There are six facts about positivity — discovered through rigorous laboratory experiments — that can help you understand the importance and the pull of positive emotions. A thorough grasp of these facts starts you on an upward spiral.
We are living in dark times, some say, troubling times. But remember it isn’t the event that troubles us, makes us sad or angry or afraid; it’s our judgement of the event. For many of us, the world is a far different place than we’ve ever seen before. We could easily slip into a downward spiral of negative thoughts and emotions. Some wisdom from neuroscientist and author Dr. Alex Korb might be helpful.
Dr. Korb writes in his book The Upward Spiral: “You can’t always change where you are, but you can change where you’re going. What if, instead of your life spiraling down, it spiraled up? What if you suddenly had more energy, slept better, hung out with your friends more, felt happier? Your neural circuits have just as much potential for this as they do for depression. It often takes only a few positive emotions to kick-start the process, which then begins to fuel positive changes in other areas of your life — this is the upward spiral, and its incredible efficacy has been proven time and again, in hundreds of scientific studies.” [Korb]
The Six Facts
Sometimes, one small change can be enough to put you on the upward spiral of positive emotions. Korb explains: “That’s because in complex systems like the brain, even a little shift can change the resonance of the whole system. You might have a forecast for rain, but then the wind changes direction, the humidity drops by just 1 percent, and the day is sunny instead.” Korb]
Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson has devoted her career to scientific research into emotions. She is the first psychologist to study the cause and effect of positive emotions. Her work placed her at the forefront of the Positive Psychology movement when it began in 1999. Through research and experimentation, Dr. Fredrickson and her research team have discovered and articulated six facts about positivity. [Fredrickson] Understanding these facts does more than help you understand the basis for positivity . . . understanding them begins to pull you upward, on the upward spiral of positivity.
Fact 1: Positivity feels good.
This fact appears to be self-evident, but reflection on this statement yields a deeper meaning. The inner glow we derive from positive feelings is a motivator to seek out more. We have an innate drive, perhaps developed through natural selection, to feel good.
Unfortunately, we sometimes try to satisfy that urge through short-cuts like drinking too much, using recreational drugs, or feeding other addictions. The six facts lead us to find true positivity by healthy means, improving not only our own lives but the world around us.
Fact 2. Positivity broadens minds.
Positivity doesn’t just change bad thoughts for good, it changes how the mind works. Recall a past negative experience and you may remember how your focus narrowed and your ability to come up with options faltered. When you focus on positivity, the boundaries of your mind broaden, allowing you to see a bigger picture. You become more flexible.
Fact 3. Positivity builds resources.
Individual positive experiences are often fleeting, but the results build over time, providing you with more resources for creating a good life. Positivity sets you on a path of growth. You become a better person.
Fact 4. Positivity fuels resilience.
Positive emotions can literally pull you away from the downward spiral of circular thinking brought about by negativity. It changes your physical response to stress, lowering blood pressure and slowing your heart rate. Even during dark times, positivity helps keep you on an even keel and allows you to bounce back faster.
Fact 5. Positivity ratios above 3 to 1 forecast flourishing.
Scientific studies have pinpointed the tipping point for positivity at 3 to 1, or 3 positive experiences or emotions for every negative one. The average for most of us is 2 to 1 or less. At this ratio, your life is, well . . . average.
But when you reach the tipping point of 3 to 1 or higher, a transformation occurs. You move from just getting by, going through the motions. Your life takes on new meaning and you begin to experience growth, to make a positive difference in your world.
Fact 6. You can raise your positivity ratio.
The other facts are of little value if you can’t do anything to change your positivity ratio. The good news is that you can. You contain within you the potential for a life focused on negatives, plodding along at the 2 to 1 ratio or worse. You also contain within you the potential to positively flourish, to grow and become a better person. To improve yourself and, by doing so, improve the world around you.
Choose The Upward Spiral
Take a few moments to reflect on these six facts gleaned from years of scientific research. You have a choice. Why not choose the upward spiral of positive emotions? That is embracing the Excelerated Life™!
(For some suggestions on how to raise your positivity ratio, download a copy of the e-book: The Happiness Hundred: One hundred things you can do right now to increase your happiness. )
Excelerated Positivity™ — building the skills in positivity that help you flourish — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being and a life of meaning, purpose and service.
Fredrickson, Ph.D., Barbara, L. Positivity. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2009.
Korb, PhD, Alex. The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience To Reverse The Course Of Depression, One Small Change At A Time. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Ind., 2015.