Trending Up: Positive Spirals

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about well-being. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

We need ALL of our emotions to thrive. The goal is emotional agility (1). In order to do this, we have to understand the purpose of our emotions. So last week, we took a closer look and discovered that while emotions will always be fleeting, the decisions we make under their influence have a powerful impact on our lives. Research enables us to effectively choose what will be most useful in a given situation and adjust our mood to the task at hand (2).

Positive emotions signal our safety, broaden our focus, and build our intellectual and psychological resources (3). They make us flexible and creative, increase our attention, and widen our perspective bringing out our best selves. In this way, positive emotions are not just indicators of well-being, but causes of it (3). 

Negative emotions alert us to danger and signal a need for change. They also narrow our focus to the problem at hand, which is helpful in moments (3). But negative emotions are stronger than positive emotions (4), and this imbalance is not always helpful. Boosting positive emotion is one way to bring better balance and increase well-being. 

Last week, I invited you to actively cultivate positive emotion by creating a positive portfolio. I hope you accepted my invitation. If so, what positive emotion did you choose to build? How did it feel to revisit your portfolio and savor the good stuff? Did you notice a change in your emotional state as you attended to your positive portfolio? 

This week, I want to continue to explore the first element of the PERMA model of well-being, positive emotions (5). So, let's dive in and examine our emotional contagion. 

Have you ever noticed how contagious laughter can be?

As social creatures, our emotions and behaviors impact others. In fact, they may impact others more than you realize! Research supports that our emotions are contagious within three degrees of separation (6). That’s right. Three degrees of separation. So, even the child of your friend’s boss has the potential to be indirectly impacted by your emotional state!

That’s quite a ripple effect! 

As you may notice from the picture, the ripples get smaller as they move away from the center. This is true with our emotions as well. Our impact decreases with each degree of separation. How does the ripple effect work? Well, the phenomenon of emotional contagion exists not only because we are drawn to people who are similar to us, but also because we are literally wired to mirror others through mimicry (6). 

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Your personal network impacts your well-being. Happiness spreads through social networks (6), and so do behaviors. Did you know that if those around you are obese, you are more likely to be as well? The same goes for smoking (6). While emotional contagion is relatively brief, the impact of behaviors chosen while in emotional states can have a lasting impact.

In this way, positive emotions create an upward spiral while negative emotions cause a downward spiral. This impacts not only your emotional state, but the emotional state of those around you (3). Take a look...

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What’s your ripple effect? 

Sharing positive events with others is a process known as capitalization (7). Sharing good news can be just a vulnerable as sharing difficult news, so we typically share positive events in close, trusting relationships (8). Research supports capitalizing on positive events as this process can increase positive emotion, life satisfaction, and belongingness (8). 

So, let’s spread the good stuff!

This week, I invite you to become a positive spiral in the world around you. Intentionally, open up and share the what is going well in your world with those you care about three times this week. Then, reciprocate and help those around you capitalize on their positive emotions. Listen. Support. Cheer. Celebrate! It doesn’t have to be a major milestone. Lots of this are worth celebrating! 

Unsure of where to start? Perhaps you want to intentionally share three things that went well with a partner or friend at the end of the day. Invite a colleague to share what is going well in their world? Or highlight the strengths of two folks as you introduce them? There are many ways to do be a source of light for those around you, so feel free to be creative! 

One way I enjoy creating spirals of positivity is by highlighting actions I appreciate. It can be a simple thank you, an anonymous note of gratitude, or crediting someone’s hard work publicly. No matter how you choose to spread positive emotions, I invite you to be a positive spiral this week and intentionally share your positive emotions with others. You may or may not get to see the impact of your ripple effect, but trust me, it’s there. 

I hope you enjoy creating a positive spiral of emotion this week, and 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. David S. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. Penguin; 2016.

2. Seligman M. Authentic happiness. New York: Simon & Schuster; 2002. 

3. Fredrickson B. Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive. New York: Crown Publishers; 2009.

4. Rozin P, Royzman E. Negativity bias, negativity dominance, and contagion. Personality and social psychology review. 2001; 5(4), 296-320.

5. Seligman M. Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and wellbeing. New York: Free Press; 2011. 

6. Fowler J, Christakis N.  Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: Longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study. British Medical Journal, 337, a2338; 2008.

7. Langston C. Capitalizing on and coping with daily-life events: Expressive responses to positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1994; 67, 1112–1125.

8. Gable S, Reis H, Impett E, Asher E. What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2004; 87, 228–245.