Home All Let Positive Triggers Turn on Your Best Self©

Let Positive Triggers Turn on Your Best Self©

written by David J. Pollay 2 April 2008

David J. Pollay, MAPP '06, is a co-founder of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). David has an Economics degree from Yale University and has held leadership positions at Yahoo!, MasterCard, Global Payments and AIESEC. He is an Executive Coach who specializes in business relationships. He is also an author and keynote speaker known for his best-selling books, The Law of the Garbage Truck (how to navigate negativity) and The 3 Promises (how to create personal fulfillment every day). David's articles are here. For permission to reprint David's articles, please contact him.

A few years ago I was sitting in my office, by myself, and I wasn’t feeling good.  Yes, it’s true.  I research, write, and speak about Positive Psychology, but I admit it, I wasn’t having a good day. 

So, here’s my first question:  Where do you look when you’re feeling bad?  Most of us look down.  And that’s what I was doing in my office; I was looking down at the floor.

Stickers for Little Girls

Stickers for Little Girls

And then I started laughing!  I realized that Ariela and Eliana, my 2 and 3 year old little girls, had put stickers all over my shoes.  Somehow they had slipped them on when I was kissing my wife Dawn goodbye before I left the house that morning.  Just thinking about my little girls slipping stickers on my shoes without my knowing made me laugh.  But then I laughed even harder when I thought, “It’s 11:15a.m.!  Where had I been all morning with stickers stuck all over my shoes?!”

It was at that moment I got it.  The stickers my little girls had put on my shoes were a positive trigger for me.  They instantly made me feel good.

Here’s my second question: Where do you look when you’re feeling good?  You look up! And that’s what I did in my office; I looked up and my day was reset. I had a second chance to make my day a good one.  I was experiencing positive emotion.

Research studies from around the world have confirmed the power of positive emotion. 

Positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina, best known for her “Broaden and Build Theory of Positive Emotion,” found in her research that positive emotions widen your attention, they increase your intuition, and they increase your resilience to adversity. 

Alice Isen, a psychology researcher at Cornell University, demonstrated that when you experience positive emotion, you are more kind, generous, and helpful.  Isen also found that you’re more creative and better able to solve problems requiring “ingenuity and innovation.” 

Neuropsychology researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson, discovered that positive emotions help boost your immune system.  At least three studies have shown that there is a strong connection between a longer life and experiencing frequent positive emotion.

Here’s my takeaway. If you are being chased by a bear in the forest, you should feel plenty of negative emotion! As my grandmother used to say, “Run like the dickens!” Otherwise, positive emotions help you think better and they help you build better relationships with others. People prefer to be around curious and creative people more often than people who always seem to be running away from bears!

I’ll bet, if you ask the people in your life, they’ll tell you that when you’re experiencing positive emotion, you do better work, you’re a better leader, you’re a better spouse, and you’re a better friend.  I know that I’m a better dad to two little girls when I’m experiencing positive emotion.

So what are your positive triggers? What makes you smile? What makes you laugh? What puts you in a creative mood? What triggers your passion, excitement, and hope? For some of us it’s looking at pictures of our loved ones. Some of us listen to a favorite song. Others go for a quick walk, or do a little dance. Some read a short, funny story. Others remind themselves of their goals.  Take a moment to think about the things that trigger your positive emotions.

Think of it this way. When you enter a dark room, what do you do? You reach for the light switch. Because you know when you flip it, just like that, you’ll have light. 

So what’s your light switch? What turns on your positive emotions? What positive triggers will help you look up when you’re feeling down?

Need some stickers?

If you would like to reprint Mr. Pollay’s columns, or include them in your blog, please email David J. Pollay




Davidson, R. (2012). The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live–and How You Can Change Them. Plume. (Added later)

Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. New York: Crown.

Isen, A. M. (1984). The Influence of Positive Affect on Decision Making and Cognitive Organization. Advances in Consumer Research, 11, 534-537.

