Has anyone ever accused you of being a “Squidward” in life instead of a “Spongebob”? If you’ve ever watched this popular childrens’ cartoon, you will know well that Spongebob joyfully rolls along in his day to day life, not only handling the stressors of Bikini bottom where Plankton continually plots to rule the place, but he does so without ever getting bogged down with negative victim stories or concerns about his lovability or value. He never frets about the size of his square spongey body, nor does he compare his popularity or success to others. As long as he has his friends around him, Spongebob lives with inner joy, peace and contentment. If you’ve always wanted to minimize your Squidward tendencies so that you can live a little more like our hero Spongebob, science is showing that when we enlist the natural neuroplasticity of our brains, we can make dramatic changes in how it feels to be us and foster greater positivity, creativity, playfulness and joy!
So How do we transform, heal and re wire our brains?
Dr. Barbara Frederickson, PhD, who hails from UNC Chapel Hill, NC has engaged in significant research in how to cultivate positivity on a day to day basis. In her book “Positivity” she shares results from her own research lab in an enjoyable, readable manner, which is worth the purchase if you are wanting to enhance positive emotions and diminish the negative.
In her work, Dr Frederickson found that we all have a “tipping point” towards positivity when we experience more than three positive emotions to every negative one on a day to day basis. When people experience less than this three to one ratio, they may have moments of positivity, but these tend to be fleeting and elusive. To flourish, Dr Frederickson has found that this magic ratio is crucial. So, what does that mean for us Squidwards who are longing to channel some Spongebob mojo inside? This research opens up considerable opportunity for each of us to enhance and focus awareness on purposefully cultivating positive emotions so that we can sustain feelings of peace, playfulness, wellbeing and joy.
Hebb’s Law and How We Can Re Wire Our Own Brains!
Way back in the 1950’s, a research scientist named Donald O. Hebb developed the “what fires together, wires together” theory of learning and brain change. What that means is that when we think certain thoughts on a regular basis, those thought patterns (and accompanying emotions) get reinforced in the brain and are more likely to fire together again. How this is significant for us is that where we keep the focus of attention matters if we hope to channel our inner Spongebob. The brain is highly complex as we know, but is malleable and responsive to change, depending on what we are focusing on.
So, if we keep Dr. Frederickon’s work in mind, to foster positivity, we want to become diligent in keeping our attention on the positive emotions we crave and diminishing attention on the negative. Dr. Frederickson recommends the following practices to purposefully create the tipping point towards positivity:
- Look for Positive Meaning on a day to day basis.
- Savor the goodness in every circumstance.
- Cultivate gratitude and look for blessings in all things.
- Initiate kindness towards others.
- Follow passions no matter how humble.
- Dream about the future and happy possibilities.
- Identify and apply your strengths.
- Cultivate meaningful relationships with others.
- Spend time in nature.
- Open your mind with daily meditative practice.
We all know and are familiar with all of the items on this list, but if we practice each of these behaviors daily, we are likely to shift old negative thought patterns and emotions that have diminished our joy and sense of a well lived life. We can enlist Hebb’s Law in the service of influencing our brains and fostering feelings of flourishing in life. We say “Yes!” to our own Spongebob life!