a beautiful memory

In the last blog I introduced the concept of positivity pauses to help us in situations when we are forced to wait. So what are positivity pauses? Reader’s digest version, a positivity pause is a chance to bring into your mind and body some form of positive reinforcement when you are forced to stop, to wait, or when your day gets interrupted. Positivity pauses can include something visually beautiful, a lovely smell, a happy thought, or a positive memory, just to name a few.

Why Positivity pauses are helpful and needed

Rick Hansons’ research http://rickhanson.net educates us about the human brain’s bias for negative information. His work demonstrates that humans have to be deliberate and intentional about bringing in “positivity” to our minds and lives. Because our brain will “happily” bring in negative information all day long, we must have a counter-balance to the brain’s negative bias. If not, we can get stuck in fear, anxiety, and negative expectations, which lead to worrying.

Most researchers believe the brain’s negativity bias is biological and based upon safety and danger catagories. If positive events are thought of as Carrots and Negative events as Sticks, we like carrots but not avoiding a stick can kill us. If we stay focused on sticks, we stay alive to get a carrot here or there. If we only focus on carrots we are not prepared for danger and are more easily harmed. Of course this was much more the case when we were hunter gathers, but the human brain has not changed that much.

Coding interruptions as negative events causes anxiety

Though waiting and being interrupted, rarely brings danger, most of us HATE this experience and code it as a negative situation in our thoughts and brain. So our lower brain regions can react as if the experience of being forced to wait is dangerous. (My story of what happened in Costco from the last blog is a case in point.)  So part of our task to decrease stress in our lives is to stop coding non-dangerous situations as if they were life threatening. This is challenging because this processing happens in split seconds under our conscious awareness. 

Scarcity mentality 

We can pass right over all the good things in our lives because we are focused on the stress of life and caught in scarcity mentality. Scarcity mentality is when we are stuck feeling there is NOT enough time, money, resources, etc.  Most humans struggle with a sense of scarcity when they are stressed and anxious, or under pressure. Getting paused or being made to wait when we feel like there is NOT enough time can be enough to trigger threat physiology. When this occurs our anxiety levels climb much higher. In our low brain a forced pause can feel like a “Stick”.

Combat negativity with Positivity pauses

But we can combat this tendency by taking Positivity Pauses. So when we are forced to wait, or are delayed, we bring into our mind a positive experience. When we take time to focus our minds and thoughts on something positive, something we enjoy or find lovely or pleasing, our breath deepens, our Heart Rate variability improves. Then we feel happier and safer.  

So it’s really a simple tool but can be hard to do because the old sensations of rush, go go go, are a strong habit. So the next time you get an uninvited pause, or you have to stop and wait, think or remember a positive experience and feel it in your body. You can also use your senses and find something lovely in the environment around you. I do this when commuting. At red lights I look for beauty or interesting objects outside of the car.  When I am in a store and waiting in line I may remember a laugh with friends, or a great wave I surfed recently. We often use our minds and imagination for worry and negative thoughts. This is a way to use our mind and imagination for our own benefit and greater health and well-being. An additional bonus, we will be nicer human beings to those around us.

Try it this week. Do as many positivity pauses as you can.


What are your cues that your life is approaching warp speed and becoming unmanageable? How often do you listen to them? And, what helps you to listen and heed this cue? How do you slow down?

What might be a positivity pause for you? What things or situations do you find pleasant and highly enjoyable? Try bringing one to mind right and and let yourself feel how your body reacts to this positive thought.

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