Wednesday, June 23, 2010

“Scientific Legs: Choosing Positivity”

June 23, 2010

“Just as night-vision goggles amplify starlight, enabling you to see in darkness, … positivity gives you a set of lenses that amplify and multiply the goodness in your life, enabling you to flourish.” –Barbara Fredrickson, 2009.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to talk with Barbara Fredrickson at the First World Congress of Positive Psychology. She presented on her book; I presented an informal round table discussion on positive psychology and art therapy.

In reading colleague, Barbara Fredrickson’s exceptional book, “Positivity,” I was intrigued with one of her goals: to give positivity “scientific legs.” Fredrickson offers 6 scientific facts that underscore positivity: 1) Positivity Feels Good. 2) Positivity Broadens Minds. 3) Positivity Builds Resources. 4) Positivity Fuels Resilience. 5) Positivity Ratios Above 3 to 1 Forecast Flourishing. 6) People can Raise Their Positivity Ratios.

Like many Coach Poppy newsletters, Fredrickson’s work got me to thinking: Is it enough just to be positive…to put on a happy face? Not really. And how does one measure one’s happiness quotient? We live in a “prove-it-to-me” society; our Western culture especially, wants the facts, the proof, that one can truly measure happiness.

My question is this: Do we need a quantifiable unit of measure to confirm and validate the powerful sensory data that we experience in our interrelations with others? Do we need to have proven scientific data that tells us when we are angry, frustrated, or saddened? I think not. We are all very astute in picking up the visible cues in our micro-expressions and body language that communicate those emotions. To me, it appears that we readily recognize, identify, and possibly even accept, the negative emotions that are conveyed, yet when we come face to face with happiness, we become a Doubting Thomas.

Have you ever wondered why negativity is sometimes a default lifestyle, why it is so easy to get emotionally off track? Many will point to the media, to wars, to social injustices, yet it really comes down to our choice, our own decision as to whether or not we are positive – we are happy. And often times, this is a hard choice because so many of our interactions are replete with negativity and toxic stuff!

When we have conflict in our work/life relationships, and we focus on that conflict, what happens? Usually the conflict plays a prominent role in how we interact with everyone throughout the day/week. Our professional and personal lives are affected. What if we focused instead on Fredrickson’s first fact: Feeling Good? What if we were to take that conflict and turn it upside down, and look at it with positive eyes, with understanding eyes, with eyes of humanity?

If we take mindful action to make certain that we remain on sure (positivity) footing, I believe we will be successful. Putting on a happy face when we are feeling despondent or angry is too much of a leap. We need to do a couple of things first. It is not easy the first few times, but when we continue with a daily intake of choosing to feel good, it becomes rote. In particularly challenging work relations, I literally and figuratively do 3 things: 1) step back, 2) breathe, and 3) shift my attention to feeling good.

The magic is in # 3. The conscious decision to feel good trumps all. Negativity melts away; our positivity ratio is 9 or 10, and we do not need a psychologist, or a neuro-scientist to tell us that all is right in our world. Pick # 3 and let me know how it works for you!

Mindfully Yours,


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