How Positive Thinking Can Improve Your Focus

Our brains are easily distracted, especially with all the emails, texts and other data flying at us constantly. The good news, Harvard Business Review says, is we can train our brain to be more focused and productive by improving our emotional balance.

Photo remixed from an original by Leland Francisco

Dr. Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore write that negative emotions sabotage our brains' ability to solve problems and ignore distractions, while positive emotions and thoughts actually improve the brain's executive function. They suggest throughout the day we try to balance the positive and negative.

Researcher Barbara Fredrickson of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill recommends a 3-to-1 "positivity ratio" for life-changing benefits. (Test your positivity ratio with Fredrickson's two-minute quiz.) As for keeping your negative emotions in check:

You can tame negative emotional frenzy by exercising, meditating and sleeping well. It also helps to notice your negative emotional patterns. Perhaps a coworker often annoys you with some minor habit or quirk, which triggers a downward spiral. Appreciate that such automatic responses may be overdone, take a few breaths, and let go of the irritation.

What can your team do? Start meetings on positive topics and some humour. The positive emotions this generates can improve everyone's brain function, leading to better teamwork and problem solving.

If you feel stuck or unproductive, take a look at how positive or negative you've been feeling or thinking lately and try to get some more of those feel-good emotions in your day.

Train Your Brain to Focus [Harvard Business Review]


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