Updated: May 31
Using the Power of Positive Emotion to navigate today’s uncertainties
The whole world is struggling right now and like most of you I keep thinking what I can do to help. My heart goes out to each and every one of us stuck at home, not knowing how to cope with all the uncertainties around us and most importantly with the sheer volume of emotions we are all experiencing. After spending almost, a decade studying/applying positive psychology and the science of wellbeing I thought I should give you my insight on the importance of positive emotions.
While we cannot control COVID-19 and all the uncertainties it brings we CAN control who we are and what we want to stand for in the face of it. We all know that emotions are contagious... Feeling both positive and negative emotions is a natural part of being human. We might use the word "negative" to describe more difficult emotions, but it doesn't mean those emotions are bad or we shouldn't have them. Acknowledging the emotion give you power on how to deal with it.
"We might use the word "negative" to describe more difficult emotions, but it doesn't mean those emotions are bad or we shouldn't have them"
Research suggests that, beyond making people feel good, the experience of positive emotions such as joy, happiness, and contentment holds many social, intellectual, and physical benefits for the individual. Every day we are confronted with situations where we must manage our emotions. So how do we enhance positive emotions, especially in a time like this?
According to Barbara Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory, positive emotions allow us to be more resilient by building social, mental and emotional resources. By intentionally working on our positive emotions we develop a positive emotional reserve to pull from in times of adversity, build meaningful and supportive relationships to help us during tough times, and are able to think more broadly to solve problems.
"By intentionally working on our positive emotions we develop a positive emotional reserve to pull from"
Fortunately, there are many strategies which allow us to use these emotions most adaptively.
Reframing negative emotions
It is important to acknowledge that a lot of apprehensive thoughts and emotions will show up during this time, and we need to accept them rather than trying to push them away or escape them. The same goes for the increased sorrow rising from the loss of our normal routine, worry about lack of supplies or apprehension about children getting cabin fever. Research has shown that avoidance of such emotions will only make them stronger and longer lasting. Notice negative emotions, thoughts and physical sensations when they surface, investigate them with curiosity, describe them without judgment and then let them go.
"Notice negative emotions, thoughts and physical sensations when they surface, investigate them with curiosity, describe them without judgment and then let them go"
Maintaining positive emotions
Firstly, we need to identify and acknowledge positive emotions. As humans we tend to concentrate more on the things we need to fix or solve and very little time on savoring moments of joy, happiness or achievement. We need to find ways to make feelings of happiness, joy or uplifting thoughts last as these feelings last can help us get the most from positive emotions.
Share these positive and pleasant moments with family and friends. When family and friends are willing to embrace and validate our positive feelings it gives us a chance to prolong them.
A few ways to savour positive emotions is to anticipate the upcoming experience, appreciate and be present in the moment, and recall the feelings about the experience afterwards. 'What Went Well' is a great tool that you can start using to get into the habit of focusing on the positives of your day. Be still in the moment of positive emotions and enjoy it!
Tracking positive emotions
Identify the positive emotions you are familiar with, the feelings you have already experienced in your daily life. Make a list. Add new emotions as you notice them.
Check your list. Think about which activities, situations, or people are involved when you tend to feel each emotion and write it down.
You also can look over your list of emotions at the end of each day and write down when you felt different positive emotions. Did you feel proud after playing well on the soccer field? Happy when your friends remembered your birthday? Amused when your history teacher channeled his inner comedian during that day's lesson?
Tracking positive emotions helps us be more aware of the positive feelings we already experience, and the situations or activities that bring them.
Enhancing positive emotions
When things are going well this is a great opportunity to boost and enhance our positive emotional experiences. Cultivating gratitude is one way to do this. Consider the great things in your life and really appreciate all the good things you have.
Learning to find positive meaning and value amongst stress and adversity can also help us turn our emotional state around. Reframe and reassess situations with a positive outlook. Find the silver lining and any value that the situation offers.
A major key to regulating these feelings is learning to be open to positive feelings. Focusing on past success that makes us feel proud and stay present in the moment. Trying to extract the most satisfaction from our positive feelings will make it easier to bounce back from negativity and cultivate greater positivity.
Random acts of kindness
Acts of kindness are essential to wellbeing and is a value that its often disregarded. Kindness can promote gratitude, empathy and compassion; which in turn, leads to a sense of interconnectedness with others and builds positive emotions. When you feel connected with others, you lessen alienation and you enhance the sense that we are more similar than dissimilar in our experiences. Feeling connected binds
Look into now not later
Being present and intentional in everything you do; keep your focus on the now and it will help you refine and manage your thoughts and feelings.
Positive Psychology Expert | International Speaker | Educator | CEO & Founder of Positive Ed Ltd.