Whatever you do….do NOT think about elephants!



How’s that working for you?….




Trying not to think something is just about as easy as prying a toy from a screaming, tenacious toddler! So if automatic negative thoughts are the first of the 6 thought habits of the stressed, how do we stop them? …About the same way we learn to take the toy from the toddler–we have to offer our brains another choice.

The fascinating field of Positive Psychology is providing overwhelming evidence of the power of our thoughts to affect not only our perception of stress, but also our success. This brings us to a really interesting rule and the basis for thought habits of the stressed number two:

2. Unpracticed Positive Thoughts- Not only do people who feel stress tend to have more automatic negative thoughts, they also tend not to practice positive thoughts, positive feelings. Negativity is a strong set point, so developing positivity takes lots of practice, practice that will head off stress. Think of the automatic negative thought pathways as well-worn ruts in the neural pathway; we have to travel the new positive pathways over and over to wear a new rut–a new, more effective habit.

Dr. Barbara Frederickson’s extensive research reveals that we need three positive thoughts to balance the power of one negative thought. Exceeding this 3:1 ratio is key to happiness, productivity, and effectiveness, even in group and corporate interactions.


In fact, a meta-analysis of 300 studies involving 275,000 people, reveals that real positivity (no, not fake smiles and denial) produces success as well as reflects success in many arenas–relationship, finances, and health. But positivity is like a muscle that needs practice to strengthen. According to Dr. Frederickson this practice broadens and builds the mind, creating a mind that sees less stress and is more resilient in the face of stress.

What’s your ratio?

 What can you do today to strengthen your positivity muscle?

 What if you started with your inner dialogue about yourself?

Insights? Ideas? Please share……

Want more inspiration? (or that repeated attention to intention that helps us learn!)

Read or listen to these- the research really is impressive and the stories inspiring.

Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

Positivity, Barbara Frederickson, Ph.D.

The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor


Contributed by AIS Fellow and Chairman of the Workplace Stress Board, Cynthia Ackrill, M.D.

Visit Dr. Ackril’s website: for more practical stress managment information.

Next up……Habit No. 3 Catastrophizing