Your positivity ratio and how to raise it!

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson is a leader in the positive psychology field; her work has been on my mind a lot lately. Her research on positive emotions is groundbreaking, and is really good stuff that can change your life – if you let it! I’ve been sharing her work at my Wishful Thinking Women Meetups and workshops and with clients. One year ago I shared it with you, here’s what we talked about . . .

I’ve mentioned Dr. Barbara Fredrickson a couple of times in previous posts. She’s the researcher, who developed the “Broaden and Build Theory” of positive psychology, which states that positive emotions broaden our awareness and perception thereby increasing our curiosity, creativity and choices.

The “Broaden and Build Theory” is the other side of the coin, so to speak, of the “Fight or Flight Theory”, which notes that we are designed to focus and narrow our vision and responses in short-term, quick-decision, dangerous situations. Both emotional responses have value – there are times when we need to react quickly, with precision and almost instinctual intent and when we need to allow ourselves the freedom to fully enjoy and explore life and its options.

The good news is, our brains are hard-wired for both. The bad news is, many of us have allowed the occasional need for fight and flight responses to spill over into many or all of life’s everyday activities. We are constantly on the lookout for emotional and physical threats, or have come to believe that bad news (i.e., psychological danger) is lurking around every corner. Our preoccupation with all things negative, stresses our bodies and may be leaving us feeling frustrated, angry or depressed.

Not to worry, after identifying and qualifying the value of positive emotions, Fredrickson took her research one step further and in her 2009 book Positivity, she quantified their value. Fredrickson and her team of researchers formulated the 3:1 positivity ratio of positive to negative emotions. The ratio is a simple but valid mathematical equation for revealing happiness levels. I like to think of it as the psychological tipping point between getting by and soaring high. 

“80% of Americans fall short of the ideal 3-to-1 positivity ratio.”

Yikes! According to Fredrickson, 80% of us are not at our best. That’s not to say we are miserable, we’re not, but we are also not as happy or fulfilled as we could be.

Fredrickson’s research shows that we need to have 3 positive emotions for every 1 negative emotion to flourish. Her work indicates that our world’s do not need to be perfect for us to flourish – negativity can still be present (as represented by the “1” in the 3:1 ratio), but as long as the ratio is 3 to 1 we are good to go.

Fredrickson notes that a 2:1 ratio means we are getting by. We might be happy, but not at our best and when faced with negativity or hard times, we can easily slide to a 1:1 ratio. Is the difference between 3:1 and 2:1 important? Here’s what Fredrickson has to say on the subject:

” . . . experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions leads people to achieve what they once could only imagine. Far from frivolous, tapping into one’s own unique sources of positivity is a wise and healthy investment in the future.”     

And, here is the truly important aspect of Fredrickson’s research, with simple changes and targeted tweaking we can move ourselves from a 2:1 to a 3:1 ratio, or higher, which improves the likelihood that we will create the lives we really want! You can improve your internal environment and enhance your external landscape by:

  • becoming more aware and savoring what is good in your life;
  • focusing on your strengths and what you and others do well;
  • predicting better for you and your loved ones;
  • adding a bit of mediation to your daily mix;
  • doing more of what you love – even the simplest little things,
  • and maintaining and enriching your relationships.

If you are interested in assessing your positivity ratio, Fredrickson has created a free online survey to help take our emotional “temperature”. (My word not her’s). To get a true “temperature” reading, Fredrickson suggests taking the survey once a day for two weeks. The survey only take three minutes to complete. If you would like to give it a try, click away. (Taking the survey even once, provides valuable insight because it shares specific examples of positive and emotional states; I highly recommend it.)

If you would like to learn more about the “Broaden and Build Theory” or the positivity ratio, click here to listen to an online interview with Barbara Fredrickson discussing her theories and research.

PS A super special shout-out to all the new Wishful Thinking Women in Tampa. Really enjoyed meeting and talking with you on Saturday – hope you are still feeling the glow – I am!

If you are ready to improve your or your organization’s positivity ratio, you do not have to do it alone. Contact Patrice Koerper; Wishful Thinking Works life coaching, workshops and seminars for help!