Stickers courtesy of love?janine

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Chris 2 April 2008 - 9:12 am

David, thanks again for a great post. I have seen firsthand how a good burst of positive emotion can help my effectiveness at completing tasks. Not only that, I have seen how one person can be a positive trigger for an entire group. Energy in a group is contagious, so making sure that the right kind of energy is being passed around is super important. Thanks for the insight!

Lillian 5 April 2008 - 11:14 pm

Thanks David for this great column. You sure know how to inspire me with your stories; they are fantastic! You have a great gift for communicating your positive philosophy of life ,and reminding your readers that you don’t have to look far to find those triggers that can fill you with gratitude for the people in your life.

Keep them coming! Thanks again, Lillian

David J. Pollay 6 April 2008 - 9:14 am

Thanks Chris. You are so right about the power of positive emotion in a group. And you distinguish yourself as a leader when you are the positive emotion catalyst. Thanks for the post!

Best, David

David J. Pollay 6 April 2008 - 9:15 am

Thanks Lillian. You hit on the key: Positive Triggers are within reach at all times. It is amazing how people can increase their happiness by working on this habit alone. Thanks again for the post!


Melanie 7 April 2008 - 3:31 pm

David, it’s so funny that I just got to read this message today 4-7-08, the day that my daughter turns 18 years old and I’m looking at snow out my office window! Bittersweet to be sure, but alas, my triggers for today:I hung up 2 9 ft palm trees near my desk, a huge sun pinata, I painted my daughter’s car with blue window paint and filled the inside with balloons while she was in school–I’ve been smiling all day and singing Beach Boy songs to myself all day…

Mihir Gosalia 9 April 2008 - 4:31 am

Dear David,

I agree with you completely on this. It is something that I try to do repeatedly with myself in order to make my day, my work, my week more interesting

I will state my example. If I find that I am not having a good day at work today, I simply turn my mind on to reflect on what can I do to make it more enjoyable & interesting, I look for triggers that helped me enjoy my such days in the past & just try to repeat that. Many a times, during lunch break, I just go out & have lunch at my favorite nearby restaurant, it’s not just the food, but the service quality, ambience, I just love it all. Puts me back in a good mood after I have had my food. I know that i have enjoyed having my lunch today.

It is like this – when you are down, not feeling good, not happy, etc… I just try to do something that has helped me enjoy myself in the past & try to repeat that in the current context and make it more interesting. Positive thinking does help indeed.

Best Regards,


David J. Pollay 10 April 2008 - 9:57 pm

Hi Melanie,

That’s awesome! And I love your positive triggers (especially since I am writing from South Florida)! Good for you for filling your day with so many positive triggers. Your daughter sure is benefiting from your love and fun. I can just imagine your daughter’s face when she saw her car when she came home! Congrats Melanie on this big milestone!

Best to you,


David J. Pollay 10 April 2008 - 9:57 pm

Hi Mihir,

Thanks for the great post! So many people would just give up and say that they’re not having a good day. You, on the other hand, know that’s not true. While something at work may not be going the way you would like, you know that you can still have a good day. Congrats on looking to your successful past to find positive triggers that you can use today!

Best to you,


NICK POLLAY 14 June 2008 - 10:54 am


Juracy C. Marques 13 November 2008 - 9:50 am

Dear David:
As you know, I’m interested in Positive Psychology, and more recently, in what you write. As a positive trigger I keep in mind what you said: “To believe that you can accomplish what you want is one of the most important ingredients – perhaps the most important – in the recipe for success”. Thanks David to inspire me to fight for what I want. Best, Juracy

David J. Pollay 14 November 2008 - 9:07 pm

Hi Nick!

Great to hear from you! I just saw your post. The system does not notify us when posts are made to our earlier articles.

You are right; the Pollay name is not common.

Email me at david@themomentumproject.com and we can compare notes!

Best to you,


David J. Pollay 14 November 2008 - 9:08 pm

Hi Juracy,

It’s always great to hear from you! You’re on an important journey.

My best to you,



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