Time for a post as I finish up teaching a couple of courses of The Happiness Journey, through Hapacus, and continue on with the class that I am taking which I wrote about previously, Love 2.0 with Barbara Fredrickson. It has been a juggling act, teaching, coaching, learning and living life with all the conditions I’ve built into it (family, kids, responsibilities, etc…). On the bright side, I am managing a fairly stressful load by CHOOSING to build positive emotions into my daily diet. As I teach the Happiness Journey, I remind my students and myself that happiness is only one emotion they can choose. There are a host of other positive emotions they can access if they need a lift out of a blue mood, which could be more conducive to actually lifting them up. And these positive emotions can lead to others as well, leading to an upward spiral.
So what are the other positive emotions from which we can choose?
There are at least ten positive emotions that you can call on and cultivate at any time. There are many more, but ten show up in many positive psychology studies. In another one of Barbara Fredrickson’s books, Positivity, she calls them out in order from the most often occurring:
- Joy (happiness)
and as suggested by another researcher, Kristen Neff,
I included this last positive emotion out after reading quite a bit on the subject as well. I would definitely add it to the top of my list… from which to cultivate at any time… especially for a busy working mom in this day and age. One of my favorites, besides love (and kindness), is gratitude which I hope to really savor and talk about more in November.
Can we really CHOOSE to feel positive emotion? And why are positive emotions important?
The homework for the Love 2.0 class involves revisiting Positivity fully. This book has reminded me of the key concepts about positive emotions in general, and YES, how choosing them intentionally can produce great benefits psychologically, physically and socially. This is one reason why they are so important. Here are some other key concepts worth knowing about:
- You can choose positive emotions by noting HOW you interpret events and ideas AS they unfold (and AFTER they unfold as well).
- We need 3 positive emotions/encounters for every 1 negative emotion felt– to enable us to flourish. (some are challenging this ratio right now– but considering many people have a ratio of 0 to 1 or 1 to 1, 3 to 1 can make a dramatic difference in life satisfaction levels, on a whole).
- Letting positive emotion linger will bring more health benefits.
- Positive emotions encourage positive spirals all around you, i.e., one positive emotion can lead to the others.
- Those who WITNESS positive emotions will feel more inspired and uplifted and are more likely to engage in positive emotion themselves.
- Positive emotions can help you broaden your physical and psychological outlook and build your life with more possibilities in a real physiological way.
- People who have a high positivity ratio live on the average 10 years longer than those who don’t. They also get sick less often and are able to bounce back from health and psychological setbacks more effectively and at a faster rate.
- Positivity is contagious.
This last point is pretty big. Your good mood influences how you interact with those around you, who adjust how they interact with those around them, and so on and so forth. This is a stellar example of how you can really “Be the Change You want to See in the World,” as Gandhi quoted years ago.
How can I choose and cultivate positive emotion?
There are many ways to cultivate positive emotion. As noted above, you can choose positive emotions by noting HOW you interpret events and ideas (and the meaning you assign them– The Happiness Journey addresses this concept through explanatory styles).
You can also choose intentional activities like:
- Connecting with nature (through sounds, sights, smells, touch)– by being outdoors or with animals/creature. Nature can inspire you, remind you that you’re part of a bigger picture (humble/awe you), and in return you may display gratitude and love for allowing this connection.
- Connecting with others– by showing interest, being curious, being kind or helping, When you help someone, you externalize your positivity and it moves between you and another person like a dance… adding more possibilities for goodness in the world.
- Opening your mind — by focusing on the present moment and finding the positive meaning in the situation. At any time, ask yourself in any given moment, “What is right here? What can I celebrate?” Or on a different note, dream about the future… anticipate an event in which you can plan and savor, and replay in your mind at a later date.
- Opening your heart– by savoring goodness, counting your blessings and following your passion. For any of the emotions or methods above, ask yourself, “When was the last time I felt this feeling? Can I think of other triggers that can produce these feelings? What can I do now to cultivate these feelings?”
There are many other methods you can employ to cultivate and choose positive emotions. If you would like to grow your repertoire/library, and learning about new tools that can help you increase your positive emotion, please email/contact me at any time.
