence that unipolar depression is anything more than just severe normal depression. No one has established the kind of distinction between them that has been established between dwarfs, for instance, and short normal people—a qualitative distinction.” Both normal and unipolar depression involve the same four types of negative change: in thought, mood, behavior, and physical responses.

The way you think when you are depressed differs from the way you think when you are not depressed. When you are depressed you have a dour picture of yourself, the world, and the future. When you’re depressed, small obstacles seem like insurmountable barriers. You believe everything you touch turns to ashes. You have an endless supply of reasons why each of your successes is really a failure.

The second way both unipolar and normal depression is recognized is a negative change in mood. When you’re depressed, you feel awful: sad, discouraged, sunk in a pit of despair. Jokes are no longer funny, but unbearably ironic.

The third symptom of depression concerns behavior. There are three behavioral symptoms: passivity, indecisiveness, and suicidal action.

Many depressed people think about and attempt suicide. They generally have one or both of two motives. The first is surcease: The prospect of going on as they are is intolerable, and they want to end it all. The other is manipulation: They want to get love back, or get revenge, or have the last word in an argument.

The final symptom of depression concerns the physical self. Depression is frequently accompanied by undesirable physical symptoms; the more severe the depression, the more symptoms. The appetites diminish. You can’t eat. You can’t make love. Sleeping becomes difficult.

Unfortunately, depression is increasing. Research has shown that there has been greater than a tenfold increase in depression over the course of the century.

Seligman concludes this chapter as follows: “When we now look at the upsurge of depression, we could view it as an epidemic of learned helplessness. We know the cause of learned helplessness, and now we can see it as the cause of depression: the belief that your actions will be futile. This belief was engineered by defeat and failure as well as uncontrollable situations. Depression could be caused by defeat, failure, and loss of the consequent belief that any actions taken will be futile.

I think this belief is at the heart of our national epidemic of depression. The modern self must be more susceptible to learned helplessness, to an ever-growing conviction that nothing one does matters. I think I know why, and I’ll discuss it in the final chapter.

This all sounds pretty bleak. Yet there is also a hopeful side, and this is where explanatory style becomes important.”

Three Types of Explanatory Style

November 16, 2019

This is the second post in a series of posts on Dr. Martin Seligman’s important book “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life.” The preceding post stated that it is the explanation that individuals have for their failure to achieve a particular goal. This post explains the dimensions of explanatory style.

One dimension of explanatory style is permanence. People who give up easily believe the causes of bad events that happen to them are permanent: Bad events will happen, and will always be there to affect their lives. People who resist helplessness believe the causes of bad events are temporary.

Here are some comparisons of pessimistic and optimistic explanations:

People who give up easily believe the causes of bad events that happen to them are permanent.

PERMANENT (Pessimistic): TEMPORARY (Optimistic)

“I’m all washed up” “I’m exhausted.”
“Diets never work.” “Diets don’t work when you eat out.”
“You always nag.” “You nag when I don’t clean up my room.”
“The boss is a bastard.” “The boss is in a bad mood.”
“You never talk to me.” “You haven’t talked to me lately.”

The optimistic style of explaining good events is just the opposite of the optimistic style of explaining bad events. People who believe good events have permanents causes are more optimistic than people who believe they have temporary causes.

TEMPORARY (Pessmistic) PERMANENT (Optimistic)
“It’s my lucky day.” I’m always lucky
“I try hard.” I’m talented
“My rival got tired.” My rival is no good.

This permanence dimension determines how long a person gives up for. Permanent explanations for bad events produce long-lasting helplessness and temporary explanations produce resilience.

Permanence is about time. Pervasiveness is about space. People who make universal explanations for their failures give up on everything when a failure strikes in one area. People who make specific explanations may become helpless in that one part of their lives yet march bravely on in the others.

UNIVERSAL (Pessimistic) SPECIFIC (Optimistic)
“All teachers are unfair.” “Professor Seligman is unfair.”
“I’m repulsive.” “I’m repulsive to him.”
“Books are useless.” “This book is useless.”

The optimistic explanatory style for good events is opposite that for bad events. The optimist believes that bad events have specific causes, while good events will enhance everything he does; the pessimist believes the bad events have universal causes and that good events are cause by specific factors.

