Thursday, January 18, 2007

10 Ways to Generate More Positive Emotions in Your Life

Positive emotions undo negative emotions and reduce the negative physical and psychological stresses of negative experiences. Negative emotions tell you that you are facing a win-loss encounter and need to take steps to engage with the obstacles. Positive emotions tell you that you are in a potential win-win situation. Positive emotions guide you to be more expansive, tolerant, and creative so that you can maximize the social, intellectual, and physical benefits of the situation.

It is important to generate and build the experience of positive affective states rather than simply extinguishing negative emotions. Positive affective states create an "upward spiral" and become the fuel and the raw material for growth and development, exploration and discovery, mastery and successful interactions in the world, and developing and leveraging your strengths.

Positive emotions move you toward happiness. As you generate positive emotions, you will broaden and build upon them. You will become more successful in your world (whatever success means for you) when you align yourself with happiness.

Here are the top ten ways to generate more positive emotions.

1. Increase your happiness about the past by experiencing gratitude.

Gratitude amplifies savoring and appreciation of good events gone by.

Gratitude about the good things in the past intensifies your positive memories about the past and therefore engenders more positive affect and the sense of happiness about the past. Satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, pride, and serenity - all aspects of happiness about the past - require the experience of gratitude.

Research just completed shows that engaging in a Gratitude Visit has lasting and substantial happiness benefits. This intervention required participants to write a letter and then read it to someone telling them how grateful they were for something the other person had done for them – or just for who they were.

People engaging in the Gratitude Visit were found to be significantly happier and less depressed after the visit and for at least one month afterwards.

Take every opportunity to express authentically your gratitude about past experiences to those around you.

2. Increase your happiness about the past by practicing forgiveness.

Forgiveness undoes bitterness and the desire for vengeance about past transgressions that block your feelings of happiness about the past.

Negative memories can induce bitterness. When these negative memories predominate, the emotions of contentment, satisfaction, serenity and peace are not experienced and happiness about the past is not available.

When negative memories about the past are fostering negative emotions, the way out is to rewrite your negative memories. Forgiveness is a tool for rewriting our memories of past bad events and opening the door to happiness about our past.

Studies show that adults who use an effective forgiveness tool have less anger, less stress, and are more optimism and report better health and more happiness.

3. Increase your happiness about the future by building hope and learning to be more optimistic.

The sense of happiness about the future is embedded in the positive emotions of faith, trust, confidence, hope, and optimism.

Optimism is more than just sitting around and thinking positively about things.

Optimistic people have an optimistic explanatory style, which is permanent, pervasive, and personal. Optimists who make permanent and universal explanations for good events and temporary and specific explanations for bad events tend to recover quickly from troubles and get hooked on success.

Learning to be more optimistic builds hope, gives greater direction, and supplies energy for successful future interaction in the world.

Leveraging learned optimism opens the way to experience a sense of happiness about the future and produces the positive emotions of faith, trust, confidence, hope, and greater optimism.

4. Increase your happiness about the present by enjoying the pleasures of the moment.

Pleasures are a route to increasing your experience of positive emotions in the present and opening the gateway to the experience of the sense of happiness in the present. By enjoying the pleasures in your life you pave the way for increased positive feeling throughout your lifetime.

Pleasures are tied to the satisfaction of your biological needs. Pleasures can be honed, nurtured, discovered, and supported. They can be sharpened, amplified, and brought purposely into your experience.

Pleasures are perceived and experienced through your senses and expanded and amplified in your emotions. Pleasures heighten your momentary experience but may not build reserves for the future. Although pleasures are an important contribution to present happiness and increased positive feelings, they are not the route to lasting happiness.

You can enhance your experience of pleasures in the moment and increase your happiness in the present by engaging in a simple practice. Set aside a free day every now and again to indulge in your favorite pleasures. Don’t get distracted by all of your practical responsibilities. Design your day of simple pleasures and carry out the plan. Repeat as necessary.

5. Increase your happiness about the present by experiencing gratification.

Gratification results from engagement in activities that exercise your natural strengths. Engaging in the world in a way that produces gratification produces total absorption in the moment and results in a state called flow. Flow builds psychological capital that can be drawn on in the years to come.

