Saturday, March 5, 2011

Improving Your Life, Positive Emotions Increase Life Satisfaction

Most everyone would prefer to experience positive emotions such as joy, interest, love, serenity, awe, amusement or pride rather than negative states such as fear, depression or anxiety. Simply put, positive emotions feel good. The latest research reports that they can also make you healthier and happier if you take the time to cultivate them.

The 3 to 1 positivity ratio
If you life isn't quite how you'd like it to be, researchers studying human emotions report that you can start improving your life by increasing the ratio at which you experience positive to negative emotions, know as your positivity ratio. Scientists have even determined the "tipping point", or the minimum positivity ratio necessary for your to improve your life. That ratio is at least 3 to 1. For each negative emotional experience you endure, you need to experience at least three positive emotional experiences that lift you up.

The benefits of positive emotions

Broaden and build. Barbara Frederickson, Ph.D., has been studying positive
emotions for over 20 years. According to Frederickson, when we experience a positive
emotion our thinking expands. (Negative emotions, on the other hand, narrow our
thinking.) “We literally see more,” she says, “allowing us to face our problems with clear
eyes, make creative connections and see more possible solutions for problems.”
Frederickson has named this the “broaden effect.” Additionally, says Frederickson, as
we make a habit of seeking out positive emotions we change and grow for the better. We
discover and build new skills, new knowledge and new ways of being that allow us to live healthier and happier (the build effect). “Positivity presents an opportunity to step up to the next level of existence, to broaden your mind and build your best self,” says Frederickson.
Healthier and happier. According to current research, those who practice a steady diet of positive emotions:

❍ Report fewer aches and pains, headaches and other physical symptoms. They also have lower blood pressure, fewer colds and sleep better.

❍ Are better able to rebound from adversity and stress. Positive emotions create a calming effect in your body that can lower blood pressure, dissipate stress energy and lift your mood.

❍ Develop more positive and closer relationships with others. They tend to have more friends and a larger social network to rely on during crises.

❍ Become more optimistic, more resilient, less depressed and more satisfied with life. In a study tracking the outcomes of patients undergoing treatment for depression, the patients whose positivity ratios rose to 4 to 1 showed no signs of depressive symptoms and displayed optimal functioning.

How to increase your positivity ratio

1. Track your positivity ratio. Take the “Positivity Self Test” online at Track your positivity ratio nightly for two weeks to see what your average is. Tracking helps you become more mindful of your sources of positive emotions and the triggers for your negative ones. The self test is also available in the book Positivity, by Frederickson.

2. Increasing your positive emotions. Some practical ways to increase the frequency of positive
emotions in daily life include:

■ Focus more on the present moment. Frederickson says that most moments are positive and that we miss many opportunities for positive emotions by thinking too much about the past or worrying about the future.

■ Find positive meaning more frequently in your daily life.

■ Savor the good things in your life and the good things that happen to you. Keep a daily list of the things you are thankful for.

■ Practice altruistic behaviors and small acts of kindness.

■ Focus on your personal strengths and follow your passions. Give yourself permission to play and find activities that uniquely engage you.

■ Connect with others. Scientists have documented that people gain more positivity by being with others than by being alone.

Spend more time outdoors and/or in nature. According to a recent study, people who spent twenty or more minutes outside when the weather was nice boosted their positive emotions.

■ Learn and practice meditation.
According to Frederickson, meditation opens your mind and an open mind breeds positivity.

3. Decreasing your negativity. At times, negative emotions are appropriate and can serve useful functions. The key is to eliminate negativity that is neither helpful nor healthy. The following suggestions can help:

■ Dispute negative thinking. Ask yourself: What are the facts of my situation? What negative thoughts and beliefs got triggered and how did they make me feel? How do those thoughts and beliefs compare to reality? By examining the facts you can bring a calm and rational manner into the picture. Rather than suppressing negativity or attempting to push negativity out of your mind, you are simply checking it against reality and often will find it is not as bad as you first thought.

■ Stop ruminating. Don’t keep going over and over your negative thoughts and feelings. Doing so only gets you stuck in a rut and continues to fan the flames of your negativity. Learn to recognize when you are ruminating on negative thoughts and then stop it by finding a healthy activity to distract you and break the cycle. Go for a walk or jog, do yoga, read a book, or anything that fully absorbs you and takes your mind off of your negative feelings.

■ Avoid the circumstances that trigger your negativity.
Examine your typical daily routine and ask yourself which circumstances create the most negativity. Then, do whatever you possibly can to eliminate or diffuse the situation. Do certain people bring you down? Avoid them. Look for positive solutions. You can’t diffuse or eliminate everything, but the more you can eliminate, the higher your positivity ratio will rise.

Copyright 2011 Sum-Bo-Shine, Inc.. All rights reserved. This newsletter is not intended to provide medical advice on personal wellness matters, which should be obtained directly from your physician.

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