Category Archives: Human Behaviour

Patterns in human behaviour – why we are all more similar than we think

Are you approachable?

 

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Are you approachable?

Do you ever think about how you are coming across to others? There can be times when we are giving off negative body language to others but are not aware of this. Often, negative body language comes from what we are thinking about. If we are self conscious and self focused, we may feel stressed and this will show in our body language.

Cognitive behavioural therapy deals with many issues and among those is social anxiety, also known as social phobia. When we suffer from social anxiety, we are often plagued by self doubt and worry too much about what others think of us. We focus on how we are coming across and this self focus ends up making us feel even more anxious. Ironically, when we care too much about being liked and/or being popular, we can end up making the situation worse for ourselves by placing too much pressure on our behaviour.

An analogy that helps my clients is to ask them to think about a row of shops. If you are walking down a street full of shops, you will be unlikely to enter into a shop that looks as if it is closed, has the door closed or has the shutters down etc

On the other hand, a shop that has the door open and looks inviting is more likely to get interest from passers by. I call this “shop open” and “shop shut” body language. Regularly monitor yourself to see whether you are giving off approachable “shop open” body language or unfriendly “shop closed” body language. Shop open body language consists of:

smiling, making eye contact, shoulders back etc

Sadly, when we are shy or feel anxious socially, our thoughts tend to be anxious in nature and this affects our body language negatively. What ends up happening is known as a self fulfilling prophecy – the very thing we fear comes true. If you feel anxious, try focusing on something external instead of  focusing on yourself. This is a great trick to lessen anxiety  in social situations. Focus on others, find out more about them…

In the future, remind yourself to give off “shop open” body language and you will immediately see a change in how people treat you and communicate with you.

Mandy X

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Surviving Loss: You always have a choice

loss and choice

 

Surviving Loss: You always have a choice

When you lose something important it can really knock you for six and change your ‘landscape’ immediately. Illness, death, the end of a relationship…there are many surprises that life sends all of us. I have been through experiences that have left long lasting impressions. At the time, the pain felt unbearable, a searing inescapable pain.  A time when I would have done anything to fast forward life so that I could feel better again.

I wouldn’t wish those times on anyone but I thought it might be a good idea to write a post with tips on what to do to survive those awful times.

When you feel overwhelmed as if you cannot take anymore, remind yourself that you are more resilient than you realise. You can either either sink or swim. Sinking won’t do any good so focus on swimming!

Learning how to swim

Tell yourself that you will get through it. You are strong. You are brave and you CAN do it. You are not going to let this event destroy you. Focus on what is possible…

 

Be philosophical

Everything happens for a reason. You may not know the reason and it may seem completely unfair but looking at life in a philosophical manner will help your mindset, help you cope better.

Post traumatic growth

Every hardship in life teaches you something. All those tears and times when you stayed hidden under the duvet have helped to make you stronger and learn skills that will make you more resilient in the future. Unfortunately no one escapes suffering, we all get out turn. It’s not personal – it’s just the way life is.

Look after yourself

It’s so tempting to just go ‘mad’ and indulge in all the things that won’t make us better in the long term but might help in the short term. The urge is to drown our sorrows. There are no quick fixes. Focus on eating right, getting some exercise (great for stress) and don’t overdo it on the alcohol. Strive for balance and show yourself the compassion you deserve. Make time for yourself. You will have good days and bad days, learn to treat yourself kindly and patiently.

Don’t isolate yourself

The worst thing you can do it hide away. People are far more caring than you may realise but you will only find this out if you risk it and reach out. Maintain your connections with others. This can be a life saver when you are going through a time time. We all need emotional support. Everyone is bumbling through life, trying to figure it all out.

Do what you love

A sad or stressful event will drain you as it encompasses a lot of negative energy. Make sure you find ways to introduce some positive energy into your life – seeing movies, listening to music, watching a comedy, playing with animals, going for a walk etc..