A state of flow arises when:
You are involved in a task that is challenging and requires skill
Your natural strengths match the demands of the situation
The goals of the task are clearly outlined and you know them
You get immediate feedback about your involvement with the task
You have a deep, effortless involvement with the task
You experience a sense of control with regards to the task
You lose the experience of a separate sense of self
You have the experience of timelessness

These components result in the experience of gratification and happiness in the present. Identifying, developing and using your natural strengths in as many aspects of your life and as frequently as possible will increase your experience of gratification and enhance your happiness in the present.

6. Increase your positive emotions through appreciation.

For years, New Age self-help books have been telling you to write down things that you appreciate. Turns out they are right. Science verifies the wisdom of that advice.

Research shows that sustained experience of appreciation results in highly ordered brain and heart rate patterns. Appreciation is one of the emotions that reflects order in your neurophysiological systems and produces what is called "physiological coherence."

During states of physiological coherence, your body systems are synchronized, more efficient and in greater harmony. You experience better cognitive performance, more emotional stability, and enhanced emotional and social functioning. In addition, when your body is in a state of physiological coherence you feel more at peace and experience a sense of security.

More new research shows that practicing appreciation does indeed increase your happiness. People who write down three good things that happened during the day every night for one week and answer"Why did this good thing happen?" experience happiness benefits lasting at least three months.

Happiness and satisfaction is highest for those who consciously direct their attention to appreciation.

7. Increase your positive emotions by identifying and nurturing your strengths.

Psychology has discovered that human strengths act as buffers against suffering and ineffective functioning and are pathways toward a meaningful life.

Identifying and nurturing your strengths leads to resolution of ineffective behavior, protects against the occurrence of dysfunctional behavior, and eventually leads to a life of "flourishing."

Break out of a weakness spiral and focus your attention on your natural talents and strengths. Your greatest resources for achievement, performance and growth lies in the area of your natural strengths.

Identify your natural strengths by taking the VIA (Values in Action) Survey at and the Strength Finder Profile at

For greater happiness identify your natural strengths and then nurture and develop your top strengths.

Identifying your strengths is not enough, however. You have to use your strengths...

8. Increase your positive emotions by using your top strengths every day in all areas of your life.

To generate any significant experience of happiness, you have to use your strengths.

People who used their top strengths in new ways every day for only one week experienced substantial happiness benefits for up to 3 months.

The good life is experienced by using your top strengths as much as you can in all areas of your life. By designing different life areas so that your top strengths can be more frequently and more fully exercised, you open the way for the experience of increased positive satisfaction and successful engagement with the world.

Increased life satisfaction comes through being able to use your top strengths every day in win-win situations. Once you are aware of your top strengths, it is possible to design your life and work around your strengths to leverage and capitalize on their unique combination.

9. Increase your positive emotions by leading with your strengths and compensating for your weaknesses.

The old paradigm was that knowing your weaknesses and correcting them would help you improve the most. Now, the fascination with weakness is beginning to fade. Focusing on your strengths is proving to be a more effective paradigm.

Major strides in prevention of dysfunction have resulted from systematically building competency, rather than correcting weakness. Simply correcting your weakness often leads to a dead end. Challenging yourself based on your natural competence with your personal strengths gives you a path to follow and tools and techniques to use that are natural to you.

Leading with weakness, dysfunction and problems has a retrospective view and focuses only on what to move away from. Looking for, finding, and developing your strengths gives you something to move toward.

Your difficulties and problems are best looked at through the filter of your existing strengths. By identifying and developing the strengths you already possess these strengths can be leveraged as the means of good management of your weaknesses.

Do not simply ignore the dysfunction or weakness. Instead, focus on what strengths you have to leverage to set a new trajectory and to compensate for your weakness.

10. Increase your positive emotions by developing more of the "Key Five" strengths.

The jury is still out on whether or not it is possible to develop a strength that is not one of your natural top strengths into a top strength. However, through learning and development, it certainly is possible to bring more of a particular strength into your life – even if it can’t be turned into one of your top strengths.

Some new research suggests that there are five strengths that are key to leverage for the experience of increased positive emotions and life satisfaction. These Key Five are gratitude, optimism, zest, curiosity, and the ability to love and be loved.

Find yourself a coach, a counselor, a personal development consultant, or a good self-help program and spend some time and resources in bringing more of the Key Five strengths into your life.

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