By: Murielle Marie
I’m currently enrolled in a Positive Psychology course on Coursera.org, and learning so much about why positivity is essential to live a happy, balanced life. I would argue that the same is true if you want to have a fulfilling career or a profitable business, simply because those things can only ever grow as much as we grow ourselves.
This post is an attempt to move the needle into that direction a bit, by tapping into the science of Positive Psychology to offer some guidelines on how to prioritize positivity in our daily lives.
According to Wikipedia, Positive Psychology is the discipline of psychology that uses scientific understanding, and effective intervention to help people live happier lives,rather than treating mental illness. The focus of positive psychology is on personal growth rather than on pathology, which is often the case with other fields of psychology.
Critical Positivity Ratio
One of the major insights I got from the course so far is the notion of the 3-to-1 ratio. This ratio, called the critical positivity ratio is a concept claiming there’s an exact ratio of positive to negative emotions between what we call "thriving" people versus "languishing" people. Although not everyone in the scientific community has adhered to the concept, especially due to it’s questionable math, it was widely embraced by both academic psychologists and the public. So much so that Barbara Fredrickson wrote a popular book about it too: The 3-to-1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life.
Just as zero degrees Celsius is a special number in thermodynamics, the 3-to-1 positivity ratio may well be a magic number in human psychology. - Barbara Fredrickson.
What your positivity ratio says about your life
The 3-to-1 ratio means that if for each negative emotion you have (that’s the 1 in the ratio) you also experience three positive emotions (that’s the 3 in the ratio), there’s a good chance that you’re a thriving individual. If your positivity ratio is lower, let’s say 2-to-1 or 1-to-1 the chances of you not being all that happy increases dramatically. So the bigger this ratio for you, the happier you’ll be - probably.
To assess your positivity ratio there’s a quick self test you can do online here. I encourage you to take the test, it’s an eye-opener, you’ll see! Do note that if you only take this test once it will only give you a momentary snapshot of your ratio, and won’t be really accurate. In order to assess your positivity ratio you need to take this test a few days in a row, even for a week or more.
So what we now know is that to be happier we need to outweigh our negative experiences with positive ones, hence the reason we need to prioritize positivity in our daily lives. Doing so will help you build a positive outlook on life, as well as resourcefulness, and resilience to live a happy, and fulfilling existence.
How to prioritize positivity in your daily life
Before I move on to a few ways that you can prioritize positivity in your daily life, it’s interesting to note that, according to Dr. Fredrickson’s research, you don’t need strong positive emotions to outweigh negative ones. Mild positive emotions do the trick just fine. This means that you don’t have to see the Sunset from the top of the Kilimanjaro to make up for a negative emotion, or win a gold medal at the Olympics. The only thing you need are mild positive emotions, experienced throughout your day.
#1 Live in the now
There’s no better place to live in, believe me, simply because it’s all we’ve really got. So often we leave our bodies behind in the now to go and live in the past, or the future. When we do that we lose the ability to enjoy what’s right in front of us: our daily life. The first step to prioritize positivity is to get back into the now, where all the good stuff actually happens!
#2 Focus on the little things
Yes of course you have big dreams, and goals. I have them too! And as time goes on, they become bigger, and bigger. When positivity is concerned, this can be a bit of a pickle. Because with big goals, and dreams come big waiting for it to happen too, and a lot of moving on without seeing big results. That’s why focusing on the little things is essential, because even if your end goal is to enjoy that Sunset over mount Kilimanjaro, every step towards getting there is worth soaking in, and celebrating!
[Related: The Purpose and Power of Positive Feedback]
#3 Open up to the world
It’s not only Sunsets that are worth noticing. Every day of our lives there are a thousand pleasant little things happening around us. But just like with the past or future, if we’re not careful we close up to them, focused entirely on our little world, and fail to notice. Opening up to the world opens you up to a world of positivity: nature, animals, art, literature... life itself. Nothing but goodness waiting to be discovered, and enjoyed by you.
#4 Be youthful and play
Following the point above, a good way to open up to the world is to be youthful and play. As adults (and I speak from experience here) it’s so easy to take everything seriously. Seriously! To a certain extent that’s OK. Things need to happen, chores need to be done, business must go on. But it’s kind of a killjoy too, don’t you think? So don’t be afraid to be youthful, and to play! Dance on your own to your favorite song, steal 10 minutes away from your work day for a walk in nature, listening to a fun podcast, watch a comedy, play hide and seek with your partner or your children.
#5 See the bigger picture
My final tip is to see the bigger picture in things. I find that even on my darkest days (read: when I don’t want to get out of bed, think of everything in terms of damn! and crap!) if I focus on the bigger picture of my life, my goals, my dreams there’s always something to be proud of, happy about, or grateful for. It helps to turn bad days into good ones, or at least to find that little bit of positivity that will help me tip the scales.
I hope this post has helped you gain some insights about how the positivity ratio can help you stay in control of your happiness. And below I’d love for you to share how you prioritize positivity in your life.
Murielle Marie is a life and business coach, mentor, writer and women’s leadership expert. She's the Founder of Lumturio, providing advanced security monitoring for all CMS users worldwide.
Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.