Monday, January 17, 2011

The Power of Positivity

I’m not going to lie-I am a very positive person. I am often described as optimistic and upbeat, always full of energy. So when I saw the book “Positivity” by Barbara Fredrickson PhD in the public library I knew I wanted to read it-as it claimed to provide a scientific explanation of why positive emotions are so important and how they can be used to overcome negativity and flourish in life. Fredrickson has the neat job of being a professor and “principal investigator of positive emotion and psychophysiology laboratory of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill”

She does not adapt the “Pollyanna view” of 100% positivity 100% of the time. Rather she acknowledges the entire spectrum of human emotions and says life is sweetest when your positivity to negativity ratio is 3 to 1. So for every negative emotion you have you have at least 3 positive emotions. This ratio does not have to be achieved at all moments, or even once a day, but rather when looking at the larger scheme of things.

Positivity is a renewable resource. You can seed more of it in your life, and as those seeds grow you flourish.

There are 10 main forms of positivity: Joy, Gratitude, Serenity, Interest, Hope, Pride, Amusement, Inspiration, Awe and Love. Everyone experiences them slightly differently, and different actions/events/items can lead to these emotions, but they are universal.

When you think about these emotions, ask yourself: “When was the last time you felt one of these emotions? Where was I? What was I doing? What gives me this feeling?” recognizing these things can help to bring awareness to what fills you with positivity.

I agree with her tips to increase positivity, including:

Count Your Blessings-What do you appreciate, and feel truly grateful for? Expressing that graditude in words or actions will help boost both your mood and their giver of such blessings.

Follow Your Passions: If you are living a passionate life, where you follow activities that you find fun and enjoyable you are more likely to have more positive thoughts.

Dream about your Future: Think of the best possible outcome of the next couple years. Where would you like to be in 5 years? Visualizing this wonderful future can help you bring these dreams into reality

Connect with Others: You don’t have to do this alone. Building trusting, warm relationships with others will help you grow as a person. I know if I’m having a bad day, even if all I want to do is crawl back to my room, seeing someone I care about and who supports me always makes things better.

Connect with Nature: There’s nothing like fresh air, trees, even just plain green grass to ground you back to the present. Stop to smell the flowers. Take a walk around the block, even if it’s snowing.

Make Gratitude a Ritual- Notice the gifts that you are given daily by taking the time to record them, in a gratitude journal, or even just creating a word document of things to be grateful for.

Practice Loving-Kindness meditation: Taking 10 minutes a day to project positive aspirations and thoughts out into the world is way to increase mindfulness and positivity. Read the post I wrote for the Me Movement on Meditation.

If you want to know what your positivity ratio is right now, head over to and take a few moments to reflect over your day. I also recommend the website which helps to identify your top strengths and how you can help them grow.

I challenge you to this week notice more positive things about your life. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of your body or your relationship with food, accentuate the positive. Now is the time to flourish! Remember this quote by Diane Ackerman:

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”

What fills you with Joy, Gratitude, Serenity, Interest, Hope, Pride, Amusement, Inspiration, Awe and Love today?


  1. This is a beautiful post, and one which I will bookmark for days when I am feeling less than positive. But today, what filled me with joy and inspiration was catching up with a friend over coffee for almost four hours. There's nothing to my to-do list more important than that.

  2. I love this post. Thanks for sharing! I think it so important to count our blessings and realize there is so much in our lives we have to be positive about. Today I feel love and gratitude that I get to spend more time with my best friend, joy for the fun day I spent with friends in Portland yesterday, pride for my rewarding job, and inspiration to be able to meet fellow food bloggers later today!

  3. Today I felt joy when I had a free 10 minutes to call my mother for a quick weekend recap. I felt gratitude for my body when I challenged myself at the gym. I felt inspiration when I read this post. And I felt love the minute I woke up and saw who was next to me. Being thankful for the blessings we have in our lives is only one part of positive thinking - being able to maintain those feelings of love and gratitude during times of hardship is the true test. Thanks for the great post, E!

  4. This was just what I needed to read today, E. You're are such a constant source of encouragement and inspiration. Thank you!