In her book Positivity, Barbara Fredrickson offers specific tips to help increase positive emotions:
- Practice gratitude. Recognizing and appreciating the good aspects of your life, no matter how small, can have a tremendous impact on your emotional wellbeing. How you decide to practice gratitude is up to you—maybe you’ll choose to jot down your blessings in a notebook, thank a friend face-to-face, or simply sit in quiet reflection to contemplate all the good in your life. (Experts recommend adding variety to your gratitude practice by expressing your thanks in different ways each day, for things both big and small, to keep the practice meaningful and fresh.)
- Be kind. Helping others has been scientifically proven to boost your own mood and lengthen your lifespan. But instead of exhausting yourself with nonstop generosity (which can become either mundane or emotionally taxing), Fredrickson suggests designating a “Kindness Day” once a week, during which you can sprinkle your ordinary activities with extra warmth—holding doors open for others, putting a quarter in an expired parking meter—or take an extra step and volunteer with a shelter or drive a friend to a doctor’s appointment.
- Connect with others. Warm, trusted relationships are an essential component of emotional wellbeing. Strong social ties can boost confidence and self-esteem, as well as provide a psychological buffer against stress, depression, and anxiety. Identify the most important connections in your life—perhaps with a partner, relative, close confidante, or spiritual friend—and nurture those relationships by spending quality time together.
- Spend time in nature. The environment can play a big role in triggering or soothing stress, and researchers say the more green in your life, the better you’ll feel. Studies show that people who spend more time outdoors (or have access to green plants and windows in their indoor environment) have better moods, expanded thinking, and find more meaning in life than those who stay cooped up inside.
- Savor goodness. Humans perpetually rush through life experiences—especially good ones. Learning to savor life means slowing down and appreciating moments of joy, contentment, and peace, no matter how small. The longer something is held in awareness, the more neurons that fire and store the object or thought in memory. Thus, savoring positive experiences and thoughts will “teach” the brain to fall into a more naturally positive pattern. Look forward to a positive experience, relish it while it’s happening, and later allow the positive feelings to re-emerge as you hold the experience in your memory.