What We Focus on Grows
Now that you know what positive emotions are, how they can benefit us and how we can choose them, what positive emotion will you CHOOSE to focus on today? Do it for today, tomorrow and if you can– everyday– and your heart, your mind and your body will thank you in years to come!
Wow! Could it be? A whole year and some has passed since my last entry into the bloggosphere, and so much has happened I cannot believe I did not write about it. But that’s okay. I’ll forgive myself and get on to reflecting and sharing now.
My last entry involved slowing down, smelling the roses and being grateful. Previously, I also wrote about Random Acts of Kindness and Self-compassion. What I was beginning to realize at that time was that my interest in psychology was resurrected, and a new focus on positive aspects was blooming. Now I’ve come to understand this field as Positive Psychology, and I have begun to immerse myself in it 110%
A New Perspective from which to Write
I’m committing to make this field and new perspective a central part of my life; going back to school and training as a Life Coach, with an emphasis on applying positive psychology findings to help people flourish. I found positive psychology on my own, and the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA), which lead me to the 3rd World Congress on Positive Psychology this past June (2013). From that experience, I found Mentor Coach.com, and Master Classes and lectures with the big hitters in the field, and I am very grateful to be able to learn and grow from all these resources around me. And I am preparing to give back… sharing some neat concepts that are scientifically based to increase well-being, positive emotion and life satisfaction. All this through this blog, and through Happiness and Well-being Workshops that I hope to facilitate in the near future.
One concept I would like to focus on today is the power of savoring. The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley defines savoring as “the concept that being mindfully engaged and aware of your feelings during positive events can increase happiness in the short and long run.” However, further elaborated on by various scholars at the IPPA conference we find three types of savoring: retrospective (past events), concurrent (present events) and prospective (future events). Add one more variable to the concept, relational savoring (done with another person to enhance your present relationship) and you’ve got a recipe for increasing positive emotion in your life, aka, happiness, which affects your well-being on many levels (prolongs your life, reduces illness and stress and a whole lotta other benefits) all from the concept of savoring.
Examples of Savoring
I’ve built a savoring album on Facebook. It holds many memories– many that involve nature and loved ones– that I wish to savor– and savor with others. When I savor retrospectively, I think back on that time in that moment… trying to remember how the atmosphere felt; what my senses remember hearing, seeing, smelling, touching. If there was a loved on involved, I try to remember the interactions of the time and really dig deep to try to remember how I felt. The picture below is from my savoring album. I took it on a walk I went on a couple of weeks ago. The morning was fresh, the grass smelled like it had just been groomed. The sky was beginning to show it’s face, having woken up from a restful night’s slumber. The hills in the distant were crisp, and I was thankful for these conditions. And I was also grateful that my knee (which does not have an ACL) was working, as were my other body systems, and I was happy. I felt blessed then, as I do right now, reliving it. Sooooo thankful for the weather here in San Diego… and being able to live here to experience it.
Currently, I sit here at my desk typing this post, with double french doors open to our courtyard that holds nature in place– plants such as giant birds of paradise, palm trees and other plants. I feel a slight breeze blow through the door opening and see the greenery reachable by a small walk. I close my eyes and hear the sound of birds chirping. I look and see giant leaves swaying just a bit by the breeze. What I smell is freshness– in the air and to the start to the day. I feel blessed to have this moment. (so quiet… especially since the kids are sleeping in since it’s the last Friday before school starts!).
Prosepectively, I am savoring a day to spend with my kids…. just to be. Since this is the last friday of Summer, I told them we would “play hookey” and do something fun all day. This is very much out of our norm, since everyday- even in the summer- involves chores and responsibilities. Today, we will take a day off from those things– and just be with each other. I’ve given them some options on how to spend the day. I will wake them after posting this entry (because it’s 9:45am– that is plenty of time for a 16, 14 and 10 year old to sleep in), and check in to see where today will take us. I know this is our last summer with a 16, 14 and 10 year old. Next summer, they will be 17, 15 and 11. And I also will be a year old. Who knows what will happen in the coming year? Hopefully opportunities for growth… for us all. But for now, we will appreciate the day ahead of us. What a blessing it will be.
