So let`s dive into the depths of positive psychology by learning the basics.
Have you thought about the positive emotions in your life? Can you maybe name a few? When I was it struck me that it is super difficult to come up with more examples beyond joy and happiness.
So here there are, a list of the ten main positive emotions and their characteristics:
|Joy||Safe, familiar, progress||Play, learn new things||Acquire skills|
|Gratitude||Receive altruistic gift||Give creatively||Nurture bonds/skills for loving|
|Interest||Safe, but also novel and mysterious environment||Explore, be inventive||Energy, gain knowledge|
|Serenity||Safe, certain, low effort||Savor and integrate||Modify self|
|Hope||Negative situations where you yearn for the better||Be inventive||Increased resilience|
|Pride||Socially valued achievement||Dreaming||Further achievement|
|Amusement||Non serious social incongruity||Share laughter||Build friendship|
|Inspiration||Witness human excellence||Aspire to excellence||Gain skills and morality|
|Awe||Overwhelmed by greatness||Accommodate the new||Self as part of a larger whole|
|Love||Positive emotion in connection with somebody||Play, explore, dream||Build trust, bonds, communication|
Now that we know them let`s find out what makes them special. Positive emotions are a lot more subtle than their negative siblings that often “scream” at you such as sadness, anger, misery. This has developed evolutionary, as we need our negative emotions in order to survive- without it we won`t know what’s dangerous and what is not. They are also more fleeting than the negative ones and have a tendency to quickly come and go, which might pose challenges in recognizing them ad staying with them.
Despite the fact that they seem less powerful than negative emotions, positive emotions have an important quality called dynamic cyclic capability- where our current emotions determine the ones that follow. In that context the little engines of positivity are the spirals between emotions where one good emotion leads to another one which leads to yet another one and these engines can “drive” us to be positive.
Another important characteristic of positive emotions is their ability to help us recover from negative experiences a lot quicker compared to a situation when we are in a neutral state.
The practical implication of this is that even when we are taken over by negativity we can consciously try to evoke positive emotions and break the negative pattern!
And how can we actually do this in practice? There are two ways the first one of which is to be mindful and to recognize the positive emotions when they occur. When you start doing that you will soon realize that you often take for granted good things that happen to you and you are like the fish who doesn’t see the water; for instance let`s take the simplest example – without air we wouldn`t be able to live no more than a minute or two! And there are so many more examples..
Of course there are also times when things just go out of hand and it is just so difficult to see the light. A second way to practice positivity is to remember things that make/made us feel grateful, peaceful, loved, inspired, etc.
And here are a few ideas on how to practice this with one of the most interesting positive emotions – gratitude. Every day write down three things which happened during the day and which you are grateful for; put one positive thing that happened in a jar every day. Open those at the end of the month- have a monthly “happy hour” 😉