Posts Tagged ‘Future’

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.

The “Now” is Really the “Then”

March 31, 2013

The “Now” is a key concept in mindfulness with the objective of staying present in the “now.” As will be mentioned later in this post, the objective is good, but it is misnamed. Our information processing limitations are such that we can never be present in the “now.” It takes about 0.1 seconds to read data out of our sensory stores. Further processing is then required before the data becomes information that we can understand. So all we know is history, although an extremely small portion of it is very recent history. We use our memories to predict and cope with the future. One of the most remarkable athletic feats is hitting a ball with a bat. The ball is arriving quickly, sometimes extremely fast. The projection of where that ball will be and how we are going to meet it with a bat requires literally a split second decision based on past information that has just recently arrived. Very few people seem to be aware of these delays that preclude us from being precisely in the “now.” This is of particular concern to me as there does not seem to be an awareness among many of the drivers how long it will take them to react should they need to take action. Even if one is devoting full attention to responding to a signal, that decision cannot be immediate. When one is scanning the highway and thinking the car will have traveled considerable distance before one can react. This time is further increased when one is on a cell phone.

We use this historical information stored in our memories to cope with the external world. We build models of the world to project ourselves into the future and try to predict it. I once knew a physicist who was disturbed that light could be both a wave (having frequencies) and a particle (photons). As a psychologist this never bothered me. There are models in our minds. Different models can be better suited for understanding different phenomena. This is the case with light. I don’t believe that we, as corporal beings, can ever experience the external world directly, but only via the models we develop in our minds,

In mindfulness what is really meant by being in the “now” is being in control of our attention. Our brains remain active 24 hours a day, and I doubt absent any pathology that there is any time that our minds our not filled with something. The exercises one performs to be “mindful” involve controlling one’s attention. There are a wide variety of meditation techniques to do this. At one extreme is the focusing and maintaining attention on a single action, breath, word, or phrase. It is very important to be able to focus attention processing at certain times. At the other extreme, meditation involves letting thoughts flow through our minds unedited. The goal here is to bypass filters or information processing biases that cause us to reject certain thoughts or ideas. Insight and creativity are critically dependent on both these types of attention (See the healthymemory blog post, “Creativity: Turn Your Prefrontal Cortex Down, Then Up”).

Although I am a strong proponent of mindfulness and many of its practices, I am a bit put off by some of the terms that are used.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2013. 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.