Emotions play a significant role in our everyday life both personal or professional. They are natural responses and instinctive state of our mind which arise from external or internal stimuli, including from crises and periods of uncertainty such as that we are experiencing in recent times. Feeling both positive or negative is a natural part of being human. Let us say if you had to make a list of all the emotions you had experienced in the recent times, what will be on your list ? Chances are that you included more of negative than positive. The most dominant emotions we experienced from past one year or so are anger, fear, anxiety, insecurity, frustration and boredom.
If you are experiencing negative emotions, it is not easy to transform them into positive overnight and avoiding or suppressing them doesn’t make us feel more positive either. Also, denying them is like ignoring our survival mechanism. For instance, anxiety indicates a strong desire to succeed or call to action, sadness leads to empathy, boredom might inspire you to be creative, fear leads to alertness and reminds you to prepare well and to protect ourselves in times of threat. Similarly, sometimes a positive emotion might lead to a negative emotion like caring for someone leads to unnecessary worry, sensitivity might lead to depression and sometimes passion leads to anger. In a way, every emotion serves a useful purpose and both impact our thoughts and behaviours.
However, experiencing more negative emotions limit our potential and narrow our awareness, focus and can be detrimental to our physical and psychological well-being. They often sabotage our work, decisions or choices. Whereas positive states of mind increase your potential to take up new challenges, in being creative and in problem-solving. We all know that we cannot always control our emotions, but we can always recognise our negative emotions and leverage them with positives. In other words, it is not only important to know how to manage our negative emotions, but we must also learn how to increase and make most of the positive emotions we experience every day.
Importance of positive emotions
Even though negative emotions allow us to pay attention to danger and threats, and are important for our survival, they narrow our focus, consequently limiting the action we take and make every problem or challenge seem too big to handle. On the other hand, positive emotions often lead to another positive emotion and have a positive effect on people around, on our productivity, energy and momentum.
The outcomes of increasing positive emotions has a domino effect according Broaden-and -build theory. According to this theory, positive emotions affect our thinking pathways positively and broaden our awareness, attention and memory. Research based on this theory shows that we feel and do our best when we have at least three times as many positive emotions as negative. A high positivity ratio enhances our ability to build physical, social, and psychological skills and develop resources that makes it easier to handle difficult situations. Here are some more benefits of increasing your positive emotions.
- Improve personal resources. They expand your focus of attention, increase flexibility, zest, enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. Positive frame of mind is an antidote to fear and cynicism. It helps in increased hope and encourages to keep stretching beyond our comfort zone.
- Boosts your creativity. Positive emotions open us up to innovative and creative space and boost our ability to learn something new and make good decisions.
- Improved well-being and cognitive skills. They trigger upward spiral of thinking that enhance our well-being and broaden our cognition. For instance, being calm and mindful increases thinking scope and flexibility.
- Improved workplace productivity and relationships. Treating others with empathy, compassion, respect and kindness help you build strong and supportive workplace relationships, improve performance of tasks and work engagement and decrease negative attitudes like distrust, pessimism or deviant behaviour.
- Reduced stress. They moderate reactivity to stress and help your coping ability by contributing to lower levels of stress hormone. For instance, people who feel grateful and appreciative are less depressed and stressed.
- Better coping skills. People with high positivity ratio have better coping skills when dealing with setback and adversity. Improve emotional regulation which in turn improve your resilience in when you experience adversity, challenges and difficult situations.
How to improve your positivity ratio
Many of us wait for right circumstances, situations or wait for some expectations to be met before we want to feel happy or joyful. But we alone can determine and choose how we want to feel at any moment in time as we generate them and are source of our emotions. Because emotions happen as a reaction to something, you can give your positive emotions more chance by simply creating the right stimulus to cultivate more of them deliberately.
As important it is to learn to adapt from negative emotions and manage them effectively, it is also important to learn how to increase your positive emotions.With right habits and strategies, you can actively and intentionally seek to improve your positive state of mind even in times of adversity and challenge. Here are some ways to increase your positive emotions.
