You know they feel good, but did you know that enlivening experiences and the positivity they generate are as necessary for your success as water, air, and sunlight? They’re actually nutrients that expand your mind to allow it to grow and change in order for you to become a healthy, resourceful version of yourself which is essential in order for you to experience success in your life and work.
There are measurable physical benefits of having a mental diet rich in positive events because it leads to an increase in positive feelings. These, in turn, create actual physical changes improving your cardio and immune systems. When you’re experiencing times of stress, actively choosing to create positive moments and the feelings that go with them can be just what you need to get you through.
According to Dr. Barbara Frederickson, author of Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection, and professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “The way the brain works is just fundamentally different in positive states vs neutral.” Because of this a person in a positive state learns more quickly and is more creative. They have a greater ability to assess and adapt to conditions.
Fortunately, it isn’t just a matter of closing your eyes to any difficulties in your relationships and your life that you may be experiencing. It’s more about creating a network of positivity that simply allows you to be more resilient. The true objective is to have, what Dr. Frederickson calls, an ‘eyes open positivity,’ which enables you to manage negative and positive experiences with full knowledge and authenticity.
The Evolution of Positive Emotions
From an evolutionary perspective, positive emotions would have played an important part in the development of our species, Homo Sapiens. Positive emotions helped us to think and act with a broader point of view. This would have been an adaptive advantage since these expanded mindsets inspire creative thinking and innovative problem-solving.
As you’ve probably experienced for yourself, positivity is a vital element of successful relationships. In early human evolution, they would have been instrumental in forming and strengthening community bonds which were essential for human survival. It’s easy to see in your own life how the people with whom you have a positive connection are the ones you most want to be around.
One of the core concepts of Dr. Frederickson’s work is the idea of ‘broaden and build.’ This is the basis for developing an authentic and sustaining positivity practice. Dr. Frederickson has some very practical hacks to support you in broadening and building your life’s positivity.
- Prioritize positivity over happiness. It may surprise you to learn that over-valuing happiness will actually lead to unhappiness.
- Assemble a collection of heartfelt images that genuinely awaken positive feelings. Periodically review these images and be sure to really allow your feelings to sink in.
- Each evening write down the positive things that have happened that day and set them aside in a box or a jar. After a year, read all of the notes.
To jumpstart your positivity practice, be sure to schedule time in your day, like first thing in the morning, to spend time with the images you’ve collected. Also, in the beginning, read some or all of your daily notes every 2 weeks. Giving yourself frequent exposure will begin to broaden your perspective and build your positivity reserves. As an added reminder, try using different colored papers for each month. As the layers of color build, so will your positive feelings about the memories in the jar.