Make a list of things you love doing and make time for them! Keep your mind busy and off your problems.

Keep busy

Deal with the things you need to, but once that has been put into action, try to keep busy instead of wallowing and overthinking. This will lead to self pity and negative thinking and you will feel worse. Don;t give your mind time to allow those negative, self critical and/or fearful thoughts to pester you and affect your mood. Your mind is very good at churning out thoughts – get used to dismissing them…having a thought does not mean it is true or that it deserves any attention.

Life rarely goes as planned but it doesn’t mean your life is over. Be patient, as the days pass you will find things easier. Use the above tips to help you and if you find that you are continuing to struggle, it may be useful to speak to a therapist/mental health professional to make sense of things.

Mandy X

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examples of passive aggressive behaviour

 

passive aggressive

Examples of passive aggressive behaviour

I have put together a list of examples of passive aggressive behaviour as this type of behaviour can be subtle. Despite it being a form of manipulation that can be subtle on the surface, it’s emotional impact can be huge.

Examples of passive aggressive behaviour

  • Being nice to someone when you actually dislike them and feel unable to tell them you don’t like them
  • Agree with something but never follow through on it because underneath you really don’t agree at all
  • Act the opposite of what others are expecting. For example – you promise to pick someone up at 9am and turn up late, never having had the intention to comply and fetch them at the agreed time
  • Not voicing your true opinion but then manipulating the situation in order to get your own way
  • Feel angry inside but don’t express it it a healthy, mature way. Instead you use your behaviour to ‘show’ the other person you are angry with them. This can be done by ignoring the other person or giving them the silent treatment without them knowing what is going on
  • Trying to please others by agreeing with their plan of action, yet actually doing the opposite
  • Act one way but feel the opposite
  • Deny that any problems exist when there is clearly tension in a relationship
  • Minimise the extent of problems
  • Act in a patronising way and make as if the problems that exist are imagined
  • Demonstrate behaviour inconsistent with your words
  • Never confronting someone about problems

Steps to eliminate passive aggressive behaviour

Be more assertive and speak up – use direct and open communication to express yourself.Most people who display passive aggressive behaviour are not good at asking for what they want and feel they have to get what they want in an underhanded, covert manner.

We are all responsible for ourselves and you owe it to yourself to learn how to communicate as an adult. Children use passive aggressive behaviour because they fear standing up to their parents. As an adult, you have every right to disagree or ask for your opinion to be listened to.

Mandy X

 

Is my thinking normal?

 

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Is my thinking normal?

This is a question we all ask ourselves at times. I know I have had moments where I have questioned my sanity and wondered if I have completely lost the plot. This is usually as a result of some overwhelming emotional experience. I find when emotions are involved, my thoughts tend to be far less rational.

If you would like to test out your thoughts, try the Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale:

This questionnaire lists different attitudes or beliefs which people sometimes hold. Read each statement carefully and decide how much you agree or disagree with the statement. For each of the attitudes, indicate to the left of the item the number that best describes how you think. Be sure to choose only one answer for each attitude. Because people are different, there is no right answer or wrong answer to these statements.

To decide whether a given attitude is typical of your way of looking at things, simply keep in mind what you are like most of the time.

1 = Totally agree 2 = Agree very much 3 = Agree slightly 4 = Neutral 5 = Disagree slightly 6 = Disagree very much 7 = Totally disagree _____

