I've posted recently here about various topics that I thought were both interesting and relevant from a series of lectures on mindbody medicine I've been watching. The lectures are by Jason M. Satterfield, PhD, a professor of behavioral sciences at the University of California in San Francisco. In one lecture, Satterfield tells how emotions can make us sick or keep us healthy. It is titled “What is Your EQ (Intelligence Quotient) and How Can You Improve It?” EQ is the ability to perceive emotion in ourselves and others. Low EQ predicts less satisfying interpersonal relations. High EQ leads to better relationships with our peers as well as with our bosses and helps us to have a more positive mood at home and work. We can change our EQ from low to higher but that can be harder to do if it comes from a personality trait. However, it also can be changed for the better with teachable skills and activities. Dr. Satterfield quotes Prof. Judith Moskowitz at the University of California, San Francisco, who helps low-income women diagnosed with HIV. She suggests they work on their fear emotions by following these five steps: Awareness: Notice the positive events that happen in your life. Savoring: Think positive thoughts. Gratitude: Write a gratitude letter about what you are grateful for. Mindfulness meditation. It has elements of sonic quieting, acceptance, and positive self-regard. Acts of kindness. Buy something for someone as a surprise gift; it boosts their morale and yours. It is important to seek an EQ balance to better respond to our life and the world around us. Since most people who post in the subforums say they have problems with depression, anxiety, and fear, I surfed the Web for sites on how to develop more positive emotions. One that I really like is called The Positivity Blog (http://www.positivityblog.com/) hosted by Henrik Edberg, of Sweden, an author of Mindbody articles. He offers happiness and awareness tips called “broadening and building” that sound simple but are very effective in developing positive emotions. Edberg says that because of the way our brains are wired up, negative emotions tend to cause restricted, short term survival oriented behavior. Another way to put this would be to say that negative emotions tend to make us focus on the two bottom levels of the Maslow hierarchy of needs, which are: Safety needs – safety of our job, of our body, of property, and our immediate health Physiological needs – concern for food, water, sleep, and breathing The really important thing to understand, says Edberg, is that this focus feeds on itself in a positive feedback loop. That means that focusing on negative emotions will make you focus even more on negative emotions, and your focus will slide farther and farther towards the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This, says Edberg, is a vicious cycle that a lot of people struggle to escape from. The good news though is that positive emotions work in the same way, which is where the broadening and building comes in. When we experience positive emotions, our brains lose that narrow focus, the horizons of our mind expand, and we experience varied and novel thoughts and actions which encourages us to explore the world. And just like negative emotions, positive emotions build on themselves. So experiencing positive emotions leads to more positive emotions and an even broader view of everything around us. This build-up of positive emotions affects many, many different areas of our lives. Here are just a few examples. The Broaden and Build theory shows that positive emotions build: Attention and Focus – When we’re experiencing negative emotions we tend to “miss the forest for the trees.” When we are experiencing positive emotions, our attention and focus are broadened and deepened. Scope of Cognition – Positive emotions cause us to see more interconnection in the world, be more flexible in our thinking, and see more relation and integration in our thoughts and ideas. All these things add up to a big increase in creative thinking. Better Relationships – Unhappy couples tend to interact in structured, predictable, and rigid ways. In contrast, happy couples interact in more unpredictable, natural, flowing way. Additionally, happy couples actually build up a surplus of positive sentiments for their partner and their marriage. This surplus acts like a buffer against negative emotions and conflict. Resilience to Negative Emotions – Positive emotions actually help to override negative emotions. It has been shown that “individuals who express or report higher levels of positive emotion show more constructive and flexible coping, more abstract and long-term thinking, and greater emotional distance following stressful negative events.” The benefits of positive emotions are clearly varied and extremely substantial. The next thing we need to look at is how to bring more positive emotions into our lives. There are many excellent ways to bring positive emotions into our lives. Edberg suggests just a few that research has shown to be particularly effective: Do Relaxation Techniques – Relaxation techniques includes things like meditation, yoga, and muscle relaxation exercises. The primary positive emotion associated with relaxation techniques is contentment. Contentment is particularly good for reversing negative emotions and building resilience to negative emotions. Find Positive Meaning – Finding positive meaning works in three different ways: Reframing adverse events in a positive light (also called positive reappraisal) Infusing ordinary events with positive value Pursuing and attaining realistic goals The trick to finding more positive meaning in your life is to just be constantly mindful of it. Evaluate every situation you’re in and try to apply those three ways to find positive meaning. The payoff is that people who find a lot of positive meaning in their lives will experience more of the whole range of positive emotions. Just Smile – Our brains don’t know the difference between a real smile and a fake smile, so when you fake a smile, your brain responds in the same way (releases the same ‘happy chemicals’) that it would if your smile had been genuine. So even faking positive emotions can have a real, positive impact. Do Something you Love – Some of my favorites are playing soccer, reading, and cooking. These things relax me, make me feel good, and let me forget about the world for a while. Everyone’s favorites will be different and unique. Make sure you know what your favorites are and make sure they are always close at hand. Edberg says, remember that positive emotions are only one half of the equation. Negative emotions can be a serious detriment to any progress you make with positive emotions, so be sure to squash negative emotions as they come and replace them quickly with something more positive. I also really like this video on how to reframe a belief from negative to positive: His mantra for positive thinking about any challenge or task is “This is simple, easy, and fun to do.” Herbie posted the following on positive thinking today in the general forum: Remember Fear is a belief and beliefs can be changed. We sometimes think that we can still get upset and angered, mad and fighting like we always have in the shadows or in the outside world and we almost believe we can get away with it but as the pain stays and we learn that this anger and fear is a symptom of our beliefs, temper and unconscious rage. Thus we learn to flow and float through these fears and rage with less and less anger thus lessening the anxiety and eventually the pain. I (Walt) replied: Remember FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) told the nation at the start of World War II: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." It helped change a lot of minds about a belief in fear. Americans fought off the fear by thinking positive and rolling up their sleeves and getting to work to win the war. Doing positive things help us to fight back at fears, no matter what the fear is. Good advice, Herbie, to go with the flow and float through the fears. If we're in pain, TMS knowledge tells us how to get well again. And I found that the journey is one of the most exciting and rewarding.