When I studied Psychology many people believed that mood disorders like depression and anxiety were caused by early childhood trauma and our best hope of a cure was years on the therapist’s couch. Yet the latest studies show that there maybe a quicker cure.
It’s true, negative experiences in childhood or later, can produce emotional problems but that’s because of the way those experiences shape our attention.
Let’s say you came out of an emotionally abusive relationship. To protect yourself, your brain may increase the attention it pays to perceived social threats, interpreting neutral facial expressions as hostile, or ignoring friendly people and seeing only the psychopaths. The problem is that if you only notice the negative or see everyone as bad you’re likely to become socially withdrawn, anxious or depressed.
With this in mind psychologists have developed a new therapy called Cognitive Bias Modification or CBM that simply retrains your brain to focus attention on the positive.
Delivered in a simple smart phone app, you’ll be faced with three negative facial expressions and one positive. The quicker you click on the positive expression, the more points you’ll get. By playing the game you’ll soon start ignoring the negative expressions and speeding up your detection of the positive. Amazingly your attention will start shifting in your life too, as you start noticing the good rather than the bad.
If you ever played Tetris for long enough, when you stopped playing you would have still seen all those shapes in your head. This app works a bit like that. Keep seeing the positives in the game and when you go back to life they’re still there.
Some studies have shown that playing a game like this for just three or four minutes a day over a few weeks can in many cases reduce anxiety more effectively than with medication. In fact not only do players experience lower anxiety, retraining their attention on the positive produces detectable changes in their brains.
See, the problem is not what happens to you; it’s what you pay attention to. Do you see the glass as half empty instead of half full? Do you notice the thorns instead of the roses, the bars instead of the stars? Or are you just getting irritated by all these cute self-help sayings? If so you may benefit from learning to refocus your attention on the positive.
The app is called Anxiety Mint. For more information go to: http://www.biasmodification.com. Or just start paying attention to the good in your life. Now experiment on yourself!