SPECIFIC (Pessimistic) UNIVERSAL (Optimistic)
“I’m smart at math.” “I’m smart.”
“My broker knows oil stocks” “My broker knows Wall Street.”
“ I was charming to her.” “I was charming.”

Whether or not we have hope depends on two dimensions of our explanatory style: pervasiveness and permanence. Finding temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope: Temporary causes limit helplessness in time, and specific causes limit helplessness to the original situation. On the other hand, permanent causes produce helplessness far into the future, and universal causes spread helplessness through all our endeavors. Finding permanent and universal causes for misfortune is the practice of despair.

HOPELESS HOPEFUL
“I’m stupid.” “I’m hung over.”
“Men are tyrants.” “My husband was in a bad mood.”
“It’s five in ten this lump is cancer.” “It’s five in ten this lump is nothing.”

According to Seligman, the final aspect of explanatory style is personalization. When bad things happen, we can blame ourselves (internalize) or we can blame other people or circumstances (externalize). People who blame themselves when they fail have low self-esteem as a consequence. They think they are worthless, talentless, and unlovable. People who blame external events do not lose self-esteem when bad events strike. Not surprisingly, they like themselves better than people who blame themselves do.

Low self-esteem usually comes from an internal style for bad events.

INTERNAL (Low self-esteem) EXTERNAL (High self-esteem)

“I’m stupid.” “You’re stupid.”
“I have no talent at poker.” “I have no luck at poker.”
“I’m insecure.’ “I grew up in poverty.”

The optimistic style for explaining good events is the opposite of that used for bad events: It’s internal rather than external. Seligman writes that people who believe they cause good things tend to like themselves better than people who believe good things come from other people or circumstances.

EXTERNAL (Pessimistic) INTERNAL (Optimistic)

“A stroke of luck…” “I can take advantage of luck.”
“My teammates’ skill… “My skill…”

Seligman notes that although there are clear benefits to learning optimism—there are also dangers. “Temporary? Local? That’s fine. I want my depressions to be short and limited. I want to bounce back quickly. But external? Is it right that I should blame others for my failures.?”

Learned Optimism

November 15, 2019

The title of this post is identical to the title of a book by Martin Seligman, Ph.D. The subtitle is How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. Professor Seligman is the father of positive psychology. He felt that psychology had been focused almost exclusively on illness and problems. He thought that more emphasis should be placed on making people feel happy and fulfilled. You should note that there is a relatively new category of healthy memory blogs labeled ‘Positivity.”

Initially, Seligman’s renown was for documenting the finding of learned helplessness. Research with animals discovered that many of these subjects, if offered no way to free themselves from painful stimuli, would conclude that there was nothing to learn other than that they were helpless. So when given an opportunity to avoid or escape from painful stimuli, these animals would fail to do so.

Similar findings resulted with research on human subjects. Fortunately, humans can be asked about why they felt helpless. They explained that they thought that there was no way to avoid the painful or adverse situation. Even when there was a means of avoiding or stopping the situation, they still believed that that there was nothing they could do. So they had in effect learned to be helpless.

It is easy to think of people who live in poor environments with few opportunities for success. They, too, can readily conclude that there is nothing that they can do that they are victims of their environments.

This feeling that there is nothing that can be done to improve the situation provides the foundation for pessimism. On the other hand, optimists regard failures or disappointments as obstacles that they think that they can overcome. In other words, they are highly resilient.,

So what determines whether we are optimists or pessimists depends on how we think.

Seligman writes, “One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that individuals can choose the way they think. Research has shown that what distinguishes optimists from pessimists is their explanatory style. That is how they explain the failure they are experiencing. In other words, how they think about or explain the failure is in control of the individual.

The notion that we can control our minds and on how we think and feel has long been a theme of the healthy memory blog. Blog posts on meditation and mindfulness are devoted to teaching us how to have greater control of our minds.

The subsequent posts on “Learned Optimism” will discuss research on this topic and will provide strategies for being optimistic and overcoming negative thinking.

