When you´re laying in bed at night, what is it that meanders through your mind? Are your thoughts awash with all the positive feelings you experienced that day? Or do you spend those last few wakeful moments worrying about the deadline you missed, the fight you had with your kids or the idiot who cut you off in traffic on the way home?
Chances are I already know the answer…
When you´re busy, in a rush and just trying to get by, it´s so easy to let negativity push positive feelings out of sight (and out of mind). Still, it´s exactly those positive emotions that make life worth living
Which is why, today, I want to share ten positive feelings you need to incorporate into your life, every single day. I´ll even give you a few tips on how to go about it.
Positive Feelings Vs Human Nature
Why is it you remember all the bad things that happen during the day rather than the good? Why do negative situations replay themselves in your mind to the determent of the positive things that happened to you?
There´s a simple explanation…
Back in the Stone Age, life was far riskier than it is today. There were deadly predators everywhere and our ancestors had to stay alert to survive. It didn´t take much to set off their internal alarm, since even a slight rustling in the bushes could lead to a life or death situation. So, while the flowers and the view may have been enticing, paying attention to the alarm bells ringing was key to their survival.
For most of us, today, risk no longer has the same influence in our lives.
Someone may yell at you, insult you or flip you off but none of those things threaten your survival.
And yet, your brain – your limbic system, to be precise – is still programmed to automatically zero in on anything that diverges from what you recognize as familiar in your life; familiar being routines and the status quo, when all is well with your world. That´s why – like a dog barking at the fence when strangers walk by – your brain pounces on negative events and won´t let them go. It perceives them as dangerous.
Still, being open to and embracing positive feelings in your life is extremely important. Even kids know they´re good for you =)
The Undoing Effect: How Positive Feelings Overcome Negativity
In 1998, Barbara Fredrickson, one of the most highly cited scholars in psychology, began studying positive emotion. One of the experiments she conducted went like this:
Each participant was fitted with a heart monitor and shown a short film of a man teetering on the ledge of a high-rise building, threatening to jump. The viewers heartrate spiked as they displayed signs of fear and alarm.
Then, each person was shown another short film. There were three for them to choose from, each one designed to evoke a specific emotion:
- Positive — a cute puppy playing in the grass
- Neutral — colorful sticks piling up, in a repetitive loop
- Negative — a little boy crying beside his dying father
What do you think happened?
The heartbeat of those who watched the puppy film quickly returned to normal following the fright they got watching the first film. The heartbeat of those who watched the neutral film slowed to normal after a short time. But the heartbeat of those who watched the film of the little boy crying stay elevated for much longer.
At the end of her experiment, Barbara Fredrickson concluded that positive feelings had the power to dissolve or undo negative feelings (hence, the undoing effect). Positive emotions can help you direct the brain´s focus away from negativity.
So, what does this mean for you?
Positive Feelings Boost Inner Resilience
When it comes to dealing with difficult people, situations and things, positive emotions are key. They help you stay calm and grounded in times of stress because they strengthen your inner resilience, relieve tension, and energize you.
But those aren´t the only reasons you should make room for more positivity in your life…
Being in a good mood opens you up to opportunities you may not have seen otherwise. They boost your creativity, increase your productivity, and help release those internal blocks that often have you anchored in one place for far too long!
The 9 Most Important Positive Emotions For A Strong, Vibrant & Fulfilling Life
Ready to dive in?
In my mind, the more effective you are at identifying and describing positive emotions, the easier it is to look for them…or even create situations in your life where you can experience and enjoy them more often.
Love´s the deepest feeling of connection we know. When you´re in love with someone, you want to give that person as much of yourself as you possibly can…affection, consideration, security and trust – these are just a few aspects of this multifaceted emotion. But “being in love” is not the only love there is. You can experience deep love for your kids, your parents, a friend, and even your pet.
The best thing about love?
The more you share, the more you have to give.
To love and to be loved is one of the most uniquely beautiful and important things in life. The love you feel directly impacts your health, your immune system, and your state of mind. Studies also show that lonely people are often more susceptible to disease.
Love is like a superpower – when you enjoy lots of it in your life, you´re stronger, more self-assured and more resilient. You feel like you can do just about anything at all!
