Primer in Positive Psychology

My primer in positive psychology is more individual than theoretical.

In both my personal and professional addictions work, I have seen many resilient people rebuild lives that were a shambles, lives with significant collateral damage, lives that had jail and loss of children and bankruptcy and violence and divorce, for example, (think codependence), so I have long been a fan of those AA promises, which come true for you if you focus on the solution, rather than the problem.

The field of psychology is now reviving values of the field that we lost sight of subsequent to WWII, values about developing talents and happiness and how to achieve happiness, for example, values which are very consistent with that AA focus on solutions.

That field is called positive psychology, and it is growing fast.

My own study of recovery from alcohol addiction, resilience, and positive psychology has lead me to some interesting insights about the role of self regulation in recovery.

Perhaps the first thing I learned in AA that worked for me to change my mood, was to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I found myself feeling afraid or resentful.

That phrase would help to remind me that things could be worse, and sometimes the feeling that went with the thoughts about gratitude would stay with me for quite awhile, other times I might need to repeat the phrase frequently.

In other words, I needed to change the thought to change the feeling.

Somewhere along the way, I had picked up the idea that I was supposed to feel good all the time, and that things like acclaim, accomplishment, and income were to follow an upward positive trajectory forever, which I now know to be an irrational thought.

So any primer on positive psychology for me will include a significant amount of education about how frequently we need to reaffirm our solution oriented thoughts and behaviors to continue a general trajectory of positive psychology, because we will pop out of our positive psychology many times every day, and must choose to re-enter positive psychology..

Please use this as a point of reference; we take 1/10th of a second to blink our eyes.

However, the Posit Science Brain Fitness folks who have developed one of the premier brain fitness programs, especially useful for Seniors Citizens, say that we need to process visual data while driving in 1/45th second.

Paul Ekman in his work on facial expressions says that we can respond physiologically to a look of contempt in 1/25th second.

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi in his book FLOW says that we can process sensory data perhaps every 1/18th second, which is about twice as fast as I can blink my eyes.

Any primer on positive psychology must include attention to the speed of my attention.

Why? There is research out there now that says paying attention to meditative thought increases our ability to feel compassion by changing the structure of the human brain.

My premise then is that teaching awareness of thinking can lead to longer and longer periods of internal coherence, brain change, and positive psychology.

My favorite tool for awareness of my internal emotional and cognitive behavior is the HeartMath emWave tool.

emWave is a biofeedback tool which teaches me to regulate the time between my heart beats. When my heart beat is coherent, every cell in my body dances to that coherence, and I feels good.

More importantly, emWave is based on the study of neurocardiology, which is the study of the nervous system in my heart.

Your heart has enough neurons in it to learn and make decisions independently of any other brain we have, and it sends a lot of data up to my head about my current physiological status.

The brain in my heart, when I access it, is cooperative and affiliative, which makes my behavior cooperative and affiliative, and most importantly, I can adjust my positive psychology heart beat by heart beat.

You will be amazed as you learn how to do your emWave process, or even your gratitude tree, how quickly your mind will wander off to some other thought. It is much faster than your heart rate, as fast as that 1/45th second mentioned above.

In other words, your attention goes from helpful to hurtful.

The Role of Brain Fitness In Positive Psychology

Our brains are not static, they are changing with each thought that we have.

New connections between neurons are being formed, which can be helpful if I direct them to the solution.

This capacity of the human brain to form new connections, in minutes, not decades, is called neuroplasticity and any primer in positive psychology needs to address the enhancement of neuroplasticity and another very important characteristic of the human brain, neurogenesis.

Neurogenesis means we grow new neurons daily, but I may not get to keep them unless I challenge them with novel learning experience.

So our study of a personal positive psychology is being reduced to awareness of internal states and changing them from problem to solution by the practice if biofeedback or by using brain fitness tools to enhance neuroplasticity or neurogenesis.

This awareness allows for quick change from problem to solution, or vice versa if you want.

If you want to take a look at a book which very clearly illustrates this brain fitness material, please read Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan.

They are going to give you very important and easy to understand information about what they call the pillars of brain fitness, and what we can do to enhance it, which enhances neuroplasticity and neurogenesis which enhances our personal positive psychology.

The most important of those pillars is physical activity/exercise, followed by nutrition, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experience, which might include learning a new language, or learning to play a new instrument, or using a computerized brain fitness program.

The computerized brain fitness programs linked to below are programs which have made a difference in my ability to pay attention for longer periods of time.

The Mind Sparke Program increases IQ, with apparently no upper limit. In other words, the more you practice the better you get.

I love Lumosity because it is quick, and I can do it between phone calls or clients just to brighten my brain.

The Posit Science Tool has helped me with word recall, for those senior moments.

They are all wonderful additions to your personal positive psychology. Good Luck. 

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Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro - Software that makes you smarter

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