Using Positivity to Beat Stress and Sickness

New research is showing the great value of positive emotions--such as joy, gratitude, calm, hope, and compassion--in our lives. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson suggests that when we experience a positive emotion, "our vision literally expands, allowing us to make creative connections, see our oneness with others, and face our problems with clear eyes." In other words, positive emotions make us more creative, more capable of seeing what is actually happening, and more able to find solutions.

And as we seek out and nurture our positive emotions, we become better able to deal with life stressors and make the most of our situation. So moments or activities we think are fun but frivolous are not a waste of time at all--they are key to our emotional, mental, and physical health!

Here are some tips for increasing the amount of positive emotions in your life:

  1. Remember to smile. Our brains don't know the difference between a real and forced smile and release the same 'happy chemicals' in both situations. So, even if you have to force it a bit to start with, smiling is great for positivity.
  2. Try practicing gratitude by writing down something you are thankful for each night. It can be as big as your family, or as small as the delicious lunch you ate that day.
  3. Take Barbara Fredrickson's online test to determine the ratio of positive to negative emotions in your current life.
  4. Take a walk with your spouse or a friend regularly and talk about the positive things that happened that day.
  5. Offer praise or a compliment to five people every week.
  6. Try watching funny videos each night (YouTube has some great ones). It's even better if you watch them with someone else and laugh together.