Positivity is the practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude. Optimism gives people the hope and confidence to take on difficult challenges, to overcome adversity and to experience the full width of life.

Positive emotions are felt when we experience love, joy, gratitude, serenity and other emotions that touch and open your heart. Researchers believe that the opening of our hearts and minds is an essential element for growth, creativity and resilience in difficult times.

Building positivity takes time and dedication. Positivity is a practice that requires repeated application and use of the skill to acquire and maintain proficiency. Developing a practice increases the amount of positivity in your life so that you don’t feel the need to cling to one source or one episode.

According to Barbara Fredrickson, PhD author of the book Positivity there are four tools for cultivating positivity:

1/ Open your heart and mind: Be present in the moment regardless of whatever is happening. Allow your thoughts and feelings to wash over you so that you can be more receptive to and accepting of the thoughts and ideas of other people and open to new experiences.

Developing a meditation practice can teach you the skills needed to allow your feelings and emotions to surface without distracting you from the moment.

2/ Create high quality connections: High quality connects foster mutual appreciation, recharge your energy and positively affect your life.

Build high quality relationships by interacting with other people in one or more of the following four (4) ways:

  1. Being present and affirming by offering your emotional support, acceptance and encouragement.
  2. Being supportive and doing whatever you can to help them succeed.
  3. Trusting them and believing that you can depend on them.
  4. Playing with them for the sole purpose of spending time and having fun.

3/ Cultivate Kindness: Find ways to help others that makes a difference for them and comes at some cost to you.

Try the challenge from the book called The How of Happiness and complete five kind acts on a single day to experience the good feelings that come with increasing your kindness.

4/ Develop Distractions: Find healthy ways to get your mind off your problems so that you get relief during troubling times.

Prepare by creating a list of things that you like to do, would like to try and can do in different types of weather conditions. It could be a board game, a hike in nature, a workout or anything else that allows you to get lost in the moment and that clears your mind. Think of it as a reboot.

Appropriate negativity

Negativity keeps people balanced and real. The sailboat analogy from the book is a good way to think about the appropriate amount and role of negativity in your life. The mast above the boat represents the amount of positivity needed to flourish versus the keel below the boat represents the amount and role of negativity needed to maintain course. The ratio is about 3 to 1 respectively.

Negative feelings are not equal in how they impact your state of being. Anger and guilt are specific and correctible whereas contempt and shame can really seep in and dominate how you feel about your life. Not surprising, contempt and shame are more difficult to overcome.

Hardship: There are two responses:

1/ Despair is fueled by fear and uncertainty which can turn into stress. Stress can morph into hopeless sadness which in turn can breed shame.

2/ Hope acknowledges negativity but also kindles the positivity needed to bounce back from hardship and emerge even stronger and more resourceful than before.

Resilience

Resilient people make use of both positivity and openness more than others. The openness that comes with positivity is what enables people to see the big picture, appreciate the now and find the good within the bad. Openness is what dissolves negativity and enables people to make a strong comeback.

Resilient people are able to smile in the face of adversity, reframe bad events as opportunities and adopt a wait and see attitude about future events. They also tap into the positivity of their connections who care. Each connection supplies its own positivity that refuels and opens them even further.