Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays!
We’re talking about well-being.
A quick recap of last week before we continue.
Well-being is created within and is as individual as you are! Last week, we began to explore well-being and the question - What does it mean for you to truly thrive?
Well-being is a dynamic intersection of various elements that come together to create the subjective state of being “well”. There are quite a few models of well-being and each one includes different components. The PERMA model includes five elements that we choose for their own sake: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment (1).
Last week, I invited you to explore how you fill your well of being through the lens of PERMA. Did you accept my invitation and ask how full is your bucket for each of these five elements of well-being? Did you make a list of the things you do and/or the people who help you fill up each of these buckets? I certainly hope so! We can learn a lot about our values, priorities, and the people/things we hold dear by taking the time to examine the good stuff.
This week, I want to dive into positive emotions, the first element of the PERMA model (1).
Happiness is a frequent goal. But what is happiness? Well, I'm not going to try to answer this philosophical question today, but I do want to point out that the search for happiness is hardly new. All you have to to is look at the unalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. We have been in search of happiness for a long time.
But did you notice, your right is not to be happy. It is to pursue happiness. Happiness is not a permanent state of affairs. Like all emotions, happiness is temporary. It comes and goes. Happiness is also personal and subjective. So why do we pursue it so intensely?
Let’s take a closer look at the impact of our emotions.
Different emotions impact us differently. Negative emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, and guilt often get a bad rap. They may make us uncomfortable, but they are actually an important part of our lives. They can be good indicators of situations that need change and alert us to potential danger. Negative emotions also narrow our focus and funnel our attention and energy towards a particular problem (2). They are helpful in situations that require urgent action and grounded realism, but they take a psychological and physiological toll.
Additionally, negative emotions are stronger than positive emotions. We tend to experience them with more intensity (3). This was adaptive in the land of the saber-toothed tiger, but in a world where we are not in constant threat, it is less helpful. Sometimes our negative emotions are present in unhelpful ways. Understanding that negative emotions weigh more than positive emotions enables us to actively counterbalance their detrimental effects by cultivating positive emotion.
Why are positive emotions helpful?
Positive emotions serve a different purpose. They signal our safety, broaden our focus, and build our intellectual and psychological resources (2). I mean this quite literally. Positive emotions are generative. They make us flexible and creative, increase our attention, and widen our perspective. There is even evidence to support that positive emotions increase peripheral vision (2)! They bring out our best, and in this way, positive emotions are not just indicators of well-being, but causes of it.
Check it out!
Let me be clear. We need ALL of our emotions to thrive, but increasing positive emotion is one way to reverse the detrimental effects of negative emotion and help us flourish.
If emotions are temporary, why bother?
While emotions will always be fleeting, the decisions we make under their influence have a powerful impact on our lives. Thankfully, research recognizes the importance of both negative and positive emotion and helps us understand the benefits of each. This enables us to effectively choose what will be most useful in a given situation and adjust our mood to the task at hand (4). The goal for well-being is emotional agility (5). We want to be able to embrace all of our emotions and understand how and when to shift our emotional state for our benefit.
This week, I want to cultivate positive emotion! To start, I want to find out how aware you are of your positive emotions. Other than happiness, what positive emotions can you name? Give it a shot, and make a list.
How easy or difficult was that for you? I find that because our negative emotions are stronger, it is sometimes hard for folks to even name more than a couple of positive emotions. So, just in case you are having trouble, check out this picture below or even this comprehensive list.
As you can see, positive emotions give us a range of experiences. Some are more intense, others are subtle. All of them are valuable. Different people prefer different positive emotional states. Our emotions are highly individual, and yet all positive emotions share a common core - they broaden and build your life (2).
This week, I invite you to build a positive portfolio to savor the good stuff and cultivate authentic, positive emotion.
What is a positive portfolio? It’s a verbal, visual, and auditory collection of materials that make you feel good. Start by selecting a positive emotion you want to cultivate (e.g. joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, love). Once you have decided what you want to pursue, ask yourself, what rouses that genuine, heartfelt emotion for you?
Brainstorm and collect items that make you feel this way. Feel free to include music, poems, pictures, letters, emails, cards, objects, and the like you in your portfolio. Place your portfolio in whatever binder, folder, or container works best given its contents. Leave it on a shelf or in a particular folder on your desktop if it is virtual. Just find a way to make this collection easily accessible.
Once you've created your positive portfolio, I invite you to spend 15 minutes a day for one week with it to actively cultivate the positive emotion of your choice. Engage. Look at the pictures, read the poems and letters, and listen to the music. If other ideas pop up throughout the week, feel free to add to your portfolio as you like.
Your positive portfolio should represent you. It is a way to intentionally build positive emotion and can even be used to boost your psychological state when you are feeling low. It's a reminder of the good in your life.
I hope you enjoy cultivating positive emotion this week by creating your positive portfolio! I look forward to seeing you again next Monday as we continue to explore positive emotions!
As always, gratitude for the expertise of the following resources.
1. Seligman M. Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and wellbeing. New York: Free Press; 2011.
2. Fredrickson, B. Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive. New York: Crown Publishers; 2009.
3. Rozin, P., & Royzman, E. B. (2001). Negativity bias, negativity dominance, and contagion. Personality and social psychology review. 2001; 5(4), 296-320.
4. Seligman M. Authentic happiness. New York: Simon & Schuster; 2002.
5. David, S. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. Penguin; 2016.