Dr. Barbara Fredrickson has done some extraordinary work on positive emotions. Having a positive attitude has so may anecdotal arguments that we are frankly sad when we hear another. If I hear one more person tell me to ‘have an attitude of gratitude’ I think I will just spit. Thank God for Dr. Fredrickson – or perhaps we should thank The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dr. Fredrickson takes a scientific approach which lends credibility to the case. While many of us have heard of Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, and most of us have sat through a sermon on happiness, having concrete knowledge of the truth of the matter removes all doubt.
From Dr. Fredrickson, as quoted in the Huffington Post:
Dr. Fredrickson’s came up with a top 10 list of positive emotions, in order of most frequent to least. Allow yourself an opportunity to scroll through the list and ask yourself, “When did I last fully experience this emotion?” The answers may surprise you.
Joy happens in an instant — a perfect moment captured when all is just exactly as it should be. Think of a wonderful holiday morning with the family, an unexpected present that delights you, or seeing the first smile on your infant’s face. What brings you Joy?
Gratitude is a moment of realizing someone has gone out of their way for you, or simply feeling overwhelmed with your heart opening, after being moved in some way. With gratitude comes a desire to give in return or ‘pay it forward’ in some way. When did you last experienced deep Gratitude?
Serenity is like a mellow, relaxed, or sustained version of Joy. Serenity is a peacefulness that comes on a cloudless day, when you realize there’s nothing you have to do. Serenity is indulging in a favorite luxury, and being mindful enough to take it in. Serenity is the moment on vacation when you finally let go. Has Serenity crossed your door lately?
Interest is a heightened state that calls your attention to something new that inspires fascination, and curiosity. Like a shiny new toy to capture your imagination, interest is alive and invigorating. Interest wakes you up, and leaves you wanting more. What Interests you these days?
Dr. Fredrickson describes it best: “Unlike other emotions that arise out of comfort and safety, hope springs out of dire circumstances, as a beacon of light. Deep within the core of hope is the belief that things can change, turn out better. Possibilities exist. Hope sustains you and motivates you to turn things around.” The inauguration of President Obama brought me Hope. What brings you Hope?
Ever done something really well that took a little time and effort? Maybe you reached a goal you never thought was attainable? Then pat yourself on the back with unadulterated Pride. Stand back, take that deep breath and let it in — you earned it. What have you done that made your proud?
Think of amusement as those delightful surprises that make you laugh. It’s those unexpected moments that interrupt your focus and crack you up. It’s a great feeling to have amusement sparkle out of the doldrums and instantly change your perspective. Have you had any amusement in your life recently?
Inspiration is a moment that touches your heart and nearly takes your breath away — or takes in your breath, as the word literally translates. Inspiration whispers between the strands of your hair, as you watch a perfect sunset, witness academic or athletic excellence, or observe unexpected triumphs over adversity. What brings Inspiration in your life?
Awe happens when you come across goodness on a grand scale, and you feel overwhelmed by greatness. Awe is triggered when we are faced with the vastness of Nature, or the cosmos. Gazing at the Milky Way and counting the stars, or standing at the top of the Grand Canyon triggers awe. Have you had a moment of awe lately?
Guess what? The list is rigged. Actually, the #1 most frequent positive emotion is here at the bottom. Love encompasses all of the above: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration and even awe. Love is all that and more. When we experience love, our bodies are flooded with the “feel good” hormones that reduce stress and even lengthen our lives.
How did you make out on your list? Are you experiencing these emotions on a regular basis, occasionally, or hardly any at all? Most importantly, how can we experience them more often?
Let’s try an experiment together. All you need are some sticky notes.
Put each of the ten positive words above on a sticky note. For the next ten days, peel off one at a time, and take that word with you, wherever you go, as your daily “flourishing mission.” Put your daily sticky note on your dashboard, in your pocket or on the bathroom mirror. Take in the essence of each word, and try to bring it out in others.
Let’s see what happens! Be sure to share your comments and experiences, and we will gather again next Sunday to see how it goes! I’d love to include your stories as part of next week’s piece!