If you’re a bit of a pessimist, you’re probably not going to read much further after I reaffirm for you that there’s so much new scientific evidence highlighting the wide range of benefits you can gain by increasing your overall sense of intentional positivity.
If you’re a bit of an optimist, you’re already benefiting, and you’ll probably want to keep reading because you’re optimistic about what I could potentially reveal in this post that might be of benefit to you.
Either way, here’s what I’m going to suggest you try in this post.
Positive psychology experts including Paul Eckman Carroll Izard and Barbara Fredrickson have identified a ‘top ten’ of positive emotions that when we intentionally and mindfully focus and work on putting ourselves in situations where we can experience these emotions more, we broaden our capacity to not only see things from a wider perspective and therefore make better and more informed decisions, and also, we become more resilient when in negative situations by being able to draw on our learned and practiced positivity… this is referred to by Fredrickson as the Broaden and Build Theory of Positive Emotion.
Anyway, enough of the preamble and on with the exercise… and you can do this with any positive emotion or feeling that you care to use, not just the ten I will list.
Fredrickson’s research suggests the following seem to be the top ten positive emotions that we can gain most benefit from feeling more of more often:
Joy; Gratitude; Serenity; Interest; Hope; Pride; Amusement; Inspiration; Awe; and Love.
So in this post, I want to share an exercise that Fredrickson outlines in her book ‘Positivity’ (2009:40). (Note – there is some current criticism of the validity of the positivity ratio outlined in the book, however, the broaden and build theory is not impacted by that criticism.)
I’ve completed this a number of times and have found it, pardon the pun, a really positive experience.
And you can do this while focusing on your work life or your personal life… or just keep it generic. But if you are struggling a bit at the moment with finding something positive to think about in your work life, this is a great activity to break out of any potential rut you might find yourself in (and of course that applies to your personal life as well).
What you do is pick one of the emotions listed (or as I’ve said, any positive emotion you’d like to use if its not in the list) and ask yourself these questions:
When was the last time I felt this feeling?
Where was I?
What was I doing?
What else gives me that feeling?
What can I do to cultivate that feeling?
So for the pessimists (who probably aren’t even reading this now), or maybe even for some of the optimists reading this, you might wondering WHY BOTHER?
Well, in my last post on the scientific validation that what we focus our motivation and attention on grows stronger, it just makes sense to every now and then, mindfully and intentionally focus on what’s good for us.
The history of our developing brain tells us that we were basically programmed to focus on what’s going wrong or potentially could be going wrong so that we could avoid it and survive.
This exercise gets us intentionally focused more mindfully, more often, on what’s good in our life.
I hope you take the opportunity… give it a try and I know you’ll gain positive benefit from focusing intentionally on the positive in your life.