Positivity Wrap Up

September 4, 2019

It is hoped that by know you not only are aware of the extreme importance of increasing positivity and decreasing positivity in your life, but that you also have an extensive amount of guidance as to how to accomplish these goals. The title is Positivity Wrap Up rather than Positivity Conclusion because positivity is a lifelong pursuit and it is only these series of posts that are concluding. Even so, you should anticipate future posts on this topic because it is so important. The fear is that the amount of advice might be overwhelming. Use what you find relevant and what you have the resources to address.

You have the survey for assessing your own positivity. Remember that the goal, the tipping point into positivity is a ratio of 3. However, you should not stop at this level and continue your endeavor into a more flourishing life.

Remember that these blog posts cannot do justice to the complete book. So consider reading “Positivity: Discover the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life,” by Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D.

A Positivity Toolkit

September 3, 2019

This post is based on a book by psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson, “Positivity: Discover the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life.”

Tool 1. Be Open. The goal here is to experiment with mindful awareness while carrying out your day. Make your motto “be open.” Temporarily rid your mind of expectations and judgments. These can cloud your ability to be open. Instead, give yourself permission and time to experience the richness of the present moment. No matter what you encounter, no matter what happens, experiment with both awareness and acceptance.

Tool 2. Create High-Quality Connections. Any social interaction—whether with family, co-workers, or someone ahead of you in line—is a chance to create a high-quality connection. According to Jane Dutton, cofounder of the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, your moments of connection with others form a dynamic, living tissue that can be either life-giving or life-depleting. High quality connections are life-giving. You recognize them instantly by several telltale signs: they foster mutual appreciation and encourage truly being or doing things together; they recharge your energy and your vitality; they bring real physiological changes. You can literally feel high-quality connections resonate within your body.

Tool 3. Cultivate Kindness. This tool draws from research done by Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness. Give yourself the goal of performing five new acts of kindness on a single day. Aim for actions that really make a difference and come at some cost, such as donating blood, helping your neighbor with her yard work. Assess what those around you might need most. Although some of the kind acts you choose may take some advance planning, make a point to carry them all out on a single day. At the end of the day, take stock. Notice the good feelings that come with increasing your kindness: the positive connection to the person you helped, the fitting sense of pride you get from making a contribution. For lasting impact, make your kindness day a recurring ritual. Be creative each week. Find new ways to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Try it for a few months and see the difference it makes.

Tool 4. Develop Distractions. The suggestion is to make two lists. Label one healthy distractions and the other unhealthy distractions. Ask, “What can I do to get my mind off my troubles?” Then brainstorm, identifying things you already do,as well as new activities you’d like to try. Try to come up with things you can do in good and bad weather, at work, at home, or on the road.

Write down the unhealthy distractions that tempt to you. For each unhealthy distraction that tempts you, come with a healthy alternative: a drink or snack that doesn’t take a toll; a movie, computer game, or song list that’s more uplifting.

Tool 5. Dispute Negative Thinking. This exercise comes from the Penn Resiliency Program. This requires a set of index cards. On each one, write one of your typical negative thoughts. Write down negative thoughts that are realistic and truly yours. Capture your inner critic, that voice in your head that’s skeptical of you, of others, and of everything around you—the voice of ill will.

Then shuffle the cards and pick one at random. Read, then as fast and as thoroughly as you can—dispute it. When you’re satisfied that you’ve shot down your menacing negativity with rapid-fire facts, move on to the next card. Repeat. As you work your way through your negativity deck, let you conviction grow as you become a seasoned disputer. Whenever you find gratuitous negativity lurking in your mind, externalize it by adding it to your deck of cards. Challenge yourself to meet it out in the open—out loud—with your rapid fire facts. Be sure that these are facts and that you are not lying to yourself.

Tool 6. Find Nearby Nature. Locate places you can get to in a matter of minutes that will connect you to green or blue, to trees, water, or sky. Ample research has shown that these boost positivity.

Tool 7. Learn and Apply Your Strengths. One way to learn your strengths is to take a free, online survey that Martin Seligman (the founder of Positive Psychology) and Chris Peterson developed with support from the Values in Action Institute. Allow yourself plenty of time to take this survey: it contains 240 items to measure 24 character strengths. You can find it by visiting Seligman’s website at the University of Pennsylvania’a Positive Psychology Center, or point your browser to http://www.AuthenticHappiness.com. After completing the survey, you’ll receive a report that ranks the 24 strengths by the degree to which they characterize you. The report will also feature your top five strengths, and encourage you to reflect on which ones truly resonate for you, which strengths, when you act on them, make you come alive. This self-reflection is critical. It’s how you locate your “signature” strengths among your top five.

