Positivity is a relatively new branch of psychology and mainly addresses achievement of higher levels of satisfaction in life via practice of positive emotions.
Main positive emotions are joy, trust and love. Joy defines a perfect moment where things happen just the way they should be and what you have is what you need. Trust represents reliance on people and life, it builds reciprocity and uplifts society. Love is a cumulus of many positive emotions like awe, serenity, hope or a set of values such as compassion, kindness, gratitude. Positivity feels like peace, comfort and good energy and relaxation to your body.
Fear, anger and grief are the main negative emotions. Back in prehistoric times these emotions have served well to generate survival and defense reactions. In our days however, the lifestyle and threats that come our way are different. They require more “responses” rather than “reactions” and running away or attacking are no longer instincts that fully serve. Yet, as part of our DNA imprint, we activate them quite often. Perceiving the lion threat when people don’t agree with us, seeing the disaster and attacking when we have a stronger discussion with our partner, shutting down when we don’t obtain what we want.
Positive emotions release oxytocin in the body, the happiness hormone and for optimal brain functioning and well-being the positivity levels should be about 3 times more than the negativity (Positivity ratio test)
Negative emotions on the other hand have a long-term detrimental effect on the body. Our cells have memory and all the anger, fear and suffering that we experience are stored in our body. This determines illness (stress, anxiety, depression) and thus slows down long-term growth and development.
Positive emotions are not just the result of a major happy event. They rather depend on a choice to perceive joy, learning and opportunity for growth in almost anything. Surrounding ourselves by loving and trustful environment and practicing positivity brings resilience, connection, feelings of safety and sustainability and generates mirroring behaviors from people around.
Here are the ‘’sins’’ of happiness and options of healthy “habits” (as explained by Professor Rajagopal Raghunathan in the course ‘’ A life of Happiness and Fulfilment ’’ from Indian School of Business)
1. Devaluing happiness, meaning sacrificing happiness for the sake of other less important goals; as opposed to prioritizing happiness enhancing decisions
2. Chasing superiority in comparison with others; as opposed to pursuing mastery and flow; this means nurturing own talents and becoming every day a better version of ourselves
3. Being needy for love or being avoiding/anxious. They both make people less attractive and disliked as opposed to people who are willing or needy to love and give love
4. Being overly controlling which results in bad decisions, burn outs, dissatisfaction and reduced levels of happiness as opposed to taking responsibility for own happiness and well-being. Since we don’t control most of the outcomes in our lives, it is better to seek having a higher level of internal/ self-control rather than control over external factors
5. Distrusting people as opposed to giving them your vote of confidence upfront. Individuals perform better in all areas when they are trusted and people feel better when they assume others have genuine good intentions.
6. Distrusting life. We should not link happiness to outcomes; we may have preferences for certain outcomes but life generally gives us what we need and not what we want. Trusting what life brings results in alignment between your mind, body and spirit and between you and the universe; many times in life we question what is happening to us, only to later look back and understand and appreciate the event as a great lesson, experience or opportunity
7. Mind wondering or mind rumbling as opposed to presence, self-awareness, meditation or self-observation
Ask yourself and reflect what would happen if you trusted more your colleagues, friends and family? What if you would loosen up and let life unfold without you trying to control every single step? How could you display more compassion and kindness to yourself and others? What could you have done more to take care of yourself today? And what have you learnt or how have you grow yourself vs. yesterday?
Ultimately just by greeting people with a smile in the morning can make a whole lot of difference for them and in how you feel. The idea is not to smile if you don’t feel like it, but just relaxing your facial muscles and expression has been shown to have a psychological impact as people mirror the emotion.
In 1940’s an experiment on babies showed that deprivation of positive love and nurturing under the form of words and touch drove children to be underdeveloped in their motor and intellectual performance or even die. (The Devastating Effects of Isolation on Social Behaviour) Care and affection, as well as social interaction and human contact are also critical for adult mental health, behavior and intellectual development. The theory of attachment for children was extended in 1980’s to adult and romantic relationships. Adults benefit from encouragements, positive interaction, care and support, as it enables confidence, relaxation, openness to growth and overall a secure attachment.
Positive people have more success in their career and they are healthier. They also have more friends, marry faster, stay happier in couple and live longer. Positivity builds resilience, long-term growth and development and is beneficial for self-management and broadened awareness. It helps in leadership, entrepreneurship, parenthood and sports and by mirroring behavior it positively impacts those around us.
Our brain is naturally wired to search for negative states and activate primordial instincts (fear, running away, protection). The more we expose to risks, mistakes and take them as they come, the more we re-train our brain to trust life and find positivity in each event. Inevitably with time, events turn from being ”perceived” mistakes to great learnings and opportunities, would make a whole lot of difference if we could choose to do that right from the beginning.
One way to reduce negative emotions is to start observing yourself. With a closer look you may notice at the end of the day the circumstances when you have displayed negativity, be it to others and ultimately to yourself. We contain in us all the emotions and qualities that other people contain, both positive and negative and in our interactions we project our shadows on other people; in other words, when we think we are annoyed by a person, it is actually that emotion or fact about that person that we don’t like in ourselves. Identifying, accepting and not judging negativity in others and self are the first steps towards positivity. Being happy with our good and bad selves brings freedom and guidance on how to turn negative perception into positive.
Practising positivity may be exhausting especially if your shadows are strong, but it prepares you to live in the present moment and become a better version of yourself. All situations are opportunities for growth and positive impact, it’s a matter of the perspective you choose to take. Trust your intuition and find your positive self!
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