How You Can Help Love Bloom in your Life:
So many people spend their lives looking for love. But love is something you give first…and then, receive in return. Look around you – what little things can you do for the people you love that would make them smile, make their lives a little easier, or make them feel special? This doesn´t have to be a big gesture. Sometimes, it´s the small things that count most; that show those closest to you that you are thinking of them, and that you really care.
Joy is what you feel in response to a pleasurable moment, spending time with a wonderful person or a memory that makes you feel warm all over. When something happens that touches your heart, feelings of happiness flood your body and you can´t help but smile. Sometimes you want to jump up and down like a crazy person; at others, you just want to bask in the afterglow of that special time.
Joyful moments don´t just increase your sense of well-being, they also anchor positive memories that you can call on time and time again when things are tough. This is why it´s so important to embrace joy when it “taps you on the shoulder”. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and savor every second. The better you are at knowing how joy feels for you, the easier it is to recall that feeling at will, when you need an extra boost.
How You Can Welcome More Joy into your Life:
When you´re feeling frustrated, down or anxious, close your eyes for a minute, take a deep breath and think back to a time when you felt really and truly joyful.
In your mind, see yourself stepping back into that moment. See what you saw then. Feel what you felt. Hear what you heard…use all your senses to recall that moment in as much detail as possible. Embrace the joy you felt and let that feeling course through your body again today.
This is a simple exercise you can do anytime, anywhere. Your mind is a powerful thing. Give it a task and it will do its best to follow through on it. When life is dragging you down, doing this will lift you up again.
The more you practice this, the easier it gets…and there´s no way to overdo joy, so practice it often!
Being grateful means appreciating all the good things in your life, both big and small. From having a roof over your head and a warm place to sleep to the busy little bumblebee buzzing from bloom to bloom on a warm, sunny day.
It´s so easy to take things for granted. Going through the motions without really stopping to appreciate all the people, gadgets, support, and systems that make life possible.
Slow down. Look at the people and things around you. What do they mean to you? How do they make you feel? What would your life be without them? Is your life better because of them?
The more aware you are of the good things in your life, the less you feel the need to complain about the small stuff. And that means less negativity overall.
One last thing – gratitude is the basis for mutual respect and appreciation. Being grateful and showing your appreciation helps you build lasting and loving relationships with others.
How You Can Embrace More Gratitude into your Life:
All you need for this simple exercise are 5 fingers…
With each finger, you´re going to focus on a memory or something in your life that warms your heart and makes you feel strong.
We´ll start with the little finger…press on it with the thumb of the same hand and think of something that you are deeply grateful for in your life.
Now, the ring finger…again, press on it with your thumb and think of someone you love with all your heart and how they make you feel.
Next up is your middle finger…press on it with your thumb and think about something nice you did for someone in your life and consider who else you could do that for.
Now, press your thumb on your index finger and think of something or someone that inspires you, and finally…
Wrap all four fingers around the thumb of that hand, squeeze tight and think of one of your strengths or talents that you are particularly grateful for.
Practice this exercise often and you will get to the point where, all you have to do is press each finger in turn to experience the feelings associated with it, over and over again.
Balance comes from a sense of inner calm and contentment. When you´re living from a place of balance, nothing has the power to throw you off track – unless you let it.
Balance and joy are both emotions of the moment. The more relaxed and at peace you are in mind, body and soul, the easier it is for joy to find its way into your life.
On the other hand, spending a lot of mental energy in the future, leaves the door wide open for anxious, stressful thoughts to come pouring in.
Focus on creating more balance in your life and you will find it easier to sort through your thoughts and manage your emotions.
How You Can Welcome More Balance into your Life:
I call this the “Breathe for More Balance” exercise. It´ll only take you a minute or so and I´d recommend you do it several times throughout your day.
Breathe consciously for one minute – nothing else.
You don´t have to do anything special. Simply breathe in and out, focusing on your breathing, one minute long.
And the great thing is you can do it anywhere! At the office, out on a walk, in bed before you go to sleep. This is one of the best mindfulness exercises I know and makes it so easy to practice living in the moment.
