27 May 2012

A Positive Outlook

As I've mentioned a few times on this blog, the 'other' side of my writing is in training and development.  I was a trainer for a number of years, and one of the things I noticed, couldn't help but notice in some cases, were the varying attitudes that people had about the training.

The majority saw the training as a way of learning something new that would help them in their job.  Some were desperate for the information, and knew exactly how the topics of the day would help them in various tasks.

For a few the training was a perk, and sometimes it was usefully focussed.  Occasionally the training was unwanted. As one person put it - my manager told me I had to come.

Guess which people got the most out of the training?

When we experience positive emotions our brains are flooded with dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals make us feel good, but they also help to make more neural connections in the brain, which in turn assists us to organise and file new information, retrieve it faster when we need it, and allows us to think more quickly and creatively.

Every time we experience positive emotions, dare I say it, happiness, we are priming ourselves to be more creative.

From Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.

The constitution of the WHO states “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This may sound exaggerated but positive mood within the normal range is an important predictor of health and longevity. In a classic study, those in the lowest quartile for positive emotions, rated from autobiographies written at a mean age of 22 years, died on average 10 years earlier than those in the highest quartile. Even taking into account possible confounders, other studies “found the same solid link between feeling good and living longer.”

So a positive mood not only helps us learn and retain new things, but could also mean we live longer, as long as we don't get run over by the proverbial bus.

When I first moved to this house, I set up the spare bedroom as my office. It's a small room on the cold side of the house, and looks onto a high retaining wall, which means it gets very little sunshine. Guess what. It doesn't inspire me. Much of my writing time is spent at the dining table. It's in a sunny room with doors that open onto wooden decking, and from the deck I have a distant view of the sea. I feel happier here, and far more inspired.

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