Positive psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing. Its main focuses include finding true joy and fulfillment in life, and lately, it has been gaining a lot of traction. Barbara Fredrickson is a major player in this movement as she has dedicated her career to researching positive emotions. Fredrickson discovered that happiness is a combination of life satisfaction, coping resources and positive emotions, which together predict desirable outcomes in life (Fredrickson, 2009). We all strive to find that fulfilment and happiness to enjoy life to its fullest. Having scientific research to back it up is profound, and we can use this knowledge to further our own satisfaction with life.
In her book, Positivity, Fredrickson revealed that happiness should be about focusing on finding joy in each moment for an overall happy state of being (Fredrickson, 2009). Data shows that 80% of people are below an optimal ratio of positive to negative emotions, which can be a contributing factor to unhealthy behaviors such as emotional eating, drinking, smoking, and poor sleep (Fredrickson, 2009). According to Frederickson, we should aim for a ratio of three positive emotions to one negative emotion. This ratio is considered optimal as it has been shown to increase our resilience as found in Fredrickson’s research. With this powerful research, we will examine the top 10 positive emotions and provide ways to incorporate these into your routine.
For each positive emotion listed, read through its definition and consider the prompt that follows. It may be beneficial to use a notebook to jot down your thoughts as you go through each one.
1. Inspiration is defined as connecting your health and well-being to a higher purpose and life meaning. Consider this: What inspires you? To spark some inspiration, make a list of all the ways your closest family members and friends are your heroes.
2. Hope is a vision for the future and having a desire for things to be better. Think about the toughest challenge you have experienced in the past year and how you got through it. How did hope play a role in this and what offered hope in that situation?
3. Pride involves uncovering strengths and talents and using them to succeed in goals that are important to you. Ponder this, in the last week what accomplishment have you been most proud of?
4. Interest is finding something new or different that captures your attention and fills you with a sense of possibility. Think about this, when you have spare time what do you find yourself wanting to do? What is an activity you have wanted to try but have never done before?
5. Love can be seen as fostering trust, rapport and connection with someone and harnessing their support. With cultivating love, try out the Loving Kindness Meditation as its purpose is to send love and kindness to others. Choose one person and mentally send them this goodwill while repeating the following mantras:
- May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain.
- Just as I wish to, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you live with ease and happiness.
- May your life be filled with happiness, health, and well-being.
- Just as I wish to, may you also live with ease and happiness.
- May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be free from all pain.
- Just as I wish to, may you live with ease, happiness, and good health.
6. Awe is that feeling of identifying what inspires you and feeling overwhelmed by beauty and respect. List your top 5 role models in life and what inspires you to look up to them.
7. Amusement is defined as the ability to find humor in situations and enjoy the gift of laughter. Take the next 10 minutes to watch your favorite funny online videos or call up a friend who always makes you laugh.
8. Joy can be seen as improving your awareness and enjoyment of thriving. Seek more of what brings you joy, whether that be spending quality time with a friend, going outdoors, participating in your favorite hobby, purchasing that item you’ve been eyeing up, or getting lost in a book you enjoy. List three things that bring you joy and create a list of how you can incorporate these into your week.
9. Gratitude is an appreciation of life’s gifts, including the ups and downs (not only the positive aspects). To incorporate gratitude in your life, start a gratitude journal by listing 3 things you are grateful for each day or try one of these ideas in this insightful Noom blog.
10. Serenity is taking the time to savor moments of full contentment and is the end result of reducing negative stress and distress by using positive alternatives. Add more serenity into your day try saying the famous serenity prayer when feeling stressed or overwhelmed: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Emotions are powerful. They are known as energy in motion, a sentiment that should be expressed. Fredrickson has found that positive emotions improve attention, open-mindedness, creativity, and the ability to implement a strategic perspective (Fredrickson, 2009). Additionally, another pioneer of the positive psychology movement, Martin Seligman, discovered a positive link between optimism and improved health, such as a decreased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease (Seligman, 2011). With the various benefits of positive emotions, consider choosing one or two in the next week to implement into your day!
Cohn, M. A., Fredrickson, B. L., Brown, S. L., Mikels, J. A., & Conway, A. M. (2009). Happiness unpacked: Positive emotions increase life satisfaction by building resilience. Emotion, 9(3), 361–368. https://doi.org/10.1037/a001595
Fredrickson, Barbara L et al. “Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources.” Journal of personality and social psychology vol. 95,5 (2008): 1045-1062. doi:10.1037/a0013262
Fredrickson, B.L (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity and thrive. New York: Crown
Seligman, M. (2011) Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Free Press.