1. It is difficult to be happy unless one is good looking, intelligent, rich, and creative. _____

2. Happiness is more a matter of my attitude towards myself than the way other people feel about me. _____

3. People will probably think less of me if I make a mistake. _____

4. If I do not do well all the time, people will not respect me. _____

5. Taking even a small risk is foolish because the loss is likely to be a disaster. _____

6. It is possible to gain another person’s respect without being especially talented at anything. _____

7. I cannot be happy unless most people I know admire me. _____

8. If a person asks for help, it is a sign of weakness. _____

9. If I do not do as well as other people, it means I am a weak person. _____

10. If I fail at my work, then I am a failure as a person. _____

11. If you cannot do something well, there is little point in doing it at all. _____

12. Making mistakes is fine because I can learn from them. _____

13. If someone disagrees with me, it probably indicates he does not like me. _____

14. If I fail partly, it is as bad as being a complete failure. _____

15. If other people know what you are really like, they will think less of you. _____

16. I am nothing if a person I love doesn’t love me. _____

17. One can get pleasure from an activity regardless of the end result _____

18. People should have a chance to succeed before doing anything. Revised date (4 October 2006) 56 _____

19. My value as a person depends greatly on what others think of me. _____

20. If I don’t set the highest standards for myself, I am likely to end up a second-rate person. _____

21. If I am to be a worthwhile person, I must be the best in at least one way. _____

22. People who have good ideas are better than those who do not. _____

23. I should be upset if I make a mistake. _____

24. My own opinions of myself are more important than others’ opinions of me. _____

25. To be a good, moral, worthwhile person I must help everyone who needs it. _____

26. If I ask a question, it makes me look stupid. _____

27. It is awful to be put down by people important to you. _____

28. If you don’t have other people to lean on, you are going to be sad. _____

29. I can reach important goals without pushing myself. _____

30. It is possible for a person to be scolded and not get upset. _____

31. I cannot trust other people because they might be cruel to me. _____

32. If others dislike you, you cannot be happy. _____

33. It is best to give up your own interests in order to please other people. _____

34. My happiness depends more on other people than it does on me. _____

35. I do not need the approval of other people in order to be happy. _____

36. If a person avoids problems, the problems tend to go away. _____

37. I can be happy even if I miss out on many of the good things in life. _____

38. What other people think about me is very important. _____

39. Being alone leads to unhappiness. _____

40. I can find happiness without being loved by another person._______

Dysfunctional Attitude Scale (DAS)    Author: Arlene Weissman

The DAS is a 40-item questionnaire that is designed to identify and measure cognitive distortions (irrational thinking), particularly distortions that may relate to or cause depression.

The items contained on the DAS are based on Beck’s cognitive therapy model and present 7 major value systems: Approval, Love, Achievement, Perfectionism, Entitlement, Omnipotence, and Autonomy.

Scoring: Any items that are missing, assign a zero. To obtain the overall score, simply add the score on all items (ranging from 1 to 7). When no items are omitted, scores on the DAS range from 40 to 280. Lower scores represent more adaptive beliefs and fewer cognitive distortions.

The higher your score, the more likely it is that your thinking is working against you and creating anxiety and depression. Be more aware of your thoughts and get into the habit of challenging their validity. Not every thought we think is true or is valid.

Mandy X

 

 

 

4 Tips for raising happy, emotionally healthy children

 

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4 Tips for raising happy, emotionally healthy children

It can be tough raising happy, emotionally healthy children in a world that is so full of emotionally unhealthy people. Children spend at least twelve years in an educational system that is sadly, ill-prepared for teaching our children how to manage their emotions effectively and how to deal with stress. In a world so sorely lacking in good advice and positive role models for children, the onus falls on parents more than ever to equip their children with effective mental skills and strategies to encourage resilience and staying power when the going gets tough.

Here are a few tips on how to better equip your children to navigate through their emotional world and cultivate mental and emotional strength.

Encourage emotional expression

Helping children to identify their emotions without judging the emotion as good or bad is a healthy way to teach children to own their feelings and be self aware. Emotion is a normal part of life and allowing children to express them helps children to accept and deal with their emotions rather than suppressing them. When children are taught to suppress emotions (eg. boys don’t cry, be a big girl now…) this suppression can lead to anxiety, depression and possible panic attacks. A panic attack occurs when a child denies their emotions – the emotion gets pushed down and the body is forced to ‘push it out’ on a physical level – that energy has to be released some how. Identify and label emotions.

