Positivity. Optimism. Happiness. These words all come to mind when Cassie, a member of our Southshore family, shared something with me recently.

Earlier that day, I asked her the following question: “What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you today?” (I often attempt to “manipulate” my crew members to look for the positive in their days. Shhh – don’t tell anybody.) Cassie’s answer was both awesome and insightful. She shared that she had just discovered she had the highest score (by far) on a game app on her phone known as “Tetris.”  To give you a little background on Cassie, I’ll share that she was not only the captain of her cheerleading squad in high school but also just voted “Student of the Year.” These details are important because it could not be more fitting for an upbeat person who is always cheering for others and voted the best by her peers to have the high score in Tetris. 

What is the link between Cassie’s high score on a video game and her optimistic, outgoing attitude?  Ironically, it’s called … wait for it … The Tetris Effect.

Never heard of it? Allow me to elaborate. In one of my favorite books The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life, author Shawn Achor defines the phenomenon. “The Tetris Effect—When our brains get stuck in a pattern that focuses on stress, negativity, and failure, we set ourselves up to fail. This principle teaches us how to retrain our brains to spot patterns of possibility, so we can see—and seize—opportunity wherever we look.”

The name “Tetris Effect” actually comes from a video game where the player must arrange shapes falling from the sky to fit them together in rows. Studies have shown that people who played for hours, day after day, often start to see Tetris patterns in their everyday lives. In other words, objects in our view (or “cognitive afterimages”) continue to appear before us even when they’re no longer in our field of vision.

Your brain becomes trained to see patterns, and these patterns can be negative or positive. Constantly looking for negative patterns in your life can impede not only your emotional state but also your performance ability. On the other hand, looking for positive patterns can improve your level of happiness and boost your performance. The good news is that we can actually train our brains to seek out the positive in our environments to make us happier, more productive individuals. When we seek and focus on the positive, we are engaged in a Positive Tetris Effect, resulting in increased happiness, gratitude and optimism. And who among us couldn’t use a little more of these attributes in our daily lives?

Achor says practicing gratitude is a great way to train your brain to look for the positives.  He suggests choosing a consistent time each day to take a few minutes to write down three things for which we are grateful. The challenge is to do it for 21 days straight … to make it a habit. By making it a regular part of your day, you will become a more optimistic person, and you will find yourself actually scanning your environment in search of new areas of gratitude … even after your journaling has stopped. Just remember that life cannot always be viewed through rose-colored glasses. A little “pessimism” in our daily lives is perfectly okay. It helps maintain balance and prevents us from overestimating certain situations to avoid foolish decisions or bad career moves.

So, thank you, Cassie, for being the Tetris Champion.  And for reminding us all that we can be a little more positive, optimistic and happy by simply being grateful every day.

by Lee Couret