Skip to main content
symmetrical pattern mandala - blue yellow

The Science of Positivity

The practice of positivity is more than just a nice thought, there is significant research to support having a positive mindset.

woman thinking

Resilient People

Research shows that the most resilient people have the ability to experience both positive and negative emotions side-by-side. They do not use positive emotions to sweep the negative emotions away; rather, they can co-experience things likes:

  • sorrow / gratitude
  • grief / love
  • sadness / hope
3:1 Positivity Ratio

The human brain finds and hangs onto negative emotions more than positive ones. That is why it takes 3 positive emotions to counterbalance 1 negative emotion.

  • Research finds that 3 positive emotions to every 1 negative emotion is the tipping point towards a more positive outlook.
  • Flourishing occurs at or above this point.
  • Below this point, you might feel stuck languishing in the negative.


Emotions Change Biochemistry

Positive emotions, especially connection to others, result in long-term changes in physiological functioning. More positive experiences lead to healthier vagal tone and increased heart rate variability. 

The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve. It is responsible for a great deal of parasympathetic nervous system activity. Its job is controlling the things you don't actively have to tell your body to do, such as keeping your heart beating, your food digesting, and your lungs moving air. Additionally, this nerve controls many emotions. In fact, some experts have referred to it as the “soul nerve,” because it stores emotional memories and regulates the way the body responds to future stressful situations. 

Heart rate variability is the heart’s ability to respond to stressful situations.  High heart rate variability means the body can adapt quickly in ways that are helpful and healthy. Increasingly, research is uncovering that there is a connection between heart rate variability and worsening depression and/or anxiety. The good news is, you can impact your vagal tone and your heart rate variability through the input you give your body. Lifestyle choices, such as incorporating more movement, mindfulness, meditation, sleep, as well as an effort to regulate your emotions, thoughts, and feelings, offer a protective resilience to stress overtime. Healthy positivity is one way to regulate your emotions, thoughts and feelings. 


© 2024 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy Statement