Positive emotions undo negative emotions and reduce the
negative physical and psychological stresses of negative experiences.
Negative emotions tell you that you are facing a win-loss encounter and
need to take steps to engage with the obstacles. Positive emotions tell
you that you are in a potential win-win situation. Positive emotions guide
you to be more expansive, tolerant, and creative so that you can maximize
the social, intellectual, and physical benefits of the situation.
It is important to generate and build the experience of
positive affective states rather than simply extinguishing negative emotions.
Positive affective states create an "upward spiral" and become
the fuel and the raw material for growth and development, exploration
and discovery, mastery and successful interactions in the world, and developing
and leveraging your strengths.
Positive emotions move you toward happiness. As you generate
positive emotions, you will broaden and build upon them. You will become
more successful in your world (whatever success means for you) when you
align yourself with happiness.
Here are the top ten ways to generate more positive emotions.
1. Increase your happiness about
the past by experiencing gratitude.
Gratitude amplifies savoring and appreciation of good events gone by.
Gratitude about the good things in the past intensifies your positive
memories about the past and therefore engenders more positive affect
and the sense of happiness about the past. Satisfaction, contentment,
fulfillment, pride, and serenity - all aspects of happiness about the
past - require the experience of gratitude.
Research just completed shows that engaging in a Gratitude Visit has
lasting and substantial happiness benefits. This intervention required
participants to write a letter and then read it to someone telling them
how grateful they were for something the other person had done for them
or just for who they were.
People engaging in the Gratitude Visit were found to be significantly
happier and less depressed after the visit and for at least one month
Take every opportunity to express authentically your gratitude about
past experiences to those around you.
2. Increase your happiness about
the past by practicing forgiveness.
Forgiveness undoes bitterness and the desire for vengeance about past
transgressions that block your feelings of happiness about the past.
Negative memories can induce bitterness. When these negative memories
predominate, the emotions of contentment, satisfaction, serenity and
peace are not experienced and happiness about the past is not available.
When negative memories about the past are fostering negative emotions,
the way out is to rewrite your negative memories. Forgiveness is a tool
for rewriting our memories of past bad events and opening the door to
happiness about our past.
Studies show that adults who use an effective forgiveness tool have
less anger, less stress, and are more optimism and report better health
and more happiness.
3. Increase your happiness about
the future by building hope and learning to be more optimistic.
The sense of happiness about the future is embedded in the positive
emotions of faith, trust, confidence, hope, and optimism.
Optimism is more than just sitting around and thinking positively about
Optimistic people have an optimistic explanatory style, which is permanent,
pervasive, and personal. Optimists who make permanent and universal
explanations for good events and temporary and specific explanations
for bad events tend to recover quickly from troubles and get hooked
Learning to be more optimistic builds hope, gives greater direction,
and supplies energy for successful future interaction in the world.
Leveraging learned optimism opens the way to experience a sense of
happiness about the future and produces the positive emotions of faith,
trust, confidence, hope, and greater optimism.
4. Increase your happiness about
the present by enjoying the pleasures of the moment.
Pleasures are a route to increasing your experience of positive emotions
in the present and opening the gateway to the experience of the sense
of happiness in the present. By enjoying the pleasures in your life
you pave the way for increased positive feeling throughout your lifetime.
Pleasures are tied to the satisfaction of your biological needs. Pleasures
can be honed, nurtured, discovered, and supported. They can be sharpened,
amplified, and brought purposely into your experience.
Pleasures are perceived and experienced through your senses and expanded
and amplified in your emotions. Pleasures heighten your momentary experience
but may not build reserves for the future. Although pleasures are an
important contribution to present happiness and increased positive feelings,
they are not the route to lasting happiness.
You can enhance your experience of pleasures in the moment and increase
your happiness in the present by engaging in a simple practice. Set
aside a free day every now and again to indulge in your favorite pleasures.
Dont get distracted by all of your practical responsibilities.
Design your day of simple pleasures and carry out the plan. Repeat as
5. Increase your happiness about
the present by experiencing gratification.
Gratification results from engagement in activities that exercise your
natural strengths. Engaging in the world in a way that produces gratification
produces total absorption in the moment and results in a state called
flow. Flow builds psychological capital that can be drawn on in the
years to come.
A state of flow arises when:
- You are involved in a task that is challenging and requires skill
- Your natural strengths match the demands of the situation
- The goals of the task are clearly outlined and you know them
- You get immediate feedback about your involvement with the task
- You have a deep, effortless involvement with the task
- You experience a sense of control with regards to the task
- You lose the experience of a separate sense of self
- You have the experience of timelessness
These components result in the experience of gratification and happiness
in the present. Identifying, developing and using your natural strengths
in as many aspects of your life and as frequently as possible will increase
your experience of gratification and enhance your happiness in the present.
