Negativity or Positivity – It’s Up to You

Negativity or Positivity – It’s Up to You

😊 Negativity or Positivity – It’s Up to You

Recently, on a sunny, almost windless, spring day, I was painting the gate and small fence in our yard. Paint brushes, paint cans, and large sheets of the local newspaper covered the ground around me. While immersed in the fourth hour of a task that I’d mistakenly thought would take about an hour, my friend called. In that same moment, a robust, unexpected wind gust blew itself into the calm, windless morning slamming, my wet, half-painted gate shut and scattering the newspapers everywhere.

My immediate go-to reaction in this situation might typically be exasperation, but that’s not how this played out. “Oh, my goodness!” I exclaimed to my friend on the phone, as I narrated what was happening. Then, I laughed aloud and so did she. Laughing that situation off would have been her go-to, and instinctively I did the same. Then, I gathered up the mess and continued my painting, all the while chatting with her over the phone.

Rather than negativity, this potentially annoying experience awakened positive emotions – joy, amusement, and perhaps serenity – contextualized within the social bond of love. A challenging moment during a mundane task, charged up a surprising opportunity to experience positivity and thrive in the process.

Negativity and unpleasant emotions are easy to generate – anger, frustration, hostility, hurt, bitterness, finding fault. But in many circumstances, the potential for positivity is also available.

If your instinct here is to protest: “This is too much positivity for me!” Please read on.

Negativity or Positivity – It’s Up to You

This discussion is not about ignoring negative emotions or pretending they don’t exist. Of course, we experience difficulties, obstacles, and losses and it can be important to acknowledge them. But in many circumstances, the potential for choosing a pleasant emotion, at least in the moment, is also available. Consider the possibility that you have options. Do you choose a pleasant or unpleasant emotion in a given moment?

According to renowned scientist Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina, choosing positive emotions can help us not only rebound from setbacks, but connect with others more readily and discover new possibilities for creating a healthier, more vibrant life (Roth & Laireiter, 2021; Fredrickson, 2009).

Based on her team’s extensive research over more than two decades, Fredrickson has summarized a chart-busting top 10 list of positive emotions that occur most frequently:

1. Joy
2. Gratitude
3. Serenity
4. Interest
5. Hope
6. Pride
7. Amusement
8. Inspiration
9. Awe
10. Love
What if you could fold one or more additional moments of positive emotions into your days?

These positive emotions are common in human experience – they cost nothing and are available to all of us. But how? A lot depends on how you think about an experience or situation. By choosing to notice an experience through a different lens – a more positive mindset – you may add more positive emotions into your life.

🌻 Our lives are our laboratories. Here’s an experiment:

a) For just one minute each day this week, try to experience one more positive emotion, and then simply notice your experience. Start small – just one step.

b) When something happens during the day that you typically would not notice, or might experience negatively, fold in just a moment of one of the 10 positive emotions listed above.

c) Notice what happens. What is your experience?

🔎 Here are a few examples:

  • You’re walking hurriedly when you notice a small patch of flowers growing. Do you walk by or stop and notice?
    • Positive emotions: AWE, INTEREST, SERENITY
  • A struggling parent with a crying child is in the check-out line. You smile and the child smiles back.
    • Positive emotions: AMUSEMENT, JOY, LOVE
  • The car in front of you stops abruptly and you’re able to brake in time to avoid a collision.
    • Positive emotions: GRATITUDE

Maybe, create a simple positive emotions journal, recording what occurred, what emotion you experienced, and how this felt for you.

If adding an additional moment of positive emotion into your days feels like a good strategy to you – Practice, practice, practice! New habits are built one small step at time and repeating habits can help you get better at them.

Can you practice folding in just one additional positive emotion into your day?

© 2023 Ilene Berns-Zare, LLC, All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. No content is a substitute for consulting with a qualified mental health or healthcare professional.

An earlier version of this article was published at Psychology Today.

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