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.
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