Pollyanna was the heroine of a classic 1913 children’s novel who always tried to find something to be glad about. The novel’s been made into a number of films over the years. But being a real-life Pollyanna has come to mean someone who is positive to the point of being annoyingly naïve.
Our sometimes cynical popular culture doesn’t always regard being positive as “cool”.
However, neuroscience and positive psychology is starting to show that play and being positive (deep down positive, not just superficially positive) brings social benefits as well as benefits to the brain.
You’ve heard the phrase the family the plays together, stays together. Play, whether it’s in families or friends can build ties. There’s a certain type of ground squirrel that will sound the alarm for other squirrels when it sees a predator, putting itself in danger. It turns out that the squirrel won’t do this just for its family members, as had been assumed. It also does it for its playmates.
Child psychologists have always regarded play as children’s ‘work’. Through play, children can explore different states of being and imagining and learn to interact with others, including learning how to form, nurture and protect friends. Why wouldn’t we allow that kind of play for ourselves as adults?
Neuroscientists are starting to show that when you’re open and curious (a form of being positive), you explore more. When you explore more, you are more open to possibility. When you’re more open to possibility, you literally can enlarge the neocortex or higher reasoning part of your brain. With the expanded possibilities you can imagine, you actually also create a more accurate map of the world.
Play and positivity. Turns out it may not be Pollyannaish after all.
May you find ways to play positively this summer!