The “ABCDE” method for changing your mind – for the better, redux

Today’s post is based on the work of  Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology. The goal of the ABCDE’s isn’t to sugar coat life, but to take a closer look at all the possibilities and allow us to weigh our options before accepting our perceptions. The perception you accept is up to you!

Would you like to reduce or to turn around your negative thoughts? Would you like react more positively when “things” go wrong?

If so, the ABCDE method for changing your mind might be helpful.

In 2007, Nicholas Hall wrote an article for the Positive Psychology News Daily website about how to use Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology’s, ABCDE method for objectively reviewing events or situations in our lives. I liked the way Hall described Seligman’s method.

I use versions of the method in my life and my life coaching practice, and thought it might be helpful to share it with you so you could use it. Following the ABCDE approach can help you pause, reflect and rewind. It can also help you review and reshape your thought patterns.

ABCDE’s

In a coaching session, I might use one of the ABCDE’s in the form of a question or assign them as homework after discussing them with a client. It takes a bit of time to familiarize yourself with them, but eventually you will learn to quickly review them in your mind when dealing with adversity. When I’m working with my or a client’s negative thoughts and patterns, I use “A” to take a look at situations that are causing stress. You can reduce your stress dramatically by simply unraveling what actually happened.

The most immediate benefit of the ABCDE method is realizing you can choose how you think about a situation, which also means you can create new patterns of thinking, reinforce positive patterns and change negatives ones.

Excerpts from Hall’s article for using the ABCDE approach to combat feelings of helplessness and depressing thoughts are detailed below in blue. My notes are in black.

Below is an outline of the ABCDE method for disputing your thoughts. The idea is that your thoughts can generate your feelings. So, if you take active control of your thoughts, you are in turn taking active control of your emotions (Reivich & Shatte, 2003).

Having a pen and paper handy is helpful with this exercise. Use these steps when dealing with adversity.

1. Adversity:

  • Describe a recent Adversity.
  • Include the Who, What, When, and Where of the situation.
  • Be specific and accurate in your description.
  • Don’t let your beliefs about the adversity creep in!
  • Be objective. I call these truth statements, because they focus solely on the facts.

EX: I got rejected today from an interesting program.

2. Beliefs:

  • Record what you were saying to yourself in the midst of the Adversity.
  • What was running through your mind?
  • Write it down verbatim. Don’t worry about being polite!

EX: “Man, this always happens.” “I’m just not good enough.” “It’s all about who you know, and I don’t know anybody.” ”Maybe I’m not cut out for this sort of thing.”

3. Consequences:

  • Record the Consequences of your Beliefs. (What did you feel and what did you do?)
  • Be specific. List all of the emotions you experienced and as many reactions as you can identify.
  • Ask yourself: Do your Consequences make sense given your Beliefs?
  • If you don’t have the Aha! experience, see if you can identify other Beliefs that you may have not been as aware of initially.

EX: I felt worse and worse thinking this way. I began to not take any action on other projects that I wanted or needed to do today. I felt pretty low, and I began comparing myself negatively to others that I thought were better off than me.

Yes, these feelings and actions DO make sense given those beliefs!

4. Dispute:

  • Generate one piece of Evidence to point out the inaccuracy in your Beliefs,
  • or generate a more accurate/optimistic Alternative belief about the Adversity,
  • or Put Into Perspective your Belief.
  • You can use the tag lines below to craft your responses:a. Evidence: That’s not completely true because…

EX: That’s not completely true because I know a lot of great people, and some of them are in great positions. I have achieved great things like this in the past.

b. Alternative: A more accurate way of seeing this is…

EX: It really is only for one week, it’s not like I got rejected from Yale.

c. Putting It In Perspective: The most likely outcome is… and I can… to handle it.

EX: The most likely outcome of this is that I put my energy into another big project I’m currently working on, and I can work harder and be more focused on this project and that will help me handle the rejection from the scholarship.

