Michelle Gielan: The Power of Positive Communication

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Former national CBS anchor Michelle Gielan spoke at the 2011 Wireless Summit about the recession and its effect on people across the U.S.

"But what about its effect on children?" she asked. "What if the news is playing and children are in the room listening to these reports about foreclosure, unemployment and crisis?"

Happy Week at CBS was born out of this question. Gielan wanted to investigate the concept of happiness in the midst of all the economic turmoil and interviewed a Harvard professor who studies Positive Psychology. Viewers repsonded dramatically, writing a record number of e-mails to the network, talking about how the positive content helped them get perspective in spite of all the "bad news" elsewhere.

She started doing additional research about Positive Psychology, which is the scientific study of human flourishing. The field studies positive outliers as well as health, wellness and success.

Gielan was curious about the effect of negative messages on the human brain and how they affect our ability to succeed.

She found that negative messaging "short circuits" the human brain.

  • External Messages (negative): Bad news about the weather has more of an effect on us that we often realize.
  • The Jack Effect (positive): If two people stare at each other for 10 seconds, and one smiles.80-85 percent of people will break down and smile back. Mirror neurons. When someone smiles at you, your brain releases dopamine and it feels good, but it also increases brain activity.

Thinking positively pays off: Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 37 percent.

Emotions are contagious. People are happy or sad collectively in the office. A lot of this has to do with mirror neurons -- we learn a lot by mimicking each other.

Our brains are supercomputers. When triggered by threats (intruders, danger, negative news), our brains respond with a "fight or flight" reaction. We need to train our brains to react in positive ways, not negative ones.

When people are shown a selection of positive images, their eyes scan around them more. When shown negative images, the scanning process gets stuck -- people don't process the images as thoroughly.

Strategies for Positive Thinking

  1. Create Your Own Newscast: Each day, for 21 days, write down three things you are grateful for in live and why you believe they make you happy. These are your three headlines for the day.
    Effects: This process retrains your brain to scan for the positive; boosts gratitude and positivity ratio; optimizes scanning pattern; 94% of people were less depressed after 2 weeks.
  2. Investigative Optimism: Seeing the reality of a situation, but processing it positively. When you encounter a challenge or stressful situation, imagine the good that can come of it.
    Effects: This process retrains your brain for greater optimism; boosts positivity ratio; enables you to better visualize positive outcomes.
  3. The Power Lead: What story is the lead story for your day? What's the best message you can send to capture your state of mind?
    Effects: Starts the interaction on a positive note; activates the brain; refocuses attention on the postive; improves the mood of the group.

Give Michelle's strategies a shot. A little positivity never hurt anybody and twenty-one days of it certainly wouldn't.

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