Happiness, enjoyment, rapture, pleasure, and bliss – delight is a combination of emotions all rolled into one. When you embrace delight in your life, you are more open and receptive to new things.
You feel it most when you´re relaxed and having fun with others. In fact, laughter is a key element of delight.
Laughter is even used to treat anxiety disorders and it´s tremendously useful in defusing anger.
How You Can Welcome More Delight into your Life:
Surround yourself with people you enjoy spending time with. Put your worries in a “mental drawer” and focus on being totally present in the moment while you´re together. Let your inner child come out to play for a while. Relax, laugh and have fun!
Who do you always have a good time with? Who makes you laugh and forget yourself for a bit? Make the effort to spend more time with that person.
Curiosity combines fascination and excitement with interest. It´s about genuinely wanting to know more about something. Whether you want to learn how to do something, how something works or you just want to understand more about something or someone, there´s not limit to what you can be curious about in this amazing world of ours.
What gives this positive feeling its power is that it allows you to embrace unfamiliar circumstances, giving you a greater opportunity to experience wonder, delight and joy.
From my perspective, life is just better when you´re curious.
How You Can Embrace Curiosity in your Life:
Embracing curiosity takes a bit of time but it´s time well spent, and the focus is on fun. So, think of something you´ve always wanted to learn or know more about, then set aside 1-2 hours a week and start exploring!
Once you´re after, go to the library, look online, and find others who are interested in the same thing – because sharing ideas with like-minded people is always more fun (than going on about something with someone who just doesn’t know where you´re coming from.)
And, if you can´t think of anything right off the bat, no worries and no pressure. You don´t have to sign up for anything today. Take some time to look around. Try out a few things before deciding which direction you want to go. When you find something that sparks a pleasant feeling of curiosity, then run with it. You can always delve into something else later.
When you´re inspired, your mind is bubbling with new insights and ideas! Inspiration supercharges your creativity; it excites and stimulates you to come up with some of the most amazing things.
People, activities, the beauty of nature – all of these things can inspire you. The positive and invigorating energy of what inspires you can rub off on how you think and how you act. Instead of treading water, you push past your comfort zone and try new things.
The more inspired you are, the more motivated and driven you become.
To give yourself the opportunity to develop yourself further, tap into your personal source of inspiration on a regular basis.
How You Can Feel More Inspired:
Each of us has things and people that inspire us on a personal level. What are yours?
If it´s a person, spend time sharing thoughts and exchanging ideas with them. If it´s a place, block out time to go there for a while. If it´s a thing (a book, a movie, a poem, a musical instrument, journaling), set aside some time to enjoy it, each day.
Whatever gets you excited about your life is something you should do more of.
Wonder comes from experiencing something that´s both unexpected and uniquely beautiful, in its own way. Wonder is a combination of amazement, respect, admiration and, sometimes, it can even be a bit unsettling.
For me, there is wonder in nature – from spider webs glistening with morning dew and iridescent beetles scuttling through the leaves to swallows swooping through the streets at dusk and the earthy smell of new fields being ploughed.
And then there are the BIG things like falling stars, rose-tinged sunsets, glorious rainbows, and breath-taking mountain-top views!
But nature isn´t the only thing that can inspire wonder…
Historical monuments, ancient libraries with age-old books, a truly excellent bottle of wine, mind-bending conversations, amazing talent, a new baby, music…you get the idea.
There is no limit to the wonder-inspiring things and people in this world.
Being open to wonder in your life helps you…
- recognize the value in all things, big and small
- be aware of the awesomeness and beauty in the world around you
- see yourself as part of something that is much, much bigger
It´s humbling to realize that your existence is just a speck in time; there are much more powerful forces at play here. Welcoming wonder into your life lifts you up, inspires you and makes room form more joy, gratitude, and hope – just a few of the positive feelings that make life worth living!
How You Can Be Open to Wonder Every Day:
When people think of “wonder” they often think of big, eventful happenings in their lives. But there are ways you can feel wonder, from day to day.
Consciously look for little things that you might otherwise take for granted. Leaves changing color. A bird singing in the trees. Perhaps, raindrops running down a windowpane. Whatever it is, really look at it as if you are seeing it for the very first time.
