Wednesday, 10 November 2010

How positive emotions can make you flourish

In an interview, Barbara L. Fredrickson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina and a leading scholar in the field of research on positive emotions, explains how positive emotions can make us flourish.


According to her, positive emotions are deep felt emotions like love, joy, gratitude, interest, and hope. While negative emotions close our minds down, positive emotions open them up. There is a tipping point in the ratio of positive to negative emotions, at which languishing in life can turn into flourishing. This tipping point is 3:1. Three positive emotions to one negative emotion. However, most people in western countries only have 2:1. That means they are languishing. In order to raise the positivity ratio, professor Fredrickson suggests to create a mindset of positivity, which means being open, appreciative, curious, kind, and, above all, real. On the other hand, she considers it helpful to question mental habits like ruminating.



The interview gives a nice overview of what positivity is and what good it is. Professor Fredrickson has done a lot of research in the field of positive emotions. Her broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions posits that positive emotions broaden thought-action repertoires and build resources like for example resilience in adversity. Her undo hypothesis states that positive emotions can speed up the recovery from cardiovascular reactivity that results from negative emotions. Her positivity ratio implies that a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions is important for flourishing. She provides an online instrument by which everyone can check and also keep track of his/her own positivity ratio.

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