Tool 8. Meditate Mindfully. There are many healthy memory blog posts on this topic. Go to healthymemory.wordpress.com and enter “relaxation response” in the search box.

Tool 9. Meditate on Loving-Kindness. There are also posts on this tool. Go to
healthymemory.wordpress.com and enter loving-kindness in the search box.

Tool 10. Ritualize Gratitude. Being grateful simply requires that you notice the gifts that surround you. If you’re drawn to record your thoughts in writing, consider buying a blank book to be your gratitude journal.

Tool 11. Savor Positivity. You need two things to experiment with savoring. First is a genuine love, joy, pride, or any other flavor of positivity in your life; second a willingness to think differently about it. The key is to think about the event in away that stokes your positivity flames right now. Truly cherish the event, and its benefits to you will grow.

A Word of Caution from HM. This is an enormous toolkit. It easily overwhelms. It’s even more overwhelming when you consider your obligations. Some of the tools here should be helpful in dealing with your obligations. But you need to be selective, picking and choosing what you think is most helpful and what you think you’ll be able to devote your time to.

Increase Positivity

September 2, 2019

The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in a book by a book by psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson, “Positivity: Discover the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life.” The chapter begins with the following Cherokee parable:

One evening an Old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle
that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy jealousy,
sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment,
inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

“ The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity,
humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth,
compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his
grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Sincerity matters. Take a moment to appreciate the word “Heartfelt.” To truly feel positivity in your heart requires that you slow down. The pace of modern life is often so relentless that it keeps you focused outward, away from your inner core. To increase your positivity, you’ll need to “un-numb” your heart. Let it feel. Let it be open. Slow yourself down enough so that you can see and hear and sense with your heart, not just with your eyes, ears, and mind. Let yourself breathe in and fully absorb the goodness that surrounds you. Connect to that goodness. Revel in it. Together with a sincere attitude, this slower pace unlocks your heartfelt positivity.

Find Positive Meaning. Finding positive meaning is always possible. Most of the circumstances we face are not 100% bad. So the chance to find the good, and honestly accentuate the positive meaning in your current circumstance, is always present, even if it’s simply to realize that “this too shall pass.” When you reframe unpleasant and even dire circumstances in a positive way, you boost the odds that positive emotions—like hope—will flow forth.

Savor Goodness. Another strategy for increasing positivity, perhaps obvious is to find the good within the good, by turning something positive into something even more positive. The author suggests calling this gold-plated positivity. She writes that savoring is a mental habit we can develop.

Count Your Blessings. By moving the riverbed of your habitual thought you can reframe something bad as something good and make good things even better. You can even do the same with seemingly ordinary things. You can take something flat, dull, and commonplace and make it sparkle. Oprah popularized the idea of keeping a gratitude journal. She encouraged people to write down five things they love each day.

Kindness Counts. There are at least two sides to kindness. When you count your blessings, you often appreciate how others have been kind to you and have elicited your gratitude. Recognizing your side of kindness is another simple and cost-free way to boost your positivity. Kindness and positivity feed own each other. Simply recognizing your own acts of kindness initiates an upward spiral.

Follow Your Passions. Give yourself permission to play. Find the activities that allow you to enter flow. Flow states are those peak moments in which you become fully absorbed in an activity, when the challenges of the activity are high and well-matched by your ever increasing skills. Some people enter into flow with their hobbies.

Dream About Your Future. Another way to boost your positivity is to dream more frequently about your future. Conjure up the best possible outcomes for yourself. Visualize your future successes in great detail. People who are assigned at random to carry out such an exercise show reliable increases in their positivity relative to those who carry out more mundane self-reflective actions.

Apply Your Strengths. People who have the opportunity to do what they do best—to act on their strengths—are far more likely to flourish. Research has shown that learning about your strengths can give you a high.

