Neurons that fire together, wire together!

glasses-983947_960_720I am spending the next 6 days learning more about Positive Neuroplasticity at the Positive Brain Change: Tools for Lasting Happiness, Love, and Peace workshop by Rick Hanson, Ph.D., which makes me positively happy!

Never stop learning about things you love.

I have been experiencing, teaching and sharing the benefits of savoring the good moments of our life for years, but I enjoy the topic so much and I talk with so many folks about it that I am always seeking new ways to learn more about our wonderful brains!

Did you know that you can change your brain? It’s true – neurons that fire together, wire together. The more time you spend reinforcing the positive moments in your life and savoring them, the more likely you will be to focus on, enjoy and benefit from them, because your brain is geared to do just that! New neural pathways form, making it easier for the good times to flow, in and out of you. And, over time, these new pathways can help you deal with negative moments and events more quickly and with less harmful effects on you and your sweet soul. Life will be happier, gentler and more fulfilling.

You see, if you take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves. (Tibetan saying.)

I hope the next 6 days are wonderful for you. And, that you treat the positive moments that arise with the tender loving care they deserve, because if you do, they will repay you tenfold, by helping you create the happiness and the life you deserve.

 

 

Positive thinking, a day to remember

positive-thinking-photoToday is Positive Thinking Day, which makes me very happy, because I’m a big believer in visualizing positive outcomes. Visualizing positive outcomes sounds fancy and maybe even a bit sciency, but all it means is that I try to spend more time predicting fabulous endings for activities and events in my life than I do worrying about them turning into major disasters. That’s my way of practicing positive thinking.

Each time I do a presentation or work with a client, I spend a few minutes before getting started, picturing how good I will feel after the session or looking back on my presentation. Sometimes I even picture folks coming up to say thanks and that they enjoyed it – and someone always does!

I developed this habit years before I read the positive psychology research that shows, there is a definite benefit to this happy habit. Studies show predicting positive outcomes produces a more positive short term outlook, which may lead to more positive outcomes. Short term – means the effect doesn’t last forever, but if used daily, positive thinking can definitely enhance your life.  I think the best part of the process is that since I spend much less time worrying about what could go wrong, my life (not just my outlook), has improved dramatically. I have learned to flick the switch to positive, which truly has lit up my life!

cake-1588967_960_720Since today is Positive Thinking Day, why not spend a moment or two predicting a wonderful outcome on some task or responsibility coming your way. You can start with something super simple, such as predicting a new recipe you are trying will come out well. Picture the finished product looking, tasting and smelling delicious. (Like this rich and powder-sugary, crispy-top, plum cake I plan to bake.) The more detailed your day dream, the better. Or, if you have a new project ahead at work, picture it in its final form, looking good and finished on-time. Envision yourself handing it in and how great it will feel having it completed.

These small steps flood your brain with a totally different set of hormones and chemicals than stress and worry do and they open new pathways and possibilities for you. Thinking positive isn’t just a pleasant pastime or or scientific mumbo-jumbo, it truly makes a difference in your brain.

Wishful thinking works, give it a try today, Positive Thinking Day. You have nothing but worry to lose!

Are you ready? Life could be better  . . . Wishful Thinking Works Life Coaching

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Give it a try on Positive Thinking Day!

Discover and raise your positivity score. A 3-to-1 ratio is the way to go.

“World renowned researcher Dr. Barbara Fredrickson gives you the lab-tested tools necessary to create a healthier, more vibrant, and flourishing life. She discovered that experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio with negative ones leads people to a tipping point beyond which they naturally become more resilient to adversity and effortlessly achieve what they once could only imagine. With Positivity, you’ll learn to see new possibilities, bounce back from setbacks, connect with others, and become the best version of yourself.”              (http://www.positivityratio.com/)

In the weeks ahead I will be posting more about University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill professor and researcher Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.’s wonderful work. We’ve talked about her “Broaden and Build” theory before. Her ground-breaking research in positive psychology tips the scales in your favor. Her tests and tips can set you on a clear path to positivity and help set you apart from the “80% of Americans” who are resting at a 2-to-1 or less positivity ratio.

