Your glass really can become half full

Michael Mosley

For those of you who tuned into Horizons ‘The truth about personality’ you would have witnessed Michael Mosley change from being a pessimist to an optimist in just seven weeks by utilising his most powerful resource, the mind.

The environment we grew up in and the messages we absorbed from our main caregivers on an unconscious level influences whether we have a positive or negative bias towards life. For anyone who knows Jill and I for example, you will know we have a sunny disposition and a tendency to look on the positive side of life.  Even before I trained in psychotherapy and hypnotherapy, I recall the constant feedback I would get from my line managers being about my energy and drive, with one manager likening me to a ‘yellow hat’ from Edward Du Bono’s ‘six thinking hats’.

Through a series of tests carried out by Professor Elaine Fox, Mosely was shown that he is on the negative side of the spectrum, something he openly admits.  This negative filter affects how he reacts to people and events in the world.  It also means that because his brain is hyper aware of things that can ‘go wrong’ he is more prone to depression and has trouble sleeping, often finding himself wide awake at 04.30am with thoughts racing around his mind.

When negative thoughts dominate people will experience physiological side effects including;

  • Dry mouth
  • Trembling
  • Freezing in situations where you are unable to get your words out
  • Lack of energy

Mosely set out to try two techniques to see if he could break his negative thinking which were;

  • Cognitive bias modification and
  • Mindfulness meditation

Cognitive bias modification involved Mosely spending time on a computer every day searching for and clicking on happy faces among a sea of unhappy or angry faces.  This process of seeking out the ‘positive’ breaks the pattern of always seeking out the negative and begins to build up a new neural pathway in the brain to look for the positive.

Learning to meditate mindfully and spending ten minutes each day doing this, building up to twenty minutes, allowed Mosely to calm down the emotional part of his brain known as the amygdala.

After severn weeks tests showed that Mosely had in-fact increased the amount of grey matter in his brain, which deals with emotional regulation, allowing him to lower his base line arousal levels.

We have long known that the subconscious mind runs the show and much like a computer, will only run the software it is programmed with.  Yet the plasticity of our brain allows us to use the subconscious mind to change the software, something we have long since recognised though the power of hypnosis.

We were delighted that the programme confirmed what we have effectively been teaching people in business, allowing workplaces to be transformed to happy places!

Read more about the Horizon programme in this Daily mail article.