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In this expert session, neuroscientist and happiness expert Bruce Hood shares insights into dealing with life's setbacks using evidence-based advice. With a background in neuroscience, attention research, and happiness studies, Bruce created a course at the University of Bristol that teaches students how to cope with life's challenges using evidence-based techniques. He emphasizes the importance of taking action rather than just knowing theories to experience the benefits of improved well-being.

The session introduces three powerful exercises: psychological distancing, learned optimism, and mind control. Psychological distancing involves creating a mental separation from negative emotions, while learned optimism is about focusing on positive aspects and expecting favorable outcomes. Mind control refers to practicing techniques that help individuals gain better control over their thoughts and emotions.

Bruce also discusses the significance of ancient Greek philosophy, particularly stoicism, in dealing with adversity. He delves into the differences between pessimistic and optimistic thinking, explaining how our mind processes information based on permanence, pervasiveness, and personal responsibility. Permanence refers to whether negative events are seen as temporary or permanent; pervasiveness involves the extent to which individuals generalize from one situation to their entire lives; and personal responsibility relates to the degree of blame individuals take for setbacks.

Bruce suggests a balanced approach by taking responsibility while considering extenuating circumstances. He then introduces an exercise called "ABCDE," which involves identifying adversity, beliefs, consequences, disputing these thoughts, and creating a more optimistic perspective. The session concludes with Bruce leading a brief meditation exercise to help participants relax and clear their minds.

Throughout the session, Bruce emphasizes the role of language in managing emotions and dealing with adversity, discussing the differences between pessimistic and optimistic thinking and the impact of using third person language for emotional distancing. The session also highlights the relevance of mental health to physical health, stressing the importance of making positive changes gradually over time and forming healthy habits for sustained happiness.

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Bruce Hood

Dealing with Adversity

Bruce Hood is the Director of the Cognitive Development Centre at the University of Bristol. He undertook his Ph.D. at Cambridge followed by appointments at MIT and Harvard. He delivered the prestigious Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, “Meet Your Brain” which were broadcast on the BBC. Also, he received the Public Engagement and Media Awards from The British Psychological Society for his commitment to public engagement through public lectures, media appearances and science festivals.

Bruce Hood: Overcome Adversity | MentalHealthDay.com

Summary

Professor of Psychology | Author

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Key Learnings

  • Understanding Perspective Shift: Adopting a third person perspective or using temporal and psychological distancing can help individuals manage emotions and cope with adversity more effectively.

  • Overcoming Pessimistic Thinking: Distinguishing between pessimistic and optimistic thinking dimensions, such as permanence, pervasiveness, and personal responsibility, can enable individuals to challenge negative thoughts and adopt a more balanced perspective.

  • Embracing Mindfulness Practices: Engaging in mindfulness meditation and other techniques, like the "ABCDE" exercise, can lead to improved mental well-being by rewiring the brain and enhancing resilience against adversity.

Interaction

During the expert session, neuroscientist and happiness expert Bruce Hood engages the audience through interactive exercises using the Mentimeter app, such as thinking about a white bear for a minute to demonstrate the power of ironic thought suppression. He also shares his research on the science of happiness, including the benefits of engaging in positive psychology courses and techniques like psychological distancing, learned optimism, mind control, and meditation. Bruce discusses the importance of understanding our mind's processing, emphasizes the differences between pessimistic and optimistic thinking, and offers practical tips for dealing with adversity effectively.

Key Learnings

  • Understanding Perspective Shift: Adopting a third person perspective or using temporal and psychological distancing can help individuals manage emotions and cope with adversity more effectively.

  • Overcoming Pessimistic Thinking: Distinguishing between pessimistic and optimistic thinking dimensions, such as permanence, pervasiveness, and personal responsibility, can enable individuals to challenge negative thoughts and adopt a more balanced perspective.

  • Embracing Mindfulness Practices: Engaging in mindfulness meditation and other techniques, like the "ABCDE" exercise, can lead to improved mental well-being by rewiring the brain and enhancing resilience against adversity.

Interaction

During the expert session, neuroscientist and happiness expert Bruce Hood engages the audience through interactive exercises using the Mentimeter app, such as thinking about a white bear for a minute to demonstrate the power of ironic thought suppression. He also shares his research on the science of happiness, including the benefits of engaging in positive psychology courses and techniques like psychological distancing, learned optimism, mind control, and meditation. Bruce discusses the importance of understanding our mind's processing, emphasizes the differences between pessimistic and optimistic thinking, and offers practical tips for dealing with adversity effectively.

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