Step out from the crowd and celebrate “Positive Thinking Day” by spending 3 minutes taking Fredrickson’s free online “Positivity Self Test” to find out a snapshot of your positivity ratio with the goal of paying attention to the questions, not the outcome! You see, the questions hold the clues to positivity – they capture the positive and negative thoughts and emotions we produce and respond to; the ratio reflects the impact they have on your life. Thoughts + ratio = your life.

Be honest as you answer the questions. If your ratio is not what you want it to be – not to worry. Simply use it as a baseline, and think positively! The key to the many, many benefits of positivity is a long-term 3-to-1 ratio, which is oh, so possible. Barbara’s research and your brain are designed to help you – knowledge and practice are the way to go. Barbara’s done the investigating and the gathering; I’ll help by sharing her info, and you can pitch in with the practice. Sounds like a winning combination to me, and it’s all free for the taking!

Get started today, and then come back in the weeks ahead for more of Barbara’s info, tips and techniques.

Until then, think positive!

PS Yup, I have posted about Fredrickson’s 3-to-1 ratio recently and in the past, because positivity matters! So much so, that tomorrow I’m celebrating my “Positive Thinking Day” by giving a transatlantic talk about it at the American Corner in Bitola, Macedonia via Skype. (That’s their program poster above.)

Your positivity ratio and how to raise it!

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson is a leader in the positive psychology field; her work has been on my mind a lot lately. Her research on positive emotions is groundbreaking, and is really good stuff that can change your life – if you let it! I’ve been sharing her work at my Wishful Thinking Women Meetups and workshops and with clients. One year ago I shared it with you, here’s what we talked about . . .

I’ve mentioned Dr. Barbara Fredrickson a couple of times in previous posts. She’s the researcher, who developed the “Broaden and Build Theory” of positive psychology, which states that positive emotions broaden our awareness and perception thereby increasing our curiosity, creativity and choices.

The “Broaden and Build Theory” is the other side of the coin, so to speak, of the “Fight or Flight Theory”, which notes that we are designed to focus and narrow our vision and responses in short-term, quick-decision, dangerous situations. Both emotional responses have value – there are times when we need to react quickly, with precision and almost instinctual intent and when we need to allow ourselves the freedom to fully enjoy and explore life and its options.

The good news is, our brains are hard-wired for both. The bad news is, many of us have allowed the occasional need for fight and flight responses to spill over into many or all of life’s everyday activities. We are constantly on the lookout for emotional and physical threats, or have come to believe that bad news (i.e., psychological danger) is lurking around every corner. Our preoccupation with all things negative, stresses our bodies and may be leaving us feeling frustrated, angry or depressed.

Not to worry, after identifying and qualifying the value of positive emotions, Fredrickson took her research one step further and in her 2009 book Positivity, she quantified their value. Fredrickson and her team of researchers formulated the 3:1 positivity ratio of positive to negative emotions. The ratio is a simple but valid mathematical equation for revealing happiness levels. I like to think of it as the psychological tipping point between getting by and soaring high. 

“80% of Americans fall short of the ideal 3-to-1 positivity ratio.”

Yikes! According to Fredrickson, 80% of us are not at our best. That’s not to say we are miserable, we’re not, but we are also not as happy or fulfilled as we could be.

Fredrickson’s research shows that we need to have 3 positive emotions for every 1 negative emotion to flourish. Her work indicates that our world’s do not need to be perfect for us to flourish – negativity can still be present (as represented by the “1” in the 3:1 ratio), but as long as the ratio is 3 to 1 we are good to go.

Fredrickson notes that a 2:1 ratio means we are getting by. We might be happy, but not at our best and when faced with negativity or hard times, we can easily slide to a 1:1 ratio. Is the difference between 3:1 and 2:1 important? Here’s what Fredrickson has to say on the subject:

” . . . experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions leads people to achieve what they once could only imagine. Far from frivolous, tapping into one’s own unique sources of positivity is a wise and healthy investment in the future.”     

