For more than two months now, the pandemic has been at the forefront of our minds.
We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with figures of infected and dead people and, although everything points to the fact that we are overcoming the worst of this crisis, sometimes it is difficult to be Positive and that negative thoughts do not dominate us.
This fact may be even more evident among older people as they are one of the most vulnerable groups in the face of the Covid-19.
Fear of contagion, concern for the family, bad economic prospects can build a wall of bad thoughts and worries around us that are very difficult to overcome.
But is it possible to turn it around and let positive thinking dominate fear? For answers, we talked to Gemma Sala, an expert in neuropsychology and co-author of the book Secrets of Your Brain in which she explains how to better manage thoughts and emotions to be happier in the face of evidence that being positive is good for the health of the brain.
We are living in an exceptional and unprecedented situation. How does this affect our brain?
The current situation is one of great uncertainty because we have no reference and our brain is designed to deal with a threat, such as fear caused by uncertainty, to any other stimulus. This is what in psychology we call emotional abduction.
This prioritization of fear can awaken other related emotions such as anger, worry, frustration, sadness or anxiety.
In addition, everything that the brain categorizes as threatening is a trigger that will prevent the activity of the rest of the brain.
Thus, fear affects the part of the prefrontal cortex that compromises memory, decision-making, relationships, productivity, or our relationships.
Therefore, it is logical to feel fear
Indeed. We have to understand that we are in a crisis and we are in what in psychology we know as the ‘curve’ where we find the different emotional stages that we experience when passing a crisis, such as grief.
Starting with denial, anger and at the lowest point, even depression. Over time, we manage to go up this curve by creating new ways of seeing things and new, more positive thoughts.
In the end we always come out of crises stronger because we have learned. It is too early to know what we will learn from this crisis in which we are now, but I recommend to get it by leaning on others because it is very important to have family, friends, co-workers, etc.
How can we contribute to overcome this crisis and manage to transform fear into a positive attitude or thought?
Each one of us is largely responsible for how we think and how we feel and for not letting ourselves be carried away by negative thoughts.
Therefore, we must think how we think: observe what impact it is having on your body and your emotions when you think negatively.
You need to look at what you do have, not what you don’t. This is what we call metacognition and it is very important. For example, positive psychology has shown
scientifically that writing down three things you’re grateful for every day contributes to emotional well-being. We must educate our brain to focus on what is positive in our lives.
Is it possible, therefore, to train the mind to be more positive?
Absolutely, yes. We believe that we have no freedom to intervene in what we feel and nothing is further from reality.
We can train the mind to generate more positive thoughts and this will lead us to more positive emotions. Positive psychology states that we should have a response ratio of five positive thoughts to one negative one.
If we look at our thoughts (experts say we have about 60,000 a day), we see that we are often the ones who are most critical of ourselves.
As I mentioned earlier, I encourage people to think how they think and to intervene in that part of the mind. It is possible to distance yourself from yourself: see how you are thinking and from there decide how you want to continue thinking. In short, thinking is not innocent, as we think we are going to decide.