“The missing heart of positive psychology” for mental and emotional fitness

Since the beginning of the SharpBrains blog, we have enjoyed frequent, insightful and nice comments by “Eleanor”. One day we decided to track her back and see what work she was involved with, and we enjoyed learning about what she does in the UK. Therefore, we asked her to write a guest entry here to introduce herself, her organization and philosophy. Eleanor, all yours!


SharpBrains Inc is brilliant. Thanks for inviting me to contribute. I work for MindFields College, based in the UK, which teaches human givens psychology to mental health professionals, teachers, social workers, etc.

The human givens approach has been described as “the missing heart of positive psychology” and is named after its core organising idea, that there are innate needs (or ‘givens’) physical and emotional, which must be met for good mental health. These needs, which are genetically programmed into us, include security, receiving and giving attention, autonomy and control, emotional connection to others, feeling part of a wider community, friendship, intimacy, privacy, status, sense of competence and achievement and to be stretched (from which comes our sense that life is meaningful). We also have innate resources (e.g. imagination, long-term memory, the observing self and a conscious rational mind) required to fulfil these needs, which are also givens.

After launching our MindFields College blog, I stumbled across the SharpBrains blog, and was fascinated to see that, by encouraging higher public awareness of “Brain Fitness” they are additionally providing valuable and practical ways to help people get their emotional needs met too.

For example: completing a brain gym ‘workout’ is an achievement, and we have an innate need to achieve. The satisfaction from this fulfils other emotional needs, such as the need to feel competent, for status, and to be stretched. A busy brain is a healthy brain.

Furthermore, SharpBrains also encourage developing a caring community to support the Brain and Mind Fitness of its members. Humans need to feel part of a network – connected to others – and to know they have people to rely on.

Stress is your body’s way of telling you that needs are not being met. Just as stress has been shown to inhibit cortical development, it can also stop us getting our needs met. Emotional arousal is always a signal that we have to act. If we don’t act, the arousal increases and too much emotional arousal makes us functionally “stupid”. When someone is angry, anxious or depressed they will be unable to work on either their Mind or emotional fitness.

I’m supposed to be keeping this post positive, but depression is fascinating and learning about why it occurs can be all you need to know to stop yourself from getting depressed. One of the biggest problems for people today is worrying, which is linked to stress. There is so much to worry about! But worrying causes depression by making us dream more intensely so we wake up tired and find it difficult to motivate ourselves.

Inoculating yourself against depression involves reducing stress, and SharpBrains have addressed this by promoting stress-relieving techniques in the same way that a human givens therapist will work to bring down emotional arousal levels in a distressed patient. The Human Givens Institute website, contains practical information about how human givens therapists work to help people get their emotional needs met so they can go on with their lives.

So, in promoting ways to develop Brain and Mind Fitness, SharpBrains have succeeded in setting up another platform for helping people meet emotional needs as well as mental ones, both crucial for human development. This is why SharpBrains is so brilliant!



Note from Alvaro: Thanks Eleanor! we will keep doing our best. Thank you for all your contributions.


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