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 light-side of life

I had a great gathering with some wonderful Wishful Thinking Women in Tampa, Florida on Saturday. We talked about identifying how we want to feel, before deciding where we want to go or who we want to be.

I believe one of the easiest ways to accomplish that is to begin recognizing and savoring the moments that make you feel happy, confident, or relaxed. These moments can lead you from where you are now to where you want to be.

Becoming aware of how you feel in those moments will help you build a reservoir of positive emotions, and may increase the likelihood that you will want to recreate them in the future. It’s like resetting your emotional compass to point to positive rather than negative, which positive psychology studies show can increase your creativity and your ability to think broadly.

For many of us, the most common feelings we recognize are frustration, sadness, worry or regret. We keep them close to the surface where we can retrieve them at a moment’s notice. We become so accustomed to falling-back on draining or taxing emotions that we don’t bother to notice or we downplay the energy-enhancing ones, such as happiness.

By becoming more adept at identifying and fully experiencing the positive moments in our lives, we can retrain our brains to key-in on them and reduce our attraction and attachment to the energy-sapping ones. Little-by-little our stockpile of positive moments will outweigh the heaviness of the negative ones and can tip us over to the light-side of life.

The light-side of life is where all the really good stuff develops as our more relaxed state-of-mind allows our brains to broaden and our options to grow, which is the perfect time for planning what we want to do and who we want to be.

You can reset your emotional compass by making it a habit to notice and savor the moments when you feel light, peaceful, proud or happy. Notice what makes you smile, laugh, or relaxes your shoulders. Catch yourself feeling good, and savor the moment. Savoring locks in the richness of the moment, and makes it easier to find and recall the positive emotions attached to it, which may lead you down a whole new path.

Don’t let the good moments slip by you. Learn to identify and savor what makes you happy. When you do you are “exercising” your happiness muscles, which may help you build the life you really want.

 

 Wishful Thinking Works life coaching can help you build your happiness muscles. Having a coach in your corner, is a great way to quickly move forward with the changes you want to make in your life. For more information, click here or contact Patrice Koerper at 813-719-0769.

Wishful Thinking Ways #3

Hi, welcome back. This is the third post in the Wishful Thinking Ways for 2012 series. We are meeting on Fridays to make 2012 exciting and rewarding in new and different ways. Each Friday I will share tips and exercises based on positive psychology and Appreciative Inquiry to help you create the life you really want.

Here’s the plan:

January – Setting the stage.
February – Discovering your dreams.
March – Making them happen.

It’s always good to start at the very beginning, so click to read Wishful Thinking Ways week one and week two.  January is our warm-up month for our heads and hearts. When your heart and mind are aligned amazing things can happen. Don’t miss a single step in the process! 

I have written about Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build theory a couple of times – here’s why: The more relaxed and open our brains are the more responsive and creative we become. There is a direct link between how we feel and how our brain works. Our brains are hard-wired to respond in different ways to pleasure and pain, happiness and stress.

Being stressed and always in “Flight or Fight” mode drains our energy and reduces are ability to creatively address what’s happening around us. There are thousands of articles on the Internet about dealing with stress, but instead of reading them, I would like you to identifying how your body reacts to stress to figure out your physiological Flight or Fight tells.

Discovering your physiological tells

When you are worried or angry does your chest or throat tighten, your stomach churn, your jaw clench? Do you feel the tension in your hands, arms, shoulders, or back? Do you hold your breath? I’m a center of the chest gal, and I hold my breath way more than I never knew. Not the kid-like dramatic, “I’m going to hold my breath”, but what the medical world refers to as “inhibitory breathing.” Millions of people do it and it can lead to high-blood pressure and heart problems!

One of the first steps I take with many of my clients is to help them discover their Flight or Fight tells. Getting in touch with how you are feeling when you are feeling it is as important in life as knowing your tells is in poker. And, as smart as we are, most of us no clue how our bodies react to stress.

Checking your pulse, so to speak

Start by writing and reading aloud this sentence: “I will figure out my Flight or Fight tells this week. I will learn how my body reacts when I’m stressed or angry.”

Then notice how your body reacts when you are tense or angry. When you find yourself rushing to work; heading into the boss’s office; yelling at your spouse or kids; listening to your spouse or children yelling; sitting in traffic; trying to meet a deadline, not saying to someone what you want to say or saying something that you know you will regret late, etc.  – stop for a split second, or immediately after, and ask yourself: “What’s happening to my body right now? “What am I feeling and where?” I guarantee, if you keep at it, by week’s end, if not sooner, you will know your Flight or Fight tells.

Let me know how it goes. Next Friday we will talk about how knowing your physiological tells can help you create the life you really want.   

 

Being happy and satisfied, doesn’t mean you stop dreaming, and being unhappy doesn’t mean you can’t start dreaming. So, no matter where you are today, it is the perfect starting point for where you want to be next.      

Visit Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook for posts and updates. Please “Like” and share WTW your friends!

Psychological tipping point

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. I like that. 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. Is the difference between 3:1 and 2:1 important? Here’s what Fredrickson has to say on the subject (I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.):

” . . . 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 – proving it is possible to create the life you 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. (See also PERMA.) 

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.

In the meantime, spending five minutes a day reviewing what you do well or is going well in your life can raise your positivity level. I think that’s a wise investment, even in the current market situation.

PS I know I am a day behind, but for the moment, I’ve decided to focus my attention on all the things I am doing well in my life . . . There, I feel better, already, which is kind-of refreshing and actually makes me feel more confident about tackling my to-do-list. Hmm, this stuff really works. :-)

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