Exhibit pro-social modelling

Be a positive role model and let your children see how you deal with your emotions. Children learn by observation and they will watch how you deal with your own anger, frustration and sadness. Some parents try to hide their emotions from their children but this is a bad idea as you are depriving your children of the chance to see what you do with your emotions. Let them see you sad or angry and show them how to deal with these emotions appropriately. Talk it over with someone, get some fresh air or exercise – whatever you do, make sure your children sometimes see how you deal with your emotional landscape – this is very valuable learning for them.

Teach psychological flexibility

It’s not so much what happens to us but rather how we perceive what happens to us that can make or break us. Bad things happen, yes and there is no way to make something bad seem good but the story we tell ourself can lessen the distress we feel. For example, if we fail at something, we could start an internal dialogue that goes something like this, “Nothing ever goes right for me. This just shows what a loser I am. What’s the point of even trying? I just fail at everything”. OR we could tell ourselves this story instead, “I failed and it sucks but that doesn’t mean I am a failure – it’s just that what I tried didn’t work.” The second self-talk dialogue will lead to a lot less stress than the first one. This is the beauty of psychological flexibility. There is ALWAYS more than one way to look at a situation. Thoughts lead to feelings and then behaviour. Ensure you teach your children to manage their thinking process and not catastrophise.

Preserve self esteem

Never tell your children that they are stupid. Always separate the behaviour from the child. What they did may not be ideal but never label the child as “bad, stupid, fat or lazy”. Love your children unconditionally. Your love for them should never depend upon achievement of any kind. Teach them that they are fundamentally valuable just as they are. Never compare them to others – each child has their own individual strengths. Learn to love your children just as they are. If you feel disappointment on any level – question whether it is your issue rather than your child’s issue. For instance, if your child doesn’t seem to have many friends, do not make an issue of it if they seem happy enough. If you imply that they should have more friends, you may inadvertently leave them feeling inadequate. Always check whether the issue is your own before addressing it with your child.

Parenting unfortunately does not come with an instruction manual and no parent gets through without making mistakes. Being informed is a great way though to try avoid some of the more common mistakes.

Mandy X

 

 

 

The Bystander Effect

  bystander effect

The Bystander Effect

The bystander effect occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation.

If you witnessed an emergency happening right before your eyes,  would you help? We’d all like to believe that this is t, psychologists suggest that whether or not you intervene might depend upon the number of other witnesses present.

Understanding the Effect

The term bystander effect refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the number of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in distress.

 

When an emergency situation occurs, observers are more likely to take action if there are few or no other witnesses. Being part of a large crowd makes it so no single person has to take responsibility for an action (or inaction).

In a series of classic studies, researchers Bibb Latane and John Darley  found that the amount of time it takes the participant to take action and seek help varies depending on how many other observers are in the room. In one experiment, subjects were placed in one of three treatment conditions: alone in a room, with two other participants or with two confederates who pretended to be normal participants.

As the participants sat filling out questionnaires, smoke began to fill the room. When participants were alone, 75% reported the smoke to the experimenters. In contrast, just 38% of participants in a room with two other people reported the smoke. In the final group, the two confederates in the experiment noted the smoke and then ignored it, which resulted in only 10% of the participants reporting the smoke.

 

Additional experiments by Latane and Rodin (1969) found that while 70 percent would help a woman in distress when they were the only witness, only about 40 percent offered assistance when other people were also present.

Example of the Bystander Effect

The most frequently cited example of the bystander effect in introductory psychology textbooks is the brutal murder of a young woman named Catherine “Kitty” Genovese.

 

On Friday, March 13, 1964, 28-year-old Genovese was returning home from work. As she approached her apartment entrance, she was attacked and stabbed by a man later identified as Winston Moseley.

