The Power of Positivity

Why is positivity so important? And how do you grow yours? Find out here.



Positivity refers to our tendency to be optimistic in life. This is in contrast to negativity, which is all about thinking, feeling, and doing negative things. When we have positivity, we might think positive, have positive emotions, and do positive things.

The Power of Positivity

Positivity can lead to better mental health and well-being. For example, self-directed positive thinking can buffer us from the effects of stress (Taylor & Brown, 1994). So try being positive toward yourself, for example by building your self-compassion skills.

Future-oriented positivity can also be powerful. For example, optimism can lead to better social relationships and a better ability to cope with stress (Taylor & Brown, 1994).

Examples of Positivity

Here are some examples to help you use the power of positivity in your life.

  • Self-oriented positivity: “I'm a good person.”

  • Other-oriented positivity: “My friends aren't perfect, but they are there for me when I need them.”

  • Gratitude: “I’m so lucky to have such a great husband."

  • Paying attention to the positive: “That movie was so cool.”

  • Savoring: “That vacation last year made me feel so relaxed and connected.”

  • Future-oriented positivity: “I'm looking forward to my friend's 'Friendsgiving' this year.”

Brain Training & Positivity

Research has shown that we can improve cognitive function in ways that boost positivity. For example, computerized training that leads people to focus on the positive over the negative contributes to positive outcomes (Wadlinger & Isaacowitz, 2008).

Power of Positivity Practices

Here are some practices that can help you increase your positivity.

1. Write a self-compassion letter

Being comfortable with yourself—and showing yourself some compassion—can make it easier to find, express, and receive positivity. To build your self-compassion, try writing yourself a self-compassion letter (Shapira & Mongrain, 2010). In this letter, you say nice things to yourself and give yourself a break for anything that you might have been judging yourself for.

2. Practice positive reappraisal

Positive reappraisal is an emotion regulation strategy that involves trying to reframe the situation to find its benefits and decrease our negative emotions.

3. Practice gratitude

Gratitude journals and lists are good ways to grow positivity. Just try to think of something you're grateful for each day or every few days to boost your gratitude.

4. Try doing a positivity meditation

Mindfulness meditation has become wildly popular. But what about positivity meditations? These can help you focus your thoughts on the positive and improve your mood. You can find several of these meditations on YouTube. Here is one for you to try:

When Positivity Might Backfire

It turns out that forcing people into positivity can backfire. For example, putting pessimists into a positive mood not only hurts performance, but it can also actually make them feel more anxious. Sometimes we use worry and other negative outcomes to help us. Also, suppression and other forms of emotional avoidance are not good for well-being. So if positivity doesn't feel right for you, or doesn't feel right in a specific situation, that's okay.

How to Boost the Power of Positivity

Sometimes we just need to get our minds open and ready to think more positively. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What positive qualities do you have?

  • What strengths do you have?

  • What are you grateful for?

  • What do you have to look forward to (or what can you create so you do have things to look forward to)?

In Sum: Capitalizing on the Power of Positivity

If you want more positivity, you can build it. Just be sure not to force positivity when it doesn't feel right. The more you practice skills that generate positivity, the happier you can become.

References

Taylor, S. E., & Brown, J. D. (1994). Positive illusions and well-being revisited: separating fact from fiction.

Wadlinger, H. A., & Isaacowitz, D. M. (2008). Looking happy: The experimental manipulation of a positive visual attention bias. Emotion, 8(1), 121.

Shapira, L. B., & Mongrain, M. (2010). The benefits of self-compassion and optimism exercises for individuals vulnerable to depression. Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 377-389.

Norem, J. K., & Chang, E. C. (2002). The positive psychology of negative thinking. Journal of clinical psychology, 58(9), 993-1001.

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