Increase the frequency of specific positives
Get familiar with positive emotions you experience on a daily basis. Tune into your emotions in real time as you experience them or you can take stock at the end of the day by writing them down and about activities, situations or people that led you to experience such emotions. For instance, choose an emotion you like to feel more such as joy, calmness, hope or confidence. Once you know what prompted that particular emotion, you can actively seek those thoughts, or fit those activities or build those habits into your daily life. The bigger the range of your positive experiences, the easier it becomes to recall them and put into practice.
You can choose things that are realistic enough and commit to one or more such daily actions that will increase the feeling you want more in your life. For instance, what helps you feel joyful? How can you create more of it? May be you can recall what led you to joyful experiences in the past and choose to find ways to make more of them. You can make it a daily ritual or reflect at the end of the week as to what worked and what didn’t. Focusing and creating space to that which you want more gives a boost to your positivity ratio.
Minimise the negativity of your negative emotions.
Increasing your positivity ratio doesn’t mean that you must experience only positive emotions, but rather it is more about accepting your negative emotions. Instead of internalising your negative emotions, consider the positive message they are trying to convey. Focus on your negative emotions in real time as they happen and recognise the action it is signalling at.
Discover what needs to be changed, is it your perception, action or do you need to alter your perspective. For instance, if you are feeling fearful, then a feeling of gratitude can enhance your emotional state. Try and replace feelings of hurt by getting curious about yourself. You can turn to something that excites you or something you are passionate about to move away from anger.
Similarly, being flexible in your approach reduces disappointment. Determination to do whatever it takes inspite of fear builds courage. Being cheerful and confident helps you reduce guilt and discontentment. A sense of contribution removes feelings of loneliness and establishes a sense of connection with people. Instead of staying stuck on the limited nature of negative emotion you are feeling, take action or change the way you are perceiving it to minimise it’s negative consequences.
Developing rituals that help you to play to your strengths helps you to stay emotionally in control. Being intentionally grateful, having a greater sense of purpose and acknowledging your achievements can invite positive emotions. Rituals like gratitude journaling, self-reflection, meditation, goals-setting help you connect with your deeper selves. Being enthusiastic to learn and grow or committing yourself to continuous learning engages the mind and your attention in positive perspectives.
Taking part in some new activity uses your cognitive capacity, creates a sense of expansion and opens your mind. Distracting yourself by shifting your attention to something constructive can elevate your positivity ratio. Spend some time doing things that interest you by exploring your passions. Since emotions influence our posture, breathing and our environment, they can also help us alter our emotional state. By conscious mindful breathing, relaxation techniques and improving your posture, you can positively influence your emotional state and awareness.
Use your strengths to build resilience
Use your strengths of will power, self-control and self-regulation to be resilient. Resilience helps you to be emotionally aware. It further gives you an ability to own your feelings rather than avoiding or deny them. Use your strength of perspective to have a big picture view. Often we give into immediate gratification and give into temptations. Even though immediate gratification makes us feel an instant positive emotion for whatever it is we are doing, it leads to negative consequences and emotions in the long-term.
Practice delayed gratification to avoid from impulsive decisions or behaviour. Step out of your comfort zone and do different things to adapt to changing situations. This enhances your coping and dealing with them calmly and with consideration rather than reacting emotionally. Remember the ways you handled such emotions before in your past. Realisation that you can successfully handle difficult emotions can help you change your emotional state for better.
What are your dominant emotions on a daily basis, are they negative or positive?
What is your approach in dealing with your negative emotions?
Do you accept, deny or suppress your negative emotions?
How much effort or time you put into to emotionally enhance yourself?
How often do you allow negative emotions influence your work, decisions or actions?
What do you need to do on a daily basis to increase your positive emotions ?
What can you learn from your negative emotions?
What activities or habits can you build now to increase your positive emotions?
Great changes often happen through hope and optimism. Even when world around makes you feel anxious, uncertain or bored, it is important to remind yourself that everyday you have a choice to tap into your positive emotions. And in times like these it becomes even more important that we increase our positivity ratio. Although you cannot directly control or change your emotions by intention alone, you can always build these practices into your everyday life to create more space and time to consciously your positivity ratio. We all have the ability to experience range of positive emotions and we can all increase our capacity for them.