😀 Do You Have to Feel Good All The Time? 😔
Mixed Emotions are Part of Being Human, But This Strategy is More Powerful Than You Think.
Positive psychology is not about “Don’t worry, be happy.” In some ways, terms like positivity, flourishing, and positive emotions can be misleading.
Adversities, difficulties, and a range of emotions are part of life. And we don’t have to feel good all the time to live with wellbeing and fulfillment. Research shows that when we experience negative emotions, even brief mild states of positive emotions have much more potency than we might think (Fredrickson, 2009).
Even in small doses, positive emotions can help dilute the impact of negative emotions.
Explaining a few terms may be helpful: Flourishing – living with wellbeing in a way that is pleasant, engaged, purposeful, and connected to others (Seligman, 2011). Positive emotions – when we find pleasure in experiences, such as: gratitude, contentment, humor, joy, optimism, happiness, interest, love, hope. Negative emotions – when we do not find pleasure or experience less pleasure such as: anger, grief, sadness, fear, loneliness, powerlessness. Resilience – the ability to adapt well to life’s difficulties.
One of my coaching clients, we’ll call her Jamie, relocated to a new city. She is happy and relieved to have made the transition, but also feels sad as she misses her familiar surroundings and friends. How can Jamie accommodate the mixture of feelings she is experiencing?
🤔 How Do You Want to Show Up in Your Life?
In my work as a coach, seminar leader, and author I share strategies to help people live and work with greater wellbeing and achievement. Sometimes I’m asked if the goal is to feel happy all the time. From my perspective, along with many experts, the answer to this question is a resounding “No.” Our feelings are what they are – we can notice them and ride their waves. At the same time, as we experience our reactions to life’s challenges, we can reach into our resilience toolboxes, understanding that even micro-moments of positive emotions can offer a powerful counterpoint to negative emotions. These brief respites of positive emotions can help us liberate ourselves toward greater wellbeing.
Let’s face it, during these challenging times when there’s so much suffering in our world, many people are experiencing a wide range of emotions. During periods of adversity, we may feel less than good – and mixed emotions (positive and negative) are a natural response. Research by Raul Berrios, PhD, and associates, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, indicates that mixed emotions are related to creating meaning in life and wellbeing (2007). Berrios suggests that seeking meaning and experiencing mixed emotions play a positive role in building overall well-being.
We don’t have to feel good all the time to experience life as meaningful and fulfilling. Ups and downs, positive and negative emotions are part of life. The term eudaimonic wellbeing relates to resilience and experiencing life as meaningful or purposeful. According to Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, the key to eudaimonic wellbeing is moving toward a balance of positive and negative emotions (2009).
To achieve this, we can learn to recognize and accept our emotions, explore these emotions in the situations in which they arise, and remind ourselves that the feelings will pass. Then, we can dig into our toolboxes of resources and make choices about how to respond.
Giving Ourselves Brief Intermissions
While it’s usually not helpful to force ourselves to feel good when we don’t, there are positive activities and practices we can choose to help ourselves shift from negative emotions toward positive emotions, even for brief moments.
For example, you can:
- Notice and savor simple pleasures
- Reach out and connect to someone in your life
- Find meaning in you daily chores
- Pause at the end of the day for a simple gratitude practice
📝 Here are a few questions for personal exploration:
- How do you create space for your emotions in your own life?
- How do you give yourself relief from negativity? How do you balance positive and negative emotions?
- In what ways do you find meaning in life?
- How do you set aside difficult emotions in healthy ways and let yourself be with what is pleasant for a few moments?
- What are some of the strategies in your resilience toolbox that help you ride the waves of life?
What is one new action you can try this week?
📚 Here are a few resources to help you build positive emotions, meaning, and wellbeing:
- Barbara Fredrickson, PhD: https://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/barb-fredrickson/
- Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD:– Flourish and Thrive: Navigating Transitions with Mindfulness and Resilience.
- Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC: PERMA bingo board.
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- Berrios, R., Totterdell, P., and Kellett, S. (2018). When feeling mixed can be meaningful: The relation between mixed emotions and eudaimonic well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(3), 841-861.
- Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity: Top-notch research reveals the upward spiral that will change your life. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
- Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218.
- Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045.
- Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Atria Paperback.
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Read her blog series Flourish and Thrive: Navigating transitions with mindfulness and resilience.
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Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC, CMC (ICF Credentialed) is an Executive and Personal Coach and Speaker. Ilene helps people live their best personal and professional lives by bringing mind, body, and spirit into flow with strengths, purpose, and potential. She inspires clients to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online, set up a free discovery coaching consultation, and access free resources at https://ibzcoaching.com/.
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