There are so many little wonder-inspiring miracles going on around you, every single day. Take the time to look for, admire and appreciate them.
If you´re like most people, there are things you´ve been hopeful about in the past and things you still hope for in the future. Being hopeful about life helps you trust in the good, builds confidence that things will work out in the end, and boosts your belief that you can overcome any hurdles along the way.
Hoping for something won´t make it happen but it will help motivate you to do what it takes to get you there. When hopelessness sets in, it´s so much harder to push through to the end.
To have hope means wanting something to happen that´ll make your life better in some way. Creating a vision for what that looks like for you will keep you focused and moving forward.
“Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.” ~ anonymous
How You Can Feel More Hopeful:
The next time you fill things aren´t going well or if there´s something you feel you just can´t do, do this:
Think about several big problems you had in the past that are no longer a problem for you now. Problems that were so overwhelming at the time, that you were certain you´d never be able to get past them. Yet somehow you managed. Take a minute to remember how strong, smart, or resourceful finding a solution to each of those problems made you feel.
Now, take a piece of paper and make a note of each problem. Fold it up and stick it in your purse or a pocket. Next time you´re feeling discouraged, frustrated, or hopeless, pull out your note and remind yourself that what you´ve done in the past, you can do again now…
Allow yourself to hope.
Invite Positive Feelings Into Your Life
Positive emotions are powerful. But this isn´t about you creating an “emotional to-do” list to add to everything else you have to do each day. It´s much more about helping boost your awareness of these emotions, so you can actively create small situations in your life where you can experience them daily.
Structuring your everyday life in a way that invites these positive feelings in, is a good place to start
But there´s one important thing you´ll need to do first…
Develop a positive focus.
How Focus Affects Expectations
Have you ever played Tetris? It can be addictive! But that´s for another article…let me tell you about a Tetris-based study instead.
While there have been numerous studies about the human brain and Tetris, in this study, participants were simply asked to play Tetris for a number of days.
If you´ve ever played Tetris, you may be able to guess what happened…
After playing the game for days, people continued automatically to look for possible shapes in their environment that would lend themselves to building a wall. Imagine walking through your garden thinking: ah, I could take those fence posts and lay them out horizontally atop the hedge and then fill it in at the end with that bucket over there.
Sounds crazy, doesn´t it?!
What the study underlined was the completely natural ability your brain has to automate thought and recognition. Based on all the thoughts running through your mind each day, your brain develops certain patterns and expectations. Without you even noticing, it begins to shift your perception and direct your focus.
Here´s a little example: Let´s say you´re thinking about buying a car and you´re favorite color is red. The more time you spend googling red sportscars, the more red cars, in general, you start seeing on the road when you´re out and about. Red cars, you never noticed before!
The same thing can happen with positive feelings. The more you focus on them and the more you open yourself to feeling them, the more often you´ll start noticing opportunities to embrace them in your life.
Consciously Shift Your Focus
Focus on negative things, people and events and you can´t help but feeling negative about your life. Instead, exercise influence over your expectations by consciously looking for the positive. This is the key to developing the positive shift in focus talked about earlier.
The idea isn´t for you to always be looking for amazing, mood-boosting moments (though those are great, too!). It isn´t even about trying to experience all the positive feelings we´ve been talking about, every day.
It´s about looking for and enjoying small positive moments wherever you can find them.
But when you´re going through life on autopilot it´s easy to miss them. So, pay attention to the details of what´s going on around you. Really listen to the birds in the trees, taste the food you’re eating, and smell the roses. Try looking out the window and searching for things you can see today that you may have been taking for granted yesterday.
The more you pay attention to the moment, the easier it is to discover things to be happy, inspired, delighted and curious about. And, while big events and surprises are exciting, it´s really the little positive moments, linked together, that make life worth living!
So, now I’m curious…
Which of the 9 emotions above do you feel or invite into your life on a regular basis? Which of them haven´t you paid much attention to, up till now? Did you have any a-ha moments while reading this article?
I ´d love to hear from you, either in the comments below or you can reach out to me here. Because this topic is one that´s especially close to my heart!