Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life by Harmony – Barbara Fredrickson, Ph. D.

Here are my comments on the book:

How do you become more positive? In her book, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology and principal investigator of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, states several strategies on ways of becoming more positive, some of which include mindful meditation, creating a positivity portfolio, framing the way you look at situations, and creating high quality connections. So why is it important to become more positive? Through her research, Dr. Fredrickson has discovered the many benefits positivity has on your life. Positivity allows you to broaden your mind, become more successful in dealing with challenges, and even live longer. Here are some of the points to the book:


1. The benefits of positivity stacks on top of each other and results in a compound effect. When you become more positive, you open yourself to greater mental and physical health benefits. In addition, you open up more windows of opportunity. When you open up more windows of opportunity, you’re able to capitalise on them which then opens up even more windows of opportunity. Positivity is an underrated driving force in your life that can build great momentum that leads you to greater success. Scientists have shown that because positive and open mindsets produce exploration and experimental learning, they also come to produce more-accurate mental maps of the world. This means that, relative to times when you feel negative and rejecting (or even neutral), you learn more when you feel upbeat and interested and are acting on your curiosity. That’s because negativity – and even neutrality – holds you back. Negativity and neutrality constrain your experience of the world. In consequence, they also contain your knowledge of the world. Positivity does just the opposite. It draws you out to explore, to mix it up with the world in unexpected ways. Each time you do, you learn something. These gains in knowledge might not be revelatory today, but they’ll be useful down the road. And under certain circumstances they may be life-savers.Dr. Fredrickson later states, A year later, Adam’s HIV progressed to AIDS. When it did, his doctors told him he might have only six months to live, no more than a year at most. Adam refused to live in the shadow of this death sentence. Instead, he took the same approach that he’d taken during Glen’s failing health. Each day was a blessing. Each day would offer something to celebrate: the smell of flowers from the corner store, the kindness of a longtime friend, the chance to continue to be independent despite his ailments. Focusing on the positive during each day, Adam’s days added up. Three years