And, here is the truly important aspect of Fredrickson’s research, with simple changes and targeted tweaking we can move ourselves from a 2:1 to a 3:1 ratio, or higher, which improves the likelihood that we will create the lives we really want! You can improve your internal environment and enhance your external landscape by:

  • becoming more aware and savoring what is good in your life;
  • focusing on your strengths and what you and others do well;
  • predicting better for you and your loved ones;
  • adding a bit of mediation to your daily mix;
  • doing more of what you love – even the simplest little things,
  • and maintaining and enriching your relationships.

If you are interested in assessing your positivity ratio, Fredrickson has created a free online survey to help take our emotional “temperature”. (My word not her’s). To get a true “temperature” reading, Fredrickson suggests taking the survey once a day for two weeks. The survey only take three minutes to complete. If you would like to give it a try, click away. (Taking the survey even once, provides valuable insight because it shares specific examples of positive and emotional states; I highly recommend it.)

If you would like to learn more about the “Broaden and Build Theory” or the positivity ratio, click here to listen to an online interview with Barbara Fredrickson discussing her theories and research.

PS A super special shout-out to all the new Wishful Thinking Women in Tampa. Really enjoyed meeting and talking with you on Saturday – hope you are still feeling the glow – I am!

If you are ready to improve your or your organization’s positivity ratio, you do not have to do it alone. Contact Patrice Koerper; Wishful Thinking Works life coaching, workshops and seminars for help!

Find out what makes you uniquely you!


gymnast-patrice-koerper-life-coach-wishful-thinking-works

Did you know that you are a very cool and unique combination of virtues and character strengths?

Yes, you! You are uniquely designed to be good at certain stuff. How cool is that? Positive psychology studies show that one of the best ways to feel happy and fulfilled in your life is to identify and use your personal strengths to accomplish the “stuff” that best suits you.

Having and exercising your Character Strengths is nothing new, yet sometimes we have to be in just the right mood to move forward on something, so I am mentioning it today incase the spirit of the Olympics inspired you this weekend, and you are wondering what you can do to pursue your personal best.

Why not get started by taking the VIA Charcter Strength Survey to find out more about yourself and what makes you uniquely you. It only takes 15 -20 minutes, and it’s free. Not a bad investment for such a positive return; it could be the beginning of a whole new you or maybe just a more “fit” you, because once you discover your strengths and begin exercising them, you can increase your happiness and your sense of fulfillment. 

Don’t miss out on exercising your strengths, it’s a workout that can keep you fit for the rest of your life! Think of it as the Olympics for your mind! It only take a few clicks and less than 30 minutes to discover and begin exercising what makes you, uniquely you!

After you have completed the survey, click here to receive your free Wishful Thinking Works Circle of Strengths, which can help you exercise your strengths and work your way up to your personal gold medal of happiness! 

Patrice Koerper  Life Coach Wishful Thinking gold medal June 2013

 

If you are ready to go for the gold in your personal life, having a coach can help you focus and move forward faster.

Contact Patrice Koerper for Wishful Thinking Works coaching, today.

Party in your head, and you’re invited!

I’ve written about this topic before, but I just can’t get it out of my head!

In the June 26 online issue of the Positive Psychology News Daily, Bridget Grenville-Cleave, a Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) student at the University of East London, provided a series of summaries from the 5th European Positive Psychology Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, June 23-26 2010. Here is part of one of her summaries:

“Keynote 2: Barbara Fredrickson (Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA)

How Positive Emotions Work and Why

 . . . Positivity opens us, changing our perceptual horizons. Recent brain imaging research shows that the perception of people in a neutral or negative state is focused in one area, whereas people in a positive state have a broadened focus. The implications of this are as follows:

    1. We can see many possibilities.
    2. We’re more creative.
    3. We’re more resilient.
    4. We perform better. . .

Positive emotions transform us for the better – they’re a source of nourishment for growth . . .”

Well, there you have it – being positive is good for you!  Gratitude and appreciation stimulate wider areas of your brain, meaning you have more brain power going for you – neurotransmitters firing, connecting, interacting.  That’s a good thing.

Picture your brain on happiness – it is like a party in your head, and all the guests care about you and are working to make your life better.

That’s what being more positive can do for you, and your brain scans can prove it.

I like that. Party on!

