Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Keeping mentally healthy: Seek out the positive people

This looked like an interesting article to check out: Angry/negative people can be bad for your brain. The ideas in that article are ones I've been pondering a good deal recently.

The "angry/negative people" the author refers to are not 'folks who are pissed off at the unjust state of the world', and so on, but rather individuals who are incessantly negative, whose very reason for existence is to find fault with whomever they associate or with whatever their situation. They're a drain to be around as they're perpetually miserable, they tend to make those around them miserable as well.

Basically the author focuses on three factors:

1. The role of "mirror neurons", suggesting that constant exposure to incessantly negative & angry individuals has over the long haul an influence on our neurological make-up (thus leading us to be more negative as well).

2. The role of emotional contagion (along the lines of social contagion): emotional states are "catchy." Hang out with someone who's constantly bickering and irritated will tend to make one irritated as well. Hang out with folks who are feeling good tends to make one feel good as well. Turns out that this is something that we don't need fancy degrees or credentials to suss out. Chances are that we've already been exposed to this lesson via the university of hard knocks.

3. The happy person as a genuine and rational person: the author endeavors to dispel the myth of the happy person as superficial and glib, but rather - again focusing on neuroscience and social science - is predisposed to be quite thoughtful and rational. Nor does the relatively happy person suppress or repress angry or sad emotional responses. Indeed, one can point to folks who are just bursting with positive emotional energy who are quite up front with their emotions and who are quite capable of using that energy to effect positive social change (the author's references to Mohandas Gandhi for example are quite salient here).

Just some grist for the mill that I wished to share. I've lately been in the process of burning some bridges in order to surround myself with a bit less negativity and a bit more positivity, as exposure to chronic gratuitous complaining and misery has drained me of energy that I need for writing and activism.

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