One benefit of this amazing adaptable brain we have, is that we can train it. We can train it, and ourselves, to “think” in certain ways. It’s the habits in thinking – our ‘attentional biases’ – that influence our emotional responses to things happening around us.
If we’re in the habit of focussing on the negatives, we can set up a loop of cognitive distortions (errors in thinking) that can amplify or exaggerate the negatives in life experiences.
But we can also ‘re-program’ our thinking to look for and focus on the positives.
Our brain is like plasticine. Right through our lives, it is moulded and shaped and reshaped. And, like our bodies, our brains respond to ‘exercise’. If we spend a few minutes each day practicing positive thinking, and focussing on positive emotions – like love, gratitude, learning, compassion, connection – we can shift our attentional biases to the positives in life’s experiences, and see them as opportunities for enrichment.
It is an exercise in mindfulness. Of being alert to, and thankful for, the small joys – all those good things in our lives that are not diminished by ‘bad things that happen’.
Our children will continue to love us even if we’re having trouble paying off the credit card, or the car breaks down, or we have to move to a smaller house. Our friends will still enjoy our company, we will still love a walk in the park, we will still get a buzz looking over old photographs of happy holidays.
Focussing on positives, spending a few moments every day to allow these life-affirming little joys and warm reminders of our humanity will strengthen our resilience and place a shield around our mental health when ambushed by bad events, stress and negative emotions.
Doing this will not only make us happier, but also healthier. And our strengthened psychological resilience will help us ‘bounce back’ more quickly on the other side.
This information comes from The Little Blue Book of MENTAL HEALTH COVID-19 Edition (Tim O’Brien). Pp 22-23.
For information about ADA Australia Workplace Mental Health Training: CLICK HERE