Research suggests that positive emotions are an essential part of our happiness and wellbeing.
The emergence of positive psychology has led to the exploration into the positive aspects of life and human experience and this helping researchers and psychologists, and therapists better understand how they can work with clients to not only tackle negative emotions, but to also work on increasing positive ones too. The Broaden and Build model of positive emotions (Fredrickson, 2004) gives us insight into why paying attention to the ‘good guys’ might be worth your while.
Ok so firstly, let’s state the obvious positive emotions feel good right? Yes, we can probably all agree we like them and want more of them. It’s been found that experiencing positive emotions broadens your attention and perception, helps you feel more connected with the people you’re with and can build reliance against those pesky negative emotions.
Sounds good. So what’s the catch?
Well of course it’s not always so simple. Sometimes we have difficult circumstances to deal with. Making it hard to tune in to day to day positive feelings of gratitude, joy, happiness, love, peacefulness. As a result many potential positive experiences may go unnoticed.
So here’s a quick exercise I’d like you to try: Ask yourself now to count the number of positive things that happened today.
Learning to switch on and be ready for positive experiences will definitely increase the likelihood of them occurring.
What’s even better about positive emotions is not only the moment-to-moment experience, they accumulate and build over time. This can create an upward spiral that opens you up for more positive experiences and emotions. Over time this can help you build personal resources and reduce your vulnerability to challenges and problems that may come your way.
4 Ways To Help You Increase Your Positive Emotions
1. Tune in, be mindful of positive experiences as they arise.
Set the intention at the beginning of your day to try and recognise as many positive emotions as you can. They might be subtle, just a passing moment, but they all count. Simple mindfulness exercises like observing and describing can help increase our awareness of moment to experiences.
2. Make time for positive emotions
Free yourself up for good things to happen in your day, whether that’s scheduling in breaks, making time to write a gratitude list, or just plan for positive events and activities that you want to occur.
Try writing a 7 day positive emotions plan, pick one positive activity for each day.
3. Keep it simple. Keep it in the now
Ever fallen victim to procrastination? Yes sometimes we can even procrastinate about engaging in positive events and activities. Rather than thinking big or planning for the future, ask yourself: Right now, what can I do to improve this moment? It might be as simple as making a cup of tea, picking up the phone and reaching out to a friend or even just smiling at a stranger.
4. Let go of negative emotions holding you back
It can be difficult to experience positive emotions and events, when we are consumed by fear, sadness or other negative emotions. If these are getting in the way it may be worth considering working on reducing these. Remember you are not your emotions and they do not have to define you. Maybe spend some time writing down any difficult feelings you have, sometimes doing this can help us let them go, even temporarily, to open us up for more positive experiences.
Ashleigh has worked with individuals that have Personality Disorders, Autism, and Anxiety for the past 6 years. Offering therapeutic support and outreach in several settings. She has comprehensive knowledge of DBT therapy and is experienced in working with clients who have complex mental health conditions. She has run numerous workshops and corporate training days.