Research confirms the power of positive thinking

Barbara Fredrickson, UNC distinguished professor of psychology and author of the book Positivity, says positive thinking can make a significant difference in personal well being. In a public radio interview with Frank Stasio on WUNC-FM “State of Things,” she discusses her research on the power of positive emotions.

She emphasizes the difference between happiness and positivity. Happiness defines your overarching view of your life, she says, while positivity is about focusing on “micro emotions” such as joy, gratitude and awe, that may only be felt for a few seconds or a few minutes, but taken together lead to well being. It’s important to focus on the emotion and the moment to experience and appreciate these positive feelings, she says.

“Positive emotions expand our awareness and build our resources, and that makes life more fulfilling,” she says.

She also discusses her research on the Positivity Ratio, emphasizing the importance of balancing positive and negative emotions.

“Our emotions tend to obey a tipping point,” she says. Her research shows that tipping point or positivity ratio is 3 to 1. “We need three positive emotions to lift us up for every one negative emotion that brings us down. Eighty percent of Americans only have a 2-to-1 positivity ratio.”

To improve that ratio she says we need to focus more on the present and give ourselves time to do the things we enjoy the most, whether that’s a walk in the woods or a hobby.

“Resilient people manage adversity and handle unexpected things,” she says. It’s not just that they only experience positive emotions, but instead that they are able to cultivate more positive feelings. Resilient people don’t make social comparisons, ” she says. Instead they focus on what’s positive in their own lives.

“One of the most positive emotions to elicit is gratitude,” she says. ” If we see what we are going through as a gift or an opportunity it unlocks that positive emotion.”

Listen to the discussion.

Check out your Positivity Ratio and learn more.


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