Connect with Others. Flourishing is not a solo endeavor. It’s scientifically correct to say that nobody reaches his or her full potential in isolation. Every person who flourishes has warm and trusting relationships with other people.

Connect with Nature. Natural environments may be as important to flourishing as social environments. So a very simple way to increase your positivity is to go outside.

Open Your Mind. Positivity and openness feed on each other, each triggering and reinforcing the other. This bidirectional link means that another level you can gasp to increase positivity is to be open. Be open and positivity will follow.

Open Your Heart. Whereas the practice of mindfulness meditation opens your mind, other age-old meditation practices seem to more directly unlock your heart. Practicing these other forms of meditation helps you experience your connections with others, bringing forth the deep and heartfelt positivity of community. The author suggest loving-kindness meditation. Enter “loving-kindness” into the search block at
healthymemory.wordpress.com to find relevant posts on this topic.

Dealing with Negative People

September 1, 2019

The title of this post is identical to the title of a section in of a book by psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D. titled “Positivity: Discover the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life.” The title presents a challenge to which we all will encounter. Here are three techniques for dealing with this situation.

Technique 1. Modify the situation. You need to be honest and ask yourself if there is any way that you inadvertently feed this person’s negativity. Could I somehow be baiting him with my own reaction or words? Am I to any degree closed down when we interact? What assumptions do I make about this person? Reviewing these questions might lead to better ways of interacting with this individual.

Another way to change the situation is to be proactive in setting the collective agenda. Choose joint activities that inspire you. Consider whether you might reserve the tasks that irritate you—for example, paying the bills or cleaning up—for when you’re each alone and less likely to fan the collective negativity flames.

If negativity surfaces, a final way to modify the situation is to inject compassion, hope, or even humor. Curb you tendency to respond “in kind” to gratuitous negativity with yet another helping of it. Don’t escalate the problem. Instead offer positive reframes of the negative messages delivered. Convert they “half empty” to half full.” Point out something that you both might see as funny. Scientific studies have shown that relationships in which one partner somehow manages to break the cycle of negative reciprocity—by respond to negativity in a neutral or positive way—fare far better than those in which partners mirror each other’s ill will.

Technique 2. Attend differently. Another strategy is to consider how you might attend to different aspects of this person. What are his positive qualities? What do you appreciate about him? What does he bring to the table? Perhaps your boss’s frequent bursts of anger are matched by his stand-out passion for making a positive difference in the world. Consider the times when your spouse has stood by you, loyal and faithful. Consider how you might give voice to what you appreciate. Research has documented that, in relationships, the areas where you choose to cast your attention and devote your words grow in strength and significance over time.

Technique 3. Change meanings. Instead of seeing this person as bringing you down, consider the quote by Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck,
Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath.
Could this person or situation be a teacher in disguise? They could be, if you reframe your time with her as a challenge—a challenge to be more mindful, less judgmental, or more compassionate. Remember that you do get to choose whether to react to the negativity this person spews. His negativity need not be yours. Working on you own reactions in a mindful way may even remove some of the fuel that keeps this person’s negativity flaming. But even if it doesn’t, you still come out ahead. You’ll have further developed your skill in mindfulness.

Decrease Negativity

August 31, 2019

The following post is based on a book by a book by psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson, “Positivity: Discover the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life.” The first tactic is to dispute the negative thoughts you are thinking. First of all, learn what you can from the experience such as starting a project earlier so cramming will not be needed at the end. Find whatever negative thoughts are useful, and learn from them. Remaining negative thoughts, such as criticizing yourself and your intelligence, should be disposed of. What is useful use. The remainder should be sent to your mental trash folder. Learning to dispute nonproductive forms of negative thinking is at the heart of cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. The author writes that you don’t need to have a diagnosable mental illness to benefit from this skill. You can use it to keep inevitable negativity at bay.

Another technique is to break the grip of rumination. Ruminating involves the consistent thoughts that keep running through your mind over and over. The first step is to identify that you are ruminating, and if these ruminations are not offering anything helpful, then stop doing it.

Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. So you need to do something that literally takes your mind off of your ruminations. Go for a jog. Go for for a swim. Fix your bike. Lift weights at the gym. Meditate or do yoga. Find some activity that totally absorbs you. You could call your friend and ask about his latest trip. Or you could read those articles you’ve been meaning to read for your next project at work.

