It's possible to change your cognitive bias by training the brain to focus more on the positive than on the negative. In the lab, Dr. Fox showed subjects pairs of images, one negative (the aftermath of a bomb blast, say) and one either positive (a cute child) or neutral (an office). Participants were asked to point out, as quickly as possible, a small target that appeared immediately after each positive or neutral image—subliminally requiring them to pay less attention to the negative images, which had no target.
Want to try this at home? Write down, in a journal, the positive and negative things that happen to you each day, whether running into an old friend or missing your bus. Try for four positives for each negative. You'll be training your brain to look for the good even as you acknowledge the bad, Dr. Fox says.
You can use anchoring on yourself to quickly put yourself in a good or enthusiastic mood! Close your eyes and imagine a time when you were excited and motivated. Create a vivid mental picture. Now, when you are immersed in that motivated feeling, lightly scratch the pad of your index finger with your thumbnail. You're anchoring that state of mind to that sensation.
Overcoming fear requires you to train yourself to think every time you feel fear, rather than just reacting instinctively. The thought process I go through goes like this:
I'm scared. Is it physical danger? No. Well, when I make a decision based on fear, it's often a bad one, so I'm going to put the fear aside and ask myself "What is my purpose in this situation?" I'll make my decision consciously based on what helps achieve my purpose better, rather than unconsciously on my instinctive desire to run away from fear.
Sound kind of awkward and nerdy? That logical thought process was essential to my overcoming my stage fright and becoming a public speaker. After a while, it became second nature and I didn't need to think all the words anymore; I just seemed to have created a new unconscious thought pattern-a strategy-memethat supported my agenda rather than some prehistoric DNA's. Logic is a wonderful thing. A boring truth seldom taught in success seminars is that clear, logical thinking and simply plodding ahead with a plan are great tools for success in life.
I define it loosely as the ability to bounce back from stress. Many scientists view this solely as biological stress. But many of us who care for older patients see adaptive competence as psychologically critical as well.
You don't get to be 109 without life hurling a few curveballs at you, and Reichert has had more than her share: bereavement, gender discrimination, medical issues. And after each, she dusts herself off and moves on.
My colleague Becca Levy, a professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health, has studied the longevity of people in their 50s as a function of their perceptions about aging.
She asked if they agreed with statements like, "Things keep getting worse as I get older," and, "As you get older you are less useful." Even after she controlled for their medical conditions, subjects who agreed with ideas like these died on average 7 1/2 years sooner than their glass-half-full counterparts.