Despite Genovese’s repeated calls for help, none of the dozen or so people in the nearby apartment building who heard her cries called the police to report the incident. The attack first began at 3:20 AM, but it was not until 3:50 AM that someone first contacted police.

Initially reported in a 1964 New York Times article, the story sensationalized the case and reported a number of factual inaccuracies. While frequently cited in psychology textbooks, an article in the September 2007 issue of American Psychologist concluded that the story is largely misrepresented mostly due to the inaccuracies repeatedly published in newspaper articles and psychology textbooks.

While Genovese’s case has been subject to numerous misrepresentations and inaccuracies, there have been numerous other cases reported in recent years.

 

The bystander effect can clearly have a powerful impact on social behavior, but why exactly does it happen? Why don’t we help when we are part of a crowd?

Explanations for the Bystander Effect

There are two major factors that contribute to the bystander effect.

First, the presence of other people creates a diffusion of responsibility. Because there are other observers, individuals do not feel as much pressure to take action, since the responsibility to take action is thought to be shared among all of those present.

The second reason is the need to behave in correct and socially acceptable ways. When other observers fail to react, individuals often take this as a signal that a response is not needed or not appropriate. Other researchers have found that onlookers are less likely to intervene if the situation is ambiguous. In the case of Kitty Genovese, many of the 38 witnesses reported that they believed that they were witnessing a “lover’s quarrel,” and did not realize that the young woman was actually being murdered.

Characteristics of the situation can play a role. During a crisis, things are often chaotic and the situation is not always crystal clear. Onlookers might wonder exactly what is happening. During such chaotic moments, people often look to others in the group to determine what is appropriate. When people look at the crowd and see that no one else is reacting, it sends a signal that perhaps no action is needed.

Can You Prevent the Bystander Effect?

So what can you do to avoid falling into this trap of inaction? Some psychologists suggest that simply being aware of this tendency is perhaps the greatest way to break the cycle. When faced with a situation that requires action, understanding how the bystander effect might be holding you back and consciously taking steps to overcome it can help. However, this does not mean you should place yourself in danger.

But what if you are the person in need of assistance? How can you inspire people to lend a hand? One often-recommended tactic is to single out one person from the crowd. Make eye contact and ask that individual specifically for help. By personalizing and individualizing your request, it becomes much harder for people to turn you down.

 

Mandy X

Sources:

https://www.verywell.com/what-is-diffusion-of-responsibility-2795095

Darley, J. M. & Latané, B. (1969). Bystander “apathy.” American Scientist, 57, 244-268.

Latané, B. and Darley, J. M. (1970) The unresponsive bystander: Why doesn’t he help?Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Manning, R., Levine, M. & Collins, A. (2007). The Kitty Genovese murder and the social psychology of helping: The parable of the 38 witnesses. American Psychologist, 2007;62(6): 555-562.

Soloman, L.Z, Solomon, H., & Stone, R. (1978). Helping as a function of number of bystanders and ambiguity of emergency. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 4, 318-321.

Perception vs reality

 

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Perception vs reality

Think of your perception of reality as your ‘map’. Think of reality as the ‘territory’. Perception vs reality is an important factor in how we live our lives and how successful we are at picking up on what is really going on. Over the years I have listened to many people’s stories, especially all the ways things can go wrong.Our parents teach us what they have learned. Along with this information, comes biases, prejudices and faulty assumptions which leads to our maps not quite fitting the territory. Our perceptions are ultimately distorted and stop fitting reality and this is where many problems come in.

We look for evidence that confirm our beliefs about the world and this, in turn, reinforces our perceptions and distorts what we see. I have seen many clients whose map is so far removed from the territory that they no longer actively engage with the world in a productive way that makes sense. People with severe anxiety and depression often have distorted maps and this causes them to only focus on certain negative aspects of reality in order to make sense of their thoughts and perceptions.