You can become more mindful. You can meditate or engage in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR. Enter “mindfulness” “meditation,” or “MBSR,” into the search block at healthymemory.wordpress.com.

You can ask yourself which circumstances usher in the most negativity. Is it your commute? Mealtime? Interactions with certain family members or co-workers? Once you’ve identified the cause ask yourself, Is this negativity necessary? Is it gratuitous? Is it both?

Assess your media diet. A rule of thumb for news broadcasters is “If it bleeds, it leads.” Years ago marketeers discovered that negativity grabs your attention, draws you in, and keeps you watching. Surveys show that the more people watch television, the more violent they judge the world to be. Those who watch a lot of TV are not better informed about the evils of the world. They’re not. They grossly overestimate rates of violence. People who watch less TV are more accurate judges of the degree of risk we all might encounter each day.

Find substitutes for gossip and sarcasm. When you talk about others, highlight their positive qualities and good fortunes, not their weaknesses and mishaps. When poking fun, poke fun lightly. Hurl puns, not barbs, Avoid hidden forms of verbal aggression that cause needless guilt, humiliation, irritation, or self-consciousness to you or conversation partners. Occasions for necessary negativity abound, so there’s little need to manufacture negativity with you daily banter. Doing so needlessly cripples your positivity ratio and crushes your odds of flourishing.

Growing Positivity

August 30, 2019

This post provides an evaluation instrument for rating your own positivity. The remaining posts, all based on a book by psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D, will provide advice and exercises for growing positivity. The survey below proves a tool for rating your own positivity:

Instructions: How have you felt in the past day? Look back over the past day (i.e., from this time yesterday up to right now). Using the 0-4 scale below, indicate the greatest degree that you’ve experienced of each of the following feelings.
0 = Not at all
1 = A little bit
2 = Moderately
3 = Quite a bit
4 = Extremely

What is the most amused, fun-loving, or silly you felt?

What is the most angry, irritated, or annoyed you felt?

What is the most ashamed, humiliated, or disgraced you felt?

What is the most awe, wonder, or amazement you felt?

What is the most contemptuous, scornful, or disdainful you felt?

What is the most disgust, distaste, or revulsion you felt?

What is the most embarrassed, self-conscious, or blushing you felt?

What is the most grateful, appreciative, or thankful you felt?

What is the most guilty, repentant, or blameworthy you felt?

What is the most hate, distrust, or suspicion you felt?

What is the most hopeful, optimistic, or encouraged you felt?

What is the most inspired, uplifted, or elevated you felt?

What is the most interested, alert, or curious you felt?

What is the most joyful, glad, or happy you felt?

What is the most love, closeness, or trust you felt?

What is the most proud, confident, or self-assured you felt?

What is the most sad, downhearted, or unhappy you felt?
What is the most scared, fearful, or afraid you felt?

What is the most serene, content, or peaceful you felt?

What is the most stressed, nervous, or overwhelmed you felt?

There are ten items that reflect positivity. These are the ones that begin with the words amused, awe, grateful, hopeful, interested, joyful, love, proud, and serene

There are ten items that reflect negativity. These begin with the words, angry, shamed, contemptuous, disgust, embarrassed, guilty, hate, sad, scared, and stressed.

Count the number of circled positivity items that you scored as a 2 or higher.

Count the number of underlined negativity items that you endorsed as 1 or higher.

Calculate the ratio by dividing your positive tally by your negative tally. If your negativity count is zero for today, consider it to be a 1, to sidestep the can’t-divide-by-zero problem. The resulting number represents your positivity ratio for today.
A ratio of 3 is regarded as the tipping point into positivity. This is also called flourishing. Of course, you can keep growing above this ratio.

You should also be able to take this test online by going to
PositivityRatio.com

You can take this test now or whenever you choose to begin the posts providing advice and exercises for growing positivity. This enables you to measure your progress as you master known positivity techniques.

