Day 10 – Putting on a Different Pair of Lenses

Stimuli is interpreted in this way by human beings: A) an event happens. B) it passes through the unconscious. C) it goes through a filter. D) it goes to consciousness. That filter is the “How” you interpret the event. Numerous stimuli that passes into the unconscious never passes into consciousness because they get filtered out. If we don’t have this filter, our brains would be flooded with information.

Traumatic events take precedent in our brain because evolutionary, we are created to protect our own safety first. Let’s take a objective event: a car crash for example. The event bypasses our unconscious and into our consciousness because it is life threatening. Before it passes onto our consciousness, our filter can tell us a variety of things, “Hey, people can be hurt in this” or “I should call an ambulance or police” or “I hope people are okay” or “That was a really loud sound,” etc. The difference between viewing this event through a positive lens vs a negative lens is this: A negative person’s filter would lead to questions like, “Why is God so bad?” “Why are people so accident prone?” “Why are there so many bad drivers out there?” Biases come up “I bet it was a woman driver” or “I bet he was texting” or “There are too many drunk drivers.” An optimist would view the event as similarly traumatic but would come to different conclusions, “The roads were really slippery” “it was really dark outside”

Now why is this important? It is important because those with a negative perspective tend to view things as permanent, pervasive and personalize them. Consider their responses: “Why is God so bad?” (Permanent) “There are so many bad drivers out there.” (Pervasive) “Why are people so accident prone?” (Pervasive) “I bet it was a woman driver” (Personalized) “I bet he was texting” (Personalized) “There are too many drunk drivers” (Pervasive). When one’s explanatory style is negative, obstacles are seen as permanent and not temporary, they take much longer to recover from failure than those who are optimistic. Optimistic people compartmentalize helplessness, whereas pessimistic people assume pervasive failure, that failure in one area of life means failure in life as a whole. Negative individuals also personalize their beliefs, blaming themselves for bad events that occur. What happens to pessimists more often than optimists is that they experience a learned helplessness. Those who have learned helplessness believe that, “Nothing I can do can change how I feel, who I am, and where my future is.”

It’s the lens of experience that we must change because it is the lens of our experience that determines our thought habits, which eventually defines us. Why is thinking positively so important?

Because it produces better results.

For the past three decade or so, psychology has been shifting from a preoccupation with repairing the worst things in life to building the best qualities of life. Prior research dedicated themselves to finding out why at risk populations dropped out of school, why teenagers get pregnant, why crime rates increased, and as a result – very little change came about. In the 1980s, a thought change occurred in the study of behavior. Instead of studying the cause of negative events, we need to study the people that succeed despite negative events. Psychologists identified and studied resilient individuals in depth and created interventions based on what they studied. After decades of zero results, finally there were real tangible positive outcomes.

Because it increases happiness.

A highly successful business man, married, has his house and great family, can be extremely unhappy compared to a man who has nothing but extremely happy.  Why? Research has shown that that it’s not extraneous materials that make us happy. Even though wealth is correlated with happiness, wealth is not a determinant of happiness. In fact it’s opposite – research has shown that happiness is not a result of wealth but a determinant of wealth. Happiness is not a result of health, it’s a cause of health. Happiness is not the result of great sex, it’s happier people have great sex.

Because it improves your immune system.

Some cancer patient can survive significantly longer than others. Why? Optimists have significantly more T-cells that those who were pessimistic. (T-cells are a natural part of our immune system, which identifies and kills foreign invaders). Rats who go through inescapable shock and learn helplessness have a changed biology when compared to rats that did not experience inescapable shock. The learned helplessness group had lower T-cells responses against foreign invaders, making them more susceptible to life-threatening disease and less likely to fight off tumors. Human Optimists are far more resistant to helplessness than pessimists, thus more likely to fight off disease and have a better immune system. In fact, studies have shown that optimistic patients have lower levels of inflammation than those who are pessimistic. Optimists’ PH levels were more basic and less acid compared pessimists.

Because it increases your lifespan.

Consider these other studies: An experiment on heart attacks has shown that those individuals who were able to see the positive or the wake-up call of their heart attack were more likely to survive 8 years later and less likely to have a second heart attack.

Julian Bower looked at HIVs patients and identified the optimists, who as a result of their disease found meaning and in 4-9 years, the benefit finders were more likely to survive.

Laura King and Minor found that people who have experience trauma and the “perceived benefit of the trauma” became physically healthier and psychologically healthier after five months when compared to the control group.

Research has proven that changing your lens from a negative one to a positive one not only can improve your happiness levels, but increase your wealth, sexuality, relationships, immune system and your lifespan.

Final thoughts: “While things don’t necessarily happen for the best, it is possible to make the best of the things that do happen. It may take a while to see past the trauma, to get over the humiliation and pain, but give yourself the permission to experience these emotions and also the permission to fail, and these too will pass.”

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