Brain Coach: Rational vs. Emotive Optimism

heart and brainEarlier, you heard about “Rational Optimism”—how we can lean toward thinking about positive outcomes for the situations in our lives. This is the cognitive (thinking) side of Optimism.

But Optimism isn’t just a cognitive process, as in telling yourself, “this will all work out.” It’s also an emotional process. Unless we truly FEEL the peace, the love, the abundance—deep in our soul—with a sense that “this will all work out,” we won’t have the fullest benefit of Optimism.

The counterbalance to Cognitive Optimism is Emotive Optimism. When we have Emotive Optimism, we’ll have “happy” neurochemicals  (serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin) floating through the brain and body. These neurochemicals support our ability to think more clearly, creatively, and strategically. And, that sets us up to act more confidently, with greater certainty, and with more constancy.

One of my mentors, Dr. Donald Johnson at the Applied Neuroscience Institute, notes that using positive thinking to navigate a challenging situation is a diluted process. Without positive emotions, we handicap ourselves. I liken it to swinging a baseball bat with just one hand—you’re out of balance and lose a great deal of power.

With both Rational AND Emotive Optimism, we eliminate cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the feeling that things don’t quite add up. . . that you are trying to convince yourself of something while another part of your brain (or heart, or gut) just isn’t buying it. Cognitive dissonance leads to hesitation, procrastination, and pessimism.

Coaching Tips for Emotive Optimism:

1. Evaluate your optimism – if it is limping along, chances are it’s only Rational optimism and not both Rational and Emotive-based.

2. Explain to your brain that you are giving it permission to have an easier time, and that you will do this by inviting it to be washed and refreshed with “happy” neurochemicals, such as dopamine and oxytocin. (Our brains like to know what we’re up to!)

3. Be compassionate with your brain—it’s not used to being happy when it’s accustomed to be restless or upset about unwelcome circumstances. Tell your brain, “We’re just going to experiment for a bit with some new ways of handling this.”

4. Access Emotive Optimism with feelings that are proven to elevate mood. The core positive emotions are gratitude, peace, hope, love, and joy.

5. Identify a workable formula for accessing your gratitude (or peace, hope, etc.). This might be pausing to take 3 deep breaths and then visualizing the most beloved person in your life. Or it might be putting on a favorite, upbeat song. You decide. Be specific.

6. Revel in it. Two seconds of feeling a positive emotion isn’t nearly as effective as a full 68 seconds. Neuroscientist Dr. Jeffrey Fannin notes that, at 68 seconds, you actually create momentum and experience wavelength changes in the brain.

7. Spend (much) more time accessing and reveling in positive feelings than negative feelings. As human beings, we can be masterful at sustaining negative emotions (frustration, disappointment, fear). Set a goal of being just as masterful at making positive emotions the default for your mood.

Enjoy! And if you’re interested in learning more, check out the Certified Brain-Based Success Coach Program. The next cohort begins July 7th!

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