5. Energy:

  • Write a few sentences about how your Disputation changed your Energy.
  • What happened to your mood?
  • How did your behavior change?
  • What solutions did you see that you didn’t see before?

EX: My energy became more focused and clear. I felt much more competent in my abilities and in my future. My behavior changed by getting me back to working hard on the things that matter to me, because I want a positive future for myself. The solutions I saw were about what I could DO for myself, rather than let the world happen to me.

References

Peterson, C., Maier, S. & Seligman, M. E. P. (1975). Learned Helplessness: A Theory for the Age of Personal Control. New York: Freeman.

Reivich, K, & Shattẻ, A. (2002). The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles. New York: Broadway Books.

Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. 2nd Edition. New York: Vintage.

The ABCDE method is a great tool for building the future you really want. Let me know how it works for you!

WTW Dandelion

Wishful Thinking Works Life Coaching

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Penning happiness

 

 

Would you like to make someone you care about happy and increase your happiness in the process? If so, write a gratitude letter to someone special in your life. The effect can leave you and the recipient feeling happier for weeks, even months. 

 

Last year I wrote and shared a gratitude letter with my Dad, who is now 91 and in and out of the hospital weekly. Am I glad I did it, YES!  Was it the easiest thing I ever did? NO! Was it one of the most rewarding, YES!

I’ve been writing retrospective thank you notes for years. I’ve written lots of cards to my aunts and to family friends of my parents for their special acts of kindness to me as a child. One of my younger brother’s god-mothers always brought a few of us close to his age (there are 9 kids in our family) treats on the holidays when she brought him a gift. One of my aunts hosted weekly gatherings at her and my uncle’s rural “resort” each Sunday in the summer; my siblings and I were able to swim, dive, jump, ride, row, fish and enjoy all sorts of other summer fun because my aunt and uncle were willing to put-up with an ongoing stream of guests. Those Sundays were magic to me as a kid, and I wanted her to know. More sweet memories – my godmother and her grown daughter took me shopping and to lunch during the holiday season and let me, within a specific price range, select my gift. I loved those trips.

Those letters and the memories they evoked were wonderful, but a gratitude letter is even a better way to say thank you. Here’s why:

  • It’s longer – shoot for 300 words.
  • It’s read in-person to its intended, making it more of a gratitude visit with the letter as a hostess gift of sorts. The true magic of the visit comes from sharing your letter out loud and face-to-face with its recipient.

Tips for making it work:

  • Write to someone, who did something nice or kind for you, but is someone you’ve never thanked.
  • Be detailed. Write specifically what you are thankful for. Include the whats, the whens, the hows and the whys.
  • Let your recipient know you are up to something good! Dr. Martin P. Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology and one of the first and strongest proponents of gratitude visits notes the ritual is powerful,  ”Everyone cries when you do a gratitude visit,” he says. ”It’s very moving for both people.” A funny thing happened when I read my letter to my Dad. When I finished, he made a timid joke about how I must have the wrong “Dad”, and then he told me he thought I was going to share something about what he’d done wrong – not right. I was nervous about sharing my letter, and he interpreted that as seriousness or sadness. Then when I began reading from a sheet of paper he was sure there was bad news ahead. We laughed about that, but to prevent any confusion, letting your host or hostess know the visit is well-intentioned is probably a good idea.
  • Leave a copy of your letter with your recipient. Don’t worry about making it too fancy, but using special paper or laminating can’t hurt. A frame might seem a bit much – go with your guts. Just don’t make the visit too much about what happens next with the letter; leave that up to your receiver.

Happiness is contagious.

Another interesting facet of this simple and effective gesture is that it tends to grow and reproduce on its own.  Recipients often end-up writing and sharing letters with folks they want to thank, and writers tend to write more letters to share with others. Sometime soon, I will share with you one of the most touching responses I received from a friend with whom I shared a gratitude visit. Just thinking about it makes me happy, and it happened almost a year ago!

Increased happiness for you and someone you care about is just a few pen strokes. Don’t let this free,  foolproof opportunity for joy pass you by – get started on a gratitude letter today!

WTW Dandelion

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