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Getting Into A Better Frame of Mind

January 27, 2013

Think of a time when you handled a challenging situation exceptionally well… what kind of mood were you in as you did so?

Now think of a time when you responded poorly to a challenging situation  … what kind of mood where you in then?

When I ask these questions, words like “confident,” “interested” and “engaged” are often used to describe the mood during the first situation.

And negative or extreme words like “anxious,” “angry,” or “excited” describe the mood during the second situation.

We know our moods impact our thinking, but what can we do about it?

Neuroscience, and the experts at the NeuroLeadership Institute, tells us that we tend to do our best thinking when we’re in a slightly positive state.

When the limbic system (where emotions rule) gets too fired up, we’re more likely to respond negatively, depend on automatic thinking and see connections where there are none.

Negative and extremely positive emotions trigger a limbic response that overrides our pre frontal cortex  – the “executive function” of our brains where decision making, new insights and problem solving occur.

This is a simple explanation of a complex function, but it’s enough to help us recognize the importance of shifting our thinking when we start to get too “fired up.”

There are some familiar techniques that help, like

  • Reordering the situation:  “In the scheme of life, where does this fit?”
  • Or repositioning it:  “How would (insert name of admirable person) handle this?”

I’ve also seen a less familiar technique, taught by the NeuroLeadership Institute, work exceptionally well.  Ask:

  • What one word would you use to describe how you feel about this situation?
  • How would you rather feel?
  • What’s another way to look at the situation that would bring you closer to feeling that way?

Using these questions in an internal dialogue can literally put you in a better frame of mind.

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