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If you would like to start planning a party in your head, I can help!  You can learn to be more positive, and I can coach you through it.  For more information on life coaching and how it can change your life, click here.

The Lollipop Effect, redux

Each Friday in May I will be reposting or adapting Wishful Thinking Works’ most popular posts. (New posts will still appear weekly on Monday or Tuesdays.) This post, first published over a year ago, is based on a study I read about in former Harvard professor, Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage. I hope you use the simple steps to give yourself, your children, and others you care about the advantage of happiness.

 

Good morning. Hope you are all set for a wonderful long weekend. Here’s some info that might make the summer weeks ahead even brighter.

What do sweet treats have to do with how our brains work?

Well, it turns out that positively priming your brain before attempting simple or complex tasks can improve your success on those tasks – big time. So how do we positively prime? In psychological circles it’s known as creating “positive affect”. In real world terms, it’s nothing more than giving yourself or others a boost of positive feelings or a shot of happiness, and that’s easier to do than you might imagine!

You can prime yourself to think more creatively and process information faster and more effectively by simply thinking of a happy memory or giving yourself a guilt-free treat such as a lollipop!

In his book, “The Happiness Advantage”, Harvard professor, Shawn Achor shares a study that reveals doctors, who were primed with lollipops, provided the correct diagnosis twice as fast as the doctors in the study’s control group. And, here’s the kicker – they didn’t even get to eat the suckers – they just received them!

That’s not all. Research shows that 4-year-old kids did better when asked to just think about something happy before starting a task. And, high-schoolers, who conjured up the happiest day of their lives before beginning a standardized math test (math-yikes!), scored higher than their fellow students.

Achor notes that much of this research is based on the positive psychology work of professor Barbara Fredrickson, which led to her “Broaden and Build Theory”. The “Broaden and Build Theory” represents the flip side of the “Flight or Fight Theory”.  The “Flight or Fight Theory” reflects the brain’s ability to focus and narrow our thoughts and actions in times of extreme fear or stress, which is a good thing in times of danger, but can deplete our resources when everything in our lives is perceived as stressful. Fredrickson’s work reveals that a happy brain broadens our perspective and thoughts, increasing creativity and stamina, which is a good thing!

Being relaxed and happy allows us to do better in most areas of our lives. Our brains are hard-wired to perform more successfully at “happy” than at neutral or unhappy.

Happiness matters! Feeling positive makes a huge difference on outcomes in educational, personal, and professional settings, and as the studies above and many others show – even the simplest things can make us happy.

Are you ready to get happy?

Start your weekend by priming your brain:

  • Think of something that makes you happy. Picture it. Relive it in your mind. Now, savor it for a few seconds – you know you are “there” when you are experiencing almost the same glow as when your happy moment  first occurred.
  • Listen to music you love on the way to work. (I know it’s too late for today, but consider jammin’ in the car on the way home.)
  • Enjoy a special treat each day when you arrive at work. Or, have one waiting for you when you get home. (Not all treats have to be high calorie or even food!)
  • Keep a joke or riddle book in the kitchen for the kids to share with you while you are making dinner.
  • Dance while doing the dishes.
  • Use summer nights for stargazing or sleeping out.
  • Think of ways to create an organization where fun is not a dirty word and buying the donuts is part of the strategic plan.
  • Create a toy corner where you and other staff can mingle and “play” with a variety of games and other fun stuff.
  • Color – keep a nice big box of Crayola’s on-hand.
  • Next week, encourage staff to swap stories about the fun they had over the weekend.
  • Allow physical distractions in the office such as: hall golf, desk-top football or cubicle badminton. Be creative. (Cubicle badminton:  wad a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper into a ball, use a steno pad or other spiral notebook to serve it over the net (cubicle wall) – discuss your latest project with your colleague while volleying back and forth.)

The options are endless for upping the happiness level of your home, office, or classroom. Keep your ideas simple, mix them up regularly, focus and savor the good stuff and then sit back and see what happens. I’d love to hear what works for you.

In my perfect world, orange Tootsie Roll Pops grow on trees; just thinking of it makes me smile. And, reaching up to pick one makes me very, very happy.

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