Build Your Best Future

August 29, 2019

The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in of a book by psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D. title “Positivity: Discover the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life.” The beginning of this chapter follows:

“You are constantly changing—not just your clothes or your hairstyle, but your inner core, the very essence of your being. Change is the rule, constancy the rare exception. Consider the change under way within you at this very moment. What you know as “you” is actually trillions of cells living and working together. Most only live for a few weeks or months. When they die, they re replaced by new cells. This cycle continues for as long as you live.

The pace of cell renewal varies by body part. Your taste buds live only a few hours. Your white blood cells live about ten days. Your muscle cells live about three months. Even your bones are made anew time and time again. Considering these differences, scientists have suggested that you replace about 1 percent of your cells each day. That’s 1 percent today, another 1 percent tomorrow, amounting to roughly 30 percent by next month, and 100 percent by next season. Seeing yourself and your cells in this way, every three months you get a whole new you. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that it takes around three months to learn a new habit or make a lifestyle change. Perhaps we can’t teach an old cell new tricks. Perhaps our best hope lies in teaching our new cells.

At one time scientists thought that your brain cells were different, that they didn’t change. Perhaps they even orchestrated the cycle of cell death and rebirth elsewhere in your body. Not so. Even key brain cells wither away and are reborn. Every part of you can change, and your brain is no exception.

More fascinating still is the discovery that the pace of cell renewal doesn’t simply follow some predetermined script. It varies depending on what you do and how you feel. A key signal tells your cells whether to decay or grow, for instance, is movement. A sedentary lifestyle hastens cell decay, An active lifestyle hastens cell renewal. This is true for both your body and your brain.

Your emotions are thought to be another key signal. Negativity prompts cell decay. Positivity prompts cell growth. At a very basic biological level, then, positivity is life-giving.

These scientific discoveries about the ever-changing nature of your body and brain are fully consistent with the second core truth about positivity: it transforms us for the better.”

Remember the metaphor presented in the Post, “Best Way to Think About Memory.” The metaphor is that the best way to think about your brain is as a corporate building. Your conscious mind resides in the executive suite at the top floor of the building. All of you memories and cognitive resources can be found at the floors below. Having positive thoughts and thinking about problem situations in constructive ways will have a profound beneficial effect on your memory, your feelings, and your sense of fulfillment as a human being.

Positivity

August 28, 2019

Positivity

Positivity is the title of a book by psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D. The subtitle is “Discover the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life.” Do not be put off by the hype. This book offers guidance on developing a more positive outlook on life

Readers of the healthy memory blog should know that a positive outlook is key to both mental health and physical health as well as a fulfilling life. Healthy memory blog readers should also be aware that we humans have a negative bias, which leads us to a negative outlook. This can be good if it forewarns us of danger, but, for most of us, at least danger does not loom around every corner.

Our negativity is further exacerbated by the nature of the news, which tends to feature negative articles, as well as the internet, which can further exacerbate negativity.

Indeed, the current president of the United States campaigned on fear and negativity and continues during his presidency to promote fear and negativity among his base (nazis and white supremacists) to increase, in his mind, his chances of winning reelection.

Six important facts about Positivity follow:

Fact 1. Positivity feels good. This alone could justify being positive as that the simple state of being positive is a pleasant experience.

Fact 2. Positivity changes how your mind works. Positivity does not just change the contents of your mind, trading bad thoughts for good ones; it also changes the scope or boundaries of your mind. It widens the span of possibilities that you see.

Fact 3. Positivity transforms your future. Although good feelings will forever be fleeting, over time, positivity literally brings out the best in you.

Fact 4. Positivity puts the brakes on negativity. In a heartbeat negativity can spike your blood pressure, but positivity can calm it.

Fact 5. Positivity obeys a tipping point. Dr. Frederickson writes, the most stunning and practical fact to emerge from the science of positivity is that its effects are nonlinear. Effects that are virtually nonexistent at one starting point grow disproportionately large at a different starting point. A tipping point is that sweet spot in between where a small change makes a big difference.

Fact 6. You can increase your positivity. You have more to say than you think, just as does the potential for life-giving positivity.

Positivity broadens and builds. Positivity opens us. The first core truth about positive emotions is that they open our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and more creative.

Positivity transforms us for the better. This is the second core truth about positive emotions. By opening our hearts and minds, positive emotions allow us to discover and build new skills, new ties, new knowledge, and new ways of being.