A quick primer on emotions. There are countless emotions we can feel. Basically, one set of emotions allows us to pay attention to danger and threats with intense focus. These emotions that fall onto the negative side of the chart also give us more ability to be accurate with the detailed or complex matter. They also help us to signal to others if we are displeased with them; sort of a warning that things need to be addressed in the relationship. When we are feeling any number of nuances of anger, fear, and sorrow we are said to be in negative affect; affect is a fancy word for a set of emotions and traits – either positive or negative.
If you want to increase the amount of positive thinking & feeling in your life, researchers have found that you can do a few things each day that seems so basic as to make you wonder if they work. Sonja Lyubomirsky of Stanford and the University of California researched several ways that can permanently change the effect if practiced each day.
Here are 6 tips for achieving more positive affect.
Take a picture every day on your smartphone of something that brings a sense of lightness, love, or makes you laugh. Review your pictures often throughout your week. The bump of positivity you get from it is amazing, plus it forces you to lift your head out of that grilling work project and notice things that give your brain positive neurochemistry.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Plenty of research shows that people who write down a simple statement of something that happened to them that day for which they are grateful, maybe writing before retiring for the night, are more prone to a sense of wellbeing.
- Do one thing each day that positively surprises someone else. Call up an old friend and say hi. Leave post-it notes on a colleague’s computer screen saying thanks for the job they did on a project with you. Compliment someone on their traits like their intelligence, talent, and how healthy they look.
- Do mindfulness exercises or meditate. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn has scores of meditation resources on Amazon. The point is to bring calm and focus to your mind, and to reset the stressor chemical cortisol. Every day.
- Keep a laughter file. Take all the jokes and videos that friends and family inevitably send and stuff them in a file. Each day, read or watch a few.
- Keep a file for things that warm your heart like YouTube videos or stories of people doing remarkable things. Visit those each day for a few minutes.
Most of the things on this list will seem ridiculous to people deeply invested in being serious and negative. That dourness is fine, so long as it doesn’t come with depression or the inability to bounce back quickly from setbacks. But, for positivity, research has shown that all it takes is one small jolt each day to begin to benefit from the power of positive emotions. Eventually, we find ourselves with new perspectives when bad things happen and we can be more resilient in the face of the danger and threats the world offers up each day.