The kokoro system: (1) Heart –> (2) Mind –> (3) Body is intricately connected.
Every situation or event you face is interpreted by your kokoro system, based on your beliefs and values as well as your past experiences and genetics in the following way:
(1) An emotional response is evoked –> (2) that creates thoughts/urges –> (3) that are reflected in our body = that motivate us to take certain actions in response triggering an upward or downward spiral of interpreting future events
In this way, everyone generally experiences a shared event in their own slightly unique way. How a person interprets a situation will determine either uplifting or cheerless emotions, such as hope or despair. Your appraisal of your current circumstance will impact the next one you perceive, and so on.
So when we experience uplifting emotions then we tend to get into an upward spiral of expansiveness that can make us feel like we are bursting with joy that elicits a desire to share an excited hug or cheer with others. This is our THRIVE mode where we broaden our perspective and think about our future.
Cheerless emotions can send us into downward spirals of contractive-ness in the same way, where we are more likely to want to hide and be alone. This is our SURVIVE mode where we narrow our perspective and look to take care of our immediate needs.
There are three ways we can try to sustain our THRIVE mode:
The more uplifting emotions we experience, the more time we spend in a broader mindset, the more resilient, resourceful and connected we become. So just like eating only one piece of fresh fruit or vegetable per month is not going to have a big impact on our health, we need an intentional focus to find as many positive experiences every day as we can, in order to have a significant impact that grows our hearts, enlarges our minds and de-stresses our bodies.
Uplifting experiences are often taken for granted in our lives as they are more subtle and less obvious. Taking a moment to reflect on an experience and to notice the thoughts, feelings, and physical stance that arise as a result, and whether or not they are wanted or unwanted is helpful to pinpoint events or situations where you might find you are reacting in a way that you would like to change. If there is a situation that is being perceived as negative, acknowledge the response it is evoking and try to look at it from the perspective of what lesson we can take away from the experience. In this way, we might be able to find more gratitude for the situation instead of blame.
Taking a moment to really notice the more subtle uplifting experiences and letting them bloom can help counter our natural human bias to notice the negative. Therefore taking 10-20 seconds to allow a positive event to marinate is a way to embed uplifting experiences and the resulting emotions in ourselves. This helps wire our brains to shift our mindset into the upward spiral. The more often we do this, the more often we are apt to experience it.
- Dr Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of Flow (1990)
- Dr Barbra Fredrickson of Love 2.0 (2013)
- Dr Rick Hanson of Hardwiring Happiness (2013)
- Dr Rita Maselli Creating My Own Happiness (2018)