6. Increase your positive emotions
For years, New Age self-help books have been telling you to write down
things that you appreciate. Turns out they are right. Science verifies
the wisdom of that advice.
Research shows that sustained experience of appreciation results in
highly ordered brain and heart rate patterns. Appreciation is one of
the emotions that reflects order in your neurophysiological systems
and produces what is called "physiological coherence."
During states of physiological coherence, your body systems are synchronized,
more efficient and in greater harmony. You experience better cognitive
performance, more emotional stability, and enhanced emotional and social
functioning. In addition, when your body is in a state of physiological
coherence you feel more at peace and experience a sense of security.
More new research shows that practicing appreciation does indeed increase
your happiness. People who write down three good things that happened
during the day every night for one week and answer"Why did this
good thing happen?" experience happiness benefits lasting at least
Happiness and satisfaction is highest for those who consciously direct
their attention to appreciation.
7. Increase your positive emotions
by identifying and nurturing your strengths.
Psychology has discovered that human strengths act as buffers against
suffering and ineffective functioning and are pathways toward a meaningful
Identifying and nurturing your strengths leads to resolution of ineffective
behavior, protects against the occurrence of dysfunctional behavior,
and eventually leads to a life of "flourishing."
Break out of a weakness spiral and focus your attention on your natural
talents and strengths. Your greatest resources for achievement, performance
and growth lies in the area of your natural strengths.
Identify your natural strengths by taking the VIA (Values in Action)
Survey at http://authentichappiness.org
and the Strength Finder Profile at http://strengthfinder.com.
For greater happiness identify your natural strengths and then nurture
and develop your top strengths.
Identifying your strengths is not enough, however. You have to use
8. Increase your positive emotions
by using your top strengths every day in all areas of your life.
To generate any significant experience of happiness, you have to use
People who used their top strengths in new ways every day for only
one week experienced substantial happiness benefits for up to 3 months.
The good life is experienced by using your top strengths as much as
you can in all areas of your life. By designing different life areas
so that your top strengths can be more frequently and more fully exercised,
you open the way for the experience of increased positive satisfaction
and successful engagement with the world.
Increased life satisfaction comes through being able to use your top
strengths every day in win-win situations. Once you are aware of your
top strengths, it is possible to design your life and work around your
strengths to leverage and capitalize on their unique combination.
9. Increase your positive emotions
by leading with your strengths and compensating for your weaknesses.
The old paradigm was that knowing your weaknesses and correcting them
would help you improve the most. Now, the fascination with weakness
is beginning to fade. Focusing on your strengths is proving to be a
more effective paradigm.
Major strides in prevention of dysfunction have resulted from systematically
building competency, rather than correcting weakness. Simply correcting
your weakness often leads to a dead end. Challenging yourself based
on your natural competence with your personal strengths gives you a
path to follow and tools and techniques to use that are natural to you.
Leading with weakness, dysfunction and problems has a retrospective
view and focuses only on what to move away from. Looking for, finding,
and developing your strengths gives you something to move toward.
Your difficulties and problems are best looked at through the filter
of your existing strengths. By identifying and developing the strengths
you already possess these strengths can be leveraged as the means of
good management of your weaknesses.
Do not simply ignore the dysfunction or weakness. Instead, focus on
what strengths you have to leverage to set a new trajectory and to compensate
for your weakness.
10. Increase your positive emotions
by developing more of the "Key Five" strengths.
The jury is still out on whether or not it is possible to develop a
strength that is not one of your natural top strengths into a top strength.
However, through learning and development, it certainly is possible
to bring more of a particular strength into your life even if
it cant be turned into one of your top strengths.
Some new research suggests that there are five strengths that are key
to leverage for the experience of increased positive emotions and life
satisfaction. These Key Five are gratitude, optimism, zest, curiosity,
and the ability to love and be loved.
Find yourself a coach, a counselor, a personal development consultant,
or a good self-help program and spend some time and resources in bringing
more of the Key Five strengths into your life.
Are you experiencing positive emotions?
Do you begin and end each day feeling excited and
Do you experience moments of pleasure throughout the
Do you experience gratification in the life you live
and the work you do?
Is it easy for you to write down five things you appreciate
about your day?
Do you feel like you are "in the flow" for
some parts of every day?
Do you believe that the motion of your life is toward
If you answered "no" to any of the above, take steps to develop
more positive emotions in your life.
Contact me to discuss coaching and consulting options for living a happier
life. I can design an individual program aimed at leveraging your resources
for bringing more positive emotions into your life and coach you in the
implementation of the program. We can explore more in depth how to experience
more positive emotions and identify and leverage your personal strengths.
Call 434-263-4669 or e-mail.