Training your mind to see the positive

Brains of happy people tuned in to notice positive events

Psychologists Wil Cunningham and Tabitha Kirkland at Ohio state university observed the brain scans of volunteers whilst showing them pictures designed to evoke positive, negative or neutral responses.  Positive images included a basket of kittens and negative images included someone being threatened with a gun.

What they found was that those participants who rated their own subjective level of happiness highly had a greater arousal of the amygdala (a region of the brain used to process information about the world around us and our emotional responses to it) when shown positive images, than participants who rated themselves lower on self reported happiness scales.

 The scans results showed that all the volunteers responded in similar ways to negative and neutral images.  What this may suggest is that people with a rosy outlook on life respond positively to positive stimulus in their environment and are more likely to observe these events, however they are still highly aware of threats around them.  They see the world in a balanced way. 

When I learnt the vipassana meditation technique I was constantly reminded to keep observing the world afresh.  The mantra was to view the world as it is rather than how you think it should be. 

That’s one of the great things about positive psychology – its interventions train your mind to focus on what’s good in the world and by doing so you build the tenacity to overcome your challenges and deal with the threats.  For all the problems in the world its still a beautiful life

Our next positive psychology course details are at Breathe London


Posted on November 17, 2011, in positive psychology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. You really bring out some good information in this article. I usually have a hard time seeing the positive out of things. Usually I end up making myself sick because of it worrying about all that could go wrong.

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