One of my favorite books as of lately is “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky. The author offers a few practical activities that involve savoring, worth checking out. One that I talk about above that is helping me remember and relive special moments is the savoring album. Today, I challenge you to do some savoring of your own. Create an online album, or even better, go through your older albums from years ago– when they weren’t digital. Try to think back to those moments. How was life different then? What didn’t you know, that you know now? What things brought the sparkle to your eye? What things held your interest? Take a moment and relive. Science shows, when you relive a special moment you build positive emotion, which builds resilience, and eventually a longer, happier life… one built on flourishing!
February 14th. What better day to celebrate love and kindness in the world (besides on your own birthday) than on Valentine’s Day? Last night I spent some time writing words of love to my husband and family. Today I presented those words to them, and found it put me on a path of love for the day; on a gentler road. What if we started all our days like that? What if the world started all their days with loving words and compliments? What a changed world we would see– one of pure compassion. Makes me want to try to start every day this way. It does take time and effort, but it’s well worth it.
Words that Matter
Last night I also helped my 9-year-old daughter with her Valentines. She has moved away from store-bought valentine’s for a few years now, and prefers to make them herself. Last year she made bookmark valentines. This year it was even more simple: a piece of paper cut out like a heart (with butterflies printed on it– as her school’s mascot is the Monarch), a complimentary sentence, and a lollypop attached. She made these by herself, stamping names onto the heart, adding a scrolling glittery decoration as well, and composed each compliment. I loved reading what she thought of her classmates: “You are creative,” You are a good friend,” You are generous,” You are good at math.” On and on and on she went. How wonderful for these kids to have those words to go back to whenever they need a little lift. She made me a card, and her father, brother and sister one as well. I love her warm spirit and seeing the good in other people. I just wished she would see more of the good spirit in herself, every day.
Words for Thy Self
Though my youngest has a complimentary spirit toward others, she does not have one towards herself. Unfortunately, she is always comparing herself to others; but only in the areas in which she is lacking. She constantly replays tapes of negativity about herself. Where she’s heard this information from, I’m not sure. But I want to put an end to it. So, this month we’ve started an experiment using daily self-affirmations. I saw an interview this Fall on Oprah’s Lifeclass , “You Become What You Believe,” with Cheryl Richardson— a life coach, author and expert on self-care. On Cheryl’s website she states:
- “Self-care is good for the planet. From years of personal experience, as well as coaching great men and women, I’ve come to understand that selfishness leads to selflessness. When we care deeply for ourselves, we naturally begin to care for others – our families, our friends, our greater global community, and the environment – in a healthier and more effective way.”
During her interview with Oprah, Cheryl recommended– to improve your self-image– saying positive daily affirmations for 30 days to turn your attitude around from a half-empty to half-full perspective. Her thinking– shared by many– is that we need to retrain our brain to thinking we are what we intend, and then we will act accordingly. Repeating this process (saying an affirmation everyday) allows the brain to strengthen associations, making this an exercise of the brain as well. Self-fulfilling prophecy is in volumes of psychological research, and still exists after all these years, even though we know our mind can trick us into believing anything really. Cheryl recommends breaking away from old habits of self-doubt and into new habits of self-love. If we can trick our brains into believing the worst about ourselves and then acting to make that belief true, we are then able to trick our brains to believing the best about ourselves, and then acting to make THAT belief true. What I am talking about here is directly tied into self-compassion and self-kindness that I posted about previously.
Daily Self-Affirmation Resources
Below is a list of resources that I use for daily self-affirmations; little reminders that life is positive and we are up for the challenge. Take a look. Some are print based and others are electronic. The great thing is that they are available to all– and can help lead us in the right direction– the direction of self-love.
- Cheryl Richardson shares a list of affirmations on Oprah.com.
- Another source I go to– or one that comes to me in my inbox via email is from Owning Kristina. It’s called “Mojo Mondays” and it’s a way to start your week off thinking about something healthy… for yourself.
- Louise Hay, a motivational author and founder of Hay House Publications also promotes daily affirmations.
- I found a nice app recently for the iPhone. An Affirmations app that has numerous positive affirmations for all to practice, all at your finger tips. Worth checking out.
- Facebook has a Positive Affirmations page as well, with new posts daily.
Which ever source you choose to pull from, the point is– just be kinder to yourself and to do so, you need to believe in yourself fully.
Wishing everyone a lovely Valentine’s day full of kindness in any form!