It has been proven from a number of studies that memory is tied to our emotions. Everything we do has some type of emotion involved. What determines the outcome is how we respond to these emotions. For this reason it is important that the attitude we use to react to the emotions is a positive one.
The human brain is not wired to accept negativity. As a matter of fact, your brain will not process negative information past short-term memory if it doesn’t want to hear it. This is good for your health because, as other research indicates, people who have a positive attitude live longer.
Keeping a positive outlook is important to memory, since the brain will reject the negative. On the average, the human brain processes approximately 50,000 thoughts per day, most of them negative. Facts, information, and experiences you go through while in a good mood tend to be easier to recall at a later date.
Negative thoughts lead to depression, and depression leads to memory loss. One of the effects of the power of positive thinking is that it helps the brain to produce happier, healthier emotions that help to recall overall memories along with the details associated with them.
Two things tend to motivate people — fear and inspiration. Fear can get you going, but it doesn’t make you feel good and is not sustainable. Inspiration, on the other hand, motivates you to move forward, even when obstacles are placed in your way. If you listen to someone continuously belittling you and telling you that you are not able to do anything right, how far do you think you will get? Will it motivate you to do better? Not usually. But, on the other hand, if you are constantly being encouraged and told you can do anything you set your mind to, doesn’t that inspire you to do your best?
A positive attitude is good for the memory as well. It improves self-image and that opens up the channels for better reception of information. Research published in Nature Neuroscience, reports, “The brain is very good at processing good news about the future, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.”
A study out of the University College London reports that according to their research, approximately 80% of people are actually positive thinkers, although they may not look at themselves that way. “There is a very fundamental bias in the brain,” says Dr Tali Sharot, head researcher.
In the study, 14 people were tested for their level of optimism. Each was asked how they would respond to 80 different “bad events” that could happen in their life, such as a divorce, job loss or death of a loved one. After that they were given statistics to show the likelihood of these things happening in their life. The answers before and after were significantly different, depending on what was going on in their own personal life at the time. If they were going through a rough patch in their relationship, and was asked how to rate the possibility of getting a divorce the negative person might rate it at 63%, while the positive person would rate it at 30%. After viewing statistics as to the rate of divorce (say 56%) both would probably raise their figures, but the positive person would only raise theirs slightly (to perhaps 35%).
Dr Sharot said: “Smoking kills messages don’t work as people think their chances of cancer are low. The divorce rate is 50%, but people don’t think it’s the same for them. There is a very fundamental bias in the brain.”
According to the researchers, when the news was positive everyone had more activity in the brain’s frontal lobes — which processes errors. With negative information the most optimistic people showed the least amount of frontal lobe activity, while those who were more negative had the most activity. This suggests that the “brain is picking and choosing which evidence to listen to.”
For Dr Chris Chambers, neuroscientist from the University of Cardiff, said: “It’s very cool, a very elegant piece of work and fascinating. For me, this work highlights something that is becoming increasingly apparent in neuroscience, that a major part of brain function in decision-making is the testing of predictions against reality – in essence all people are ‘scientists’, and despite how sophisticated these neural networks are, it is illuminating to see how the brain sometimes comes up with wrong and overly optimistic answers despite the evidence.” But as Dr Sharot points out: “The negative aspect is that we underestimate risks.”
In addition, optimism seems to be good for your health. Another study of 100,000 women showed a reduced rate of heart disease and death in optimistic women as opposed to negative thinking ones. Because thoughts create emotions, some sort of hopeful outcome motivates everything. When you change your thinking, you change your life.
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at BrainAthlete.com.
BBC News — Brain ‘rejects Negativity: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15214080
BBC News – Optimistic Women Live Longer: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8193180.stm
Memory-Improvement-Tools.com – Using the Power of Positive Thinking To Enhance Your Memory Improvement Program: http://www.memory-improvement-tools.com/power-of-positive-thinking.html