When it comes to perception vs reality, always look for the evidence in reality that supports your thinking/perceptions. This is one way to avoid upsetting and unhelpful thinking from getting the better of us. Cognitive behavioural therapy regularly refers to unhelpful thinking styles that tend to add to our stress. Thoughts such as: black and white (all or nothing) thinking, personalising (blaming ourselves for things that have nothing to do with us), catastrophising, emotional reasoning (I feel upset therefore something MUST be wrong), mind reading (thinking we know what others are thinking) and so on.

We have a lot of flexibility in the thoughts we want to choose to make sense of reality. Make sure you choose these thoughts wisely – ones that are reasonable, based on evidence as much as possible (rather than assumptions) and provide you with positive feelings.

Mandy X

PS. In times of distress, check what you have been telling yourself (your perceptions and thoughts of the reality) and always ask yourself “What can I tell myself that will make me feel better about this situation?” Always look for alternative ways to look at something – they are always there.

How Thinking affects brain chemistry

 

brain photo

How Thinking affects brain chemistry

 

It’s been proven over and over again that just thinking about something causes your brain to release neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that allow it to communicate with parts of itself and your nervous system. Neurotransmitters control virtually all of your body’s functions, from hormones to digestion to feeling happy, sad, or stressed.

Studies have shown that thoughts alone can improve vision, fitness, and strength. The placebo effect, as observed with fake operations and sham drugs for example, works because of the power of thought. Expectancies and learned associations have been shown to change brain chemistry and circuitry which results in real physiological and cognitive outcomes, such as less fatigue, lower immune system reaction, elevated hormone levels, and reduced anxiety.

According to Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom,  humans are evolutionarily wired with a negativity bias. In other words, our minds naturally focus on the bad and discard the good. This is because it was much more important for our ancestors to avoid threats than to collect rewards: An individual who successfully avoided a threat would wake up the next morning and have another opportunity to collect a reward, but an individual who didn’t avoid the threat would have no such opportunity.

Thus, the human brain evolved to focus on threats. Millennials are no stranger to stress and depression, especially when it’s work related—a recent study reported that around 20 percent of Millennials sought out help or advice in the workplace for depression—a higher percentage than any other generation. According to the Status of Women in the States report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Millennial women ages 18-34 report an average of 4.9 days of poor mental health per month, while Millennial men report an average of 3.6 poor mental health days. Our brains are highly attuned to stress, even when such stress is of the mundane variety and not at all life threatening.

“Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intense (e.g., loud, bright) positive ones, Hanson writes on his website. “They are also perceived more easily and quickly. For example, people in studies can identify angry faces faster than happy ones; even if they are shown these images so quickly (just a tenth of a second or so) that they cannot have any conscious recognition of them, the ancient fight-or-flight limbic system of the brain will still get activated by the angry faces.”

Hanson describes the brain as like “Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” While some individuals may be inherently more optimistic than others, it’s generally true that in order for positive experiences to “stick” in our brains as well as negative ones do, these positive experiences need to be held in our consciousness for a longer period of time.

“The alarm bell of your brain — the amygdala (you’ve got two of these little almond-shaped regions, one on either side of your head) — uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for bad news: it’s primed to go negative,” writes Hanson. “Once it sounds the alarm, negative events and experiences get quickly stored in memory — in contrast to positive events and experiences, which usually need to be held in awareness for a dozen or more seconds to transfer from short-term memory buffers to long-term storage.”

How negative thinking changes the brain

The more that an individual’s thought patterns trend negative and slip into rumination—continually turning over a situation in one’s mind and focusing on its negative aspects—the easier it becomes to return automatically to these thought patterns.

That’s not so great for our health. According to a blog post on Psychology Today, ruminating can damage the neural structures that regulate emotions, memory, and feelings. Even when our stress and worry is completely hypothetical and not based on any real or current situation, the amygdala and the thalamus (which helps communicate sensory and motor signals) aren’t able to differentiate this hypothetical stress from the kind that actually needs to be listened to.

Cortisol, a stress hormone, breaks down the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps form new memories. Most people experience a peak of cortisol in the morning, but it can also spike throughout the day in response to stress. The more cortisol that’s released in response to negative experiences and thoughts, the more difficult it can become, over time, to form new positive memories.

In neuroscience, the expression “neurons that fire together, wire together” describes “experience-dependent neuroplasticity”—essentially, the concept that our brains are shaped by our thoughts and experiences. According to Hanson, the synapses in our brains that fire frequently become more sensitive. Our experiences and thoughts can lead to the growth of new synapses and even change our genes, altering the very structure of our brain. Or, as Hanson writes, “the brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon.”

If you’re prone to negative thinking, this might seem disheartening. It’s easy to assume that we have no control over our thoughts. After all, they often pop up out of nowhere, and when rumination takes hold, it can be difficult to break its grip (I would know, I’m an accomplished ruminator). But the good news—and the basis of much of Hanson’s work—is that it ispossible to change our thought patterns and even “hardwire happiness” into our brains (which is the title of Hanson’s 2013 book).

If I were to put you into an MRI scanner—a huge donut-shaped magnet that can take a video of the neural changes happening in your brain—and flash the word “NO” for less than one second, you’d see a sudden release of dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters. These chemicals immediately interrupt the normal functioning of your brain, impairing logic, reason, language processing, and communication.

In fact, just seeing a list of negative words for a few seconds will make a highly anxious or depressed person feel worse, and the more you ruminate on them, the more you can actually damage key structures that regulate your memory, feelings, and emotions.[1] You’ll disrupt your sleep, your appetite, and your ability to experience long-termhappiness and satisfaction.

If you vocalize your negativity, or even slightly frown when you say “no,” more stress chemicals will be released, not only in your brain, but in the listener’s brain as well.[2] The listener will experience increased anxiety and irritability, thus undermining cooperation and trust. In fact, just hanging around negative people will make you more prejudiced toward others![3]

Any form of negative rumination—for example, worrying about your financial future or health—will stimulate the release of destructive neurochemicals. And the same holds true for children: the more negative thoughts they have, the more likely they are to experience emotional turmoil.[4] But if you teach them to think positively, you can turn their lives around.[5]

Negative thinking is also self perpetuating, and the more you engage in negative dialogue—at home or at work—the more difficult it becomes to stop.[6] But negative words, spoken with anger, do even more damage. They send alarm messages through the brain, interfering with the decision making centers in the frontal lobe, and this increases a person’s propensity to act irrationally.

Fear-provoking words—like poverty, illness, and death—also stimulate the brain in negative ways.  And even if these fearful thoughts are not real, other parts of your brain (like the thalamus and amygdala) react to negative fantasies as though they were actual threats occurring in the outside world. Curiously, we seem to be hardwired to worry—perhaps an artifact of old memories carried over from ancestral times when there were countless threats to our survival.[7]

In order to interrupt this natural propensity to worry, several steps can be taken. First, ask yourself this question:  “Is the situation really a threat to my personal survival?” Usually it isn’t, and the faster you can interrupt the amygdala’s reaction to an imagined threat, the quicker you can take action to solve the problem. You’ll also reduce the possibility of burning a permanent negative memory into our brain.[8]

After you have identified the negative thought (which often operates just below the level of everyday consciousness), your can reframe it by choosing to focus on positive words and images. The result: anxiety and depression decreases and the number of unconscious negative thoughts decline.

Making the association between thoughts and our brain chemistry is crucial in understanding the link between our thinking and our physical and mental health. Thinking rationally and trying to look for positives has far more benefits that many of us realise, or even really understand.

Mandy X

 

Source/References:

 

How Your Thoughts Change Your Brain, Cells, And Genes

http://www.attn.com/stories/2587/what-negative-thinking-does-your-brain