Have you ever considered why some people always seem to be happy and have a sense of ease about them? They act as if they don’t have a worry in the world and you feel better just being around them. You might have assumed that everything in their life must be perfect. But later find out that their life is just like ours...with the usual ups and downs.
You may have even discovered that this “happy” person is carrying a heavy burden, and wondered, "What’s their secret?" It seems that happiness - real happiness - has nothing to do with what is happening to us. It is more about the ability to cultivate positive emotions. In the field of positive psychology, living with a sense of ease and flow is called flourishing. And the capacity to flourish is something within all of our reach.
Getting our Daily Dose of Positivity
Fortunately, most of our experiences are far more positive than we recognize; however, because of our biological bias toward negative events, our attention is oriented toward the negative, and we disregard the positive events (Baumeister, 2001).
To overcome this negative bias requires that we intentional focus on positive events and find ways to create even more in the ordinary course of our day. Researchers have concluded that it takes from 3 to 5 positive events to overcome just one negative event (Frederickson, 2013). So it takes a conscious effort to overcome the effect of just one bad incident.
Don’t wait for life to deliver some special surprise or obtain that long sought after goal to experience a sense of well-being and ease. All it takes is a commitment to proactively look for ways to bring more positive emotions into your life.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Take a moment each day to be grateful. Research shows gratitude has a tremendous impact on our feelings of well-being and generates a cascade of other positive emotions (Emmons, et al., 2003); Wood et al., 2010).
- Pay attention to the little things. Notice how small things can bring great joy like watching children play or stopping to see the beauty and the miracle of a sunrise.
- Find a day or at least a half day, to set your timer to alert you every hour and jot down how you are feeling. Note whether you are feeling happy, grateful, relaxed, angry, tense, frustrated, or stressed. This will help you see patterns in your life and may point to some important insights. The bonus here is that just by naming the emotion takes away the power of the negative emotions and gives power to the positive one.
- Take note of how your body feels when you are experiencing a positive emotion vs. how your body feels when you are experiencing a negative emotion.
- Notice the impact you have on others as you create more positive experiences for yourself. Do you see them reflect back these positive emotions?
It is a very liberating feeling to know that even though we don’t always have control over the events or circumstances in our lives, we do have a choice in how we feel.
Baumeister, Roy F. Bratslavsky; Ellen, Finkenauer; Catrin, Vohs(2001). “Bad is Stronger Than
Good”. Review of General Psychology, Vol 5 No 4 323-370
Emmons, Robert A.; McCullough, Michael E (2003). “Counting Blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 84(2),377-389.
Frederickson, Barbara L. (2013). “Updated thinking on Positivity Ratios”. American Psychologist, Vol 68(9), 814-822.
Wood, Alex M., Froh, Jeffrey J. Geraghty, Adam W. A. (2004). Gratitude and Well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30 (7), pp 890-905.
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