“Why do psychologists all want people to be happy all the time? What’s wrong with being a pessimist or feeling depressed sometimes?”
“I like the way it feels to be angry. I like to get it out of my system and just yell sometimes. And isn’t it proven that you need a good cry every now and then?”
Yes, having negative feelings and getting over them is a part of life, a necessary part. And, definitely, in my experience, a good cry can be pretty therapeutic.
“OK, Dr. Zeitlin,” you might say, “if all of that is true, what is positivity and why is it important?”
I’m glad you asked.
Positivity is not about feeling just one way all the time. It isn’t some kind of smile-all-the-time practice. The goal isn’t to be a happy, carefree robot. In fact, when you approach the point where positivity is starting to have an impact on your life, we often have to confront new obstacles that haven’t been an issue before. So we do end up talking about feeling paralyzed, dealing with anxiety, and how to work through depressed feelings. Positivity can push your life to new heights and you may end up dealing with new obstacles that were waiting for you up there.
Positivity is not the same as the state of being happy or being optimistic. It is about getting happier but even that is just a side effect. It is about having more positive connections, feelings, and experiences each day. Research shows a magic number, when you have more positive feelings each day than negative ones. If you have about the same amount of positive and negative emotions in your day, you are likely to feel depressed. On the other hand, increasing your ratio to three positive for every one negative feelings can create a broader life (more mental power and attention) with more upside potential.
Positivity is a way to get more out of life. When you hit that ratio of 3:1, you will probably feel more engaged in your life. As a result, you may feel more comfortable to reach out to make connections with people. You may have more energy and be able to pay greater attention to more things than you usually notice. One researcher said that your mind and body respond to positivity the way that a sunflower opens up its petals to the sun.
Positivity makes it easier to get in the habit to say “yes.” Saying yes more and worrying less about the downside is one huge effect that positivity has had in my life. You may feel freer to try new things. And those new things can lead you to grow in new directions. And that only makes it easier to make connections, try new things, and say “yes” even more. If you want to increase your positivity ratio, check out my online course Harness Your Superpowers.