Positive In, Positive Out: the key to creating calm in uncertain times
Learning to manage what you think and what you say can help you build a more resilient mindset in an uncertain world
With the global travel and airline industries among the worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, improving mental health was the focus of an OTT livestream webinar session with positive psychologist Graham Keen, founder of business performance agency New Impetus International and author of Positive Leaders, Positive Change.
During the 40 minute session, Graham outlined his tips for remaining positive in an uncertain world. He also gave tips and pointers for staying focused and building momentum while facing up to the massive pressures the pandemic had imposed on both our working and personal lives. If you didn’t catch last week’s insightful session or want to view it again, click the link below.
Graham described the sudden, unpredictable changes on our lives which resulted from the pandemic as a “perfect storm of stress factors.” He added that these stress factors cut across many areas of our lives, from job security and finances to health concerns for ourselves and loved ones, domestic tension caused by working from home and homeschooling along with a reduction in face-to-face contact with friends and family.
He said the widespread disruption was leading to reduced wellbeing and focus, disrupting our ability to reach goals or achievements and reducing self esteem. Graham said it was important to remember that we are not alone in our personal struggles as the pandemic was having an impact throughout the whole world.
Stress is a perception, not a fact
But although the difficulties people felt were very real, he said stress was a perception and not a fact. He also added it was possible for people’s attitude to stressful emotions and reactions to be reframed. Graham gave the example of the incredible resilience shown by some Auschwitz survivors who, despite witnessing unimaginable horror, were able to reframe their perceptions. Although the camp’s guards had complete physical control of their lives, these survivors knew they were unable to control their thoughts and minds.
Graham said that if those surviving the living hell of Auschwitz were able to reframe their perceptions, the same could be achieved by members of the travel community currently navigating the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their lives and livelihoods.
Graham said: “Whenever a human being is experiencing a positive state, they are building the synaptic connections and the right brain chemistry to increase their resilience, so optimistic people tend to be more resilient than pessimistic people. Optimistic, positive people spend more time in positive emotional states, being relaxed, experiencing joy, excitement and engagement and pleasure.”
Positivity is largely a learned behaviour
“Negative and pessimistic people tend to spend more time with anxiety and sadness. So, if we would like to improve our personal resilience, starting today, so that tomorrow it already starts to feel a little bit less overwhelming, then we need to find a way of spending more time in positive emotional states. That's perfectly doable because our default emotional state is partly genetic, and it is largely a conditioned response - it's largely a learned behaviour.”
Positive people scored higher for resilience - the psychological strength which enables them to manage the emotional impact of testing situations. And while the stories we hear in the media at the moment may be overwhelmingly negative, the good news is that we can build resilience just by paying more attention to the information we take in and the words we use to speak to ourselves and to others.
Positive In, Positive Out
Graham said the mantra PIPO - Positive In, Positive Out - served as a useful reminder to retrain our brains by ensuring both our input and output was as positive as possible. But applying PIPO requires a level of self-discipline in terms of the thoughts you allow into your head and the words which come out of your mouth.
Graham outlined some of the daily steps you can take to create a more positive input into the brain: “Make sure that you end every day by reading something positive,” he said and that you “break out at least 15 minutes every day to listen to a positive recording. You can do that without having to pay attention to it - have it playing while you’re walking the dog or working out in the morning.”
You can also accentuate the positive by reducing the negative: “Choose to eliminate negative conditioning from your environment. This means being really tough about choices. It turns out that negative consumption of media, such as TV, radio, and movies actually represents negative conditioning which will make you much more pessimistic than you might otherwise be. So it's about eliminating reality TV, soap operas, minimizing the amount of news you watch. You have to watch some news to see what’s going, but you don't need to spend two hours a day doing it.”
"Everything we say and think programmes us"
Graham added that positive psychology was based on scientifically established principles. “It's about increasing your exposure to positive people, positive reading,” he explained. “And, in particular, it's about being highly disciplined about the way that you use language. Both in your head, and out of your mouth. Everything that we say and think programmes us as human beings.”
PIPO is a force for good that we can use within our internal and external language to prime and condition ourselves for our future goals and achievements. “We talk into being our own future” said Graham.