any people believe a positive mindset is only achievable as a result of the circumstances life provides them. They think that they will feel more positive when they reach their goals – when they get the promotion, when they make a certain amount of money, when they get married…when they [fill in the blank here].
I choose to believe the opposite. I believe a positive mindset creates better circumstances in my life.
I am not alone. There is a myriad of research that supports the notion that positivity benefits us in many different ways, including:
- Better health, including a healthier heart, lower blood pressure and increased circulation
- Higher immunity
- A better functioning brain, including balanced neurotransmitters and improved creative thinking
- Increased pain tolerance
- Better ability to cope with stress
- Enhanced resiliency
- Strengthened relationships
- Enhanced well-being
- Higher annual salaries
- More graceful aging
A Positivity Mindshift
I consider myself a positive person. I think most others characterize me that way, too. But this wasn’t always the case.
Sure, I used to have fun in general. People probably thought I seemed like a happy person, relatively speaking. But to be honest, I could be a bit of a Debbie-Downer, a real Negative-Nelly…especially when it came to work. When I was under stress (nearly all the time!), I only ever saw the glass as half-empty. I told myself I was just being “realistic”…I wasn’t a pessimist.
Thankfully, I realized that my habitual way of looking at the world was not adding anything good to my life. It certainly didn’t provide me with joy or fulfillment. Instead, it just brought me more problems and disappointments. When I looked for problems, or for what was lacking…that’s exactly what I found.
Armed with the awareness that this outlook was not serving me well, I intentionally shifted my negative mindset to a positive one. The shift was part of a larger life transformation that occurred when I immersed myself in self-improvement endeavors, one of which was a powerful morning routine to start my day more positively.
Although it took me a while to make my own mindset shift, I recently learned some information that could help you make a shift faster. I’ve discovered a scientific formula for happiness!
The Positivity Ratio
Dr. Barbara Frederickson, world-renowned researcher, discovered the positivity ratio. The CPA part of me really appreciates this theory. It’s essentially making an abstract concept more concrete…by putting it into a simple mathematical formula!
The numerator (top) of the ratio represents positive emotions. The denominator (bottom) of the ratio represents negative emotions. Dr. Frederickson’s theory maintains that the higher our ratio (i.e., the more positive emotions we experience compared to negative emotions), the higher our level of well-being. Dr. Frederickson defines a higher level of well-being as higher levels of positive emotions, more resiliency (the ability to bounce back from setbacks), and a better ability to protect ourselves from future stressors.
Dr. Frederickson identified that it takes a positivity ratio of 3-to-1, or 3 positive emotions for every negative emotion, for human flourishing. She defines flourishing as “an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience.” Does it surprise you that 80% of Americans fall short of this 3-to-1 positivity ratio? Which percentage of the population do you think you fall into?
How to Cultivate a Higher Positivity Ratio
It’s quite simple to cultivate a higher positivity ratio in two steps:
1. Increase the positives – What actions give you positive mental energy? How can you create more positive thoughts? What can you think and do to feel better?
These actions don’t need to be huge undertakings. They could be as simple as listening to your favorite song, hugging someone you love, petting your dog, exercising, or enjoying the fresh air.
2. Decrease the negatives – It is crucial to understand that this does not mean ignoring or minimizing important things that are going on in your life that you may characterize as negative. Negative emotions are a part of life. They are not wrong. This is about reducing the unnecessary stressors in your life.
What avoidable activities, situations or thoughts deplete your mental energy?
For example, you might eliminate negative television shows, choose not to engage in negative conversations (e.g., idle gossip), leave for work earlier to avoid traffic, or decrease the number of times you check your e-mail outside of business hours.
The Positivity Challenge
This week, I challenge you to experiment with increasing your positivity ratio. You can document your results by recording your daily experiences in a journal.
1. Increase your numerator. Add 2-3 simple, positive activities to your day. Make sure these activities are easy to incorporate into your daily routines. Select small, powerful activities that will provide positive mental energy.
2. Decrease your denominator. Eliminate 2-3 unnecessary, negative activities from your day. Make sure these are simple things that cause you undue stress or deplete your mental energy.
Above all, enjoy the process! I’d love to hear how this simple, fun experiment impacts your life. Please leave me a comment here, or connect with me on LinkedIn.
All my best,