Over 20 years ago researcher Barbara Fredrickson set about studying something that no one else in psychology had studied in depth – positive emotions.
She discovered some startling facts about them. Here are just a few.
- Positive emotions broaden your thinking and your awareness of your internal world and the external world.
- They also build resilience, your ability to bounce back from negative events.
- They increase your creativity, persistence and openness to others among other benefits.
Collectively she calls all 10 of the positive emotions she studied positivity which is also the name of her book in which she explains her research to us regular folk.
However, it wasn’t until she met another researcher named Marcial Losada that she and he uncovered a specific ratio of positive to negative emotions that can unlock your hidden potential.
What this means is that how often you experience positive feelings as compared to how often you experience negative feelings is important to how well you function. And they found that people function best when they have at least 3 positive emotions for every 1 negative.
People who achieve this ideal 3:1 happiness ratio live in a condition called “flourishing mental health.” They live longer, are happier, more successful, have better relationships, are less likely to get ill and are more satisfied with their lives.
After Fredrickson and Losada discovered this 3:1 ratio and how powerful it was, Fredrickson decided to see if she could help people raise their happiness ratio.
She conducted a study of 139 adults half of which were assigned to a 7 week workshop on loving kindness meditation and encouraged to practice daily the other to be part of a wait list control group. Fredrickson’s idea was that a daily dose of positive emotions might increase the amount of positivity experienced by participants and build the internal resources I mentioned above.
Loving kindness meditation is a guided meditation practices that involves directing loving feelings towards oneself, ones that are close to you, strangers and finally all beings.
The study showed that the group that attended the meditation workshops and practiced regularly had increases in positive emotions such as love, joy, gratitude, contentment, hope, pride, amusement and awe. Their self-acceptance increased, their relationships and health improved and life satisfaction improved as well.
This data shows that you can increase how many happy feelings you have in life… and validates Fredrickson’s theory that increasing those happy feelings improves your life in many other ways.
I’ve found that my life seems a bit lighter and more fruitful since then. I go for walks and just pay attention to the trees and grass. I spend more time writing. I spend more time with friends. I started meditating again. I’ve noticed that things that bothered me before bother me less now. I feel like I’m able to face problems I’ve shied away from in the past. I actually feel younger too.
Before reading Fredrickson’s book, I thought that focusing on work would allow me to achieve things that would give me the free time to do what I want… and I thought the ultimate goal of that quest for achievement would make me happy.
Now I realize that I need to achieve high levels of happiness now so that I’m more likely to achieve my goals. And becoming happier is so much fun. It’s the best goal I’ve ever had.
If you find that you want to raise your positivity ratio to get to 3:1 or at least find out where you stand you may want to visit her website and take the positivity test.
You’ll also find examples of people whose lives were changed by focusing on increasing their positivity. These success stories may be more inspiring to you than the research that proves that these results apply to anyone who engages in positivity on purpose.
Now that you’ve finished reading, will you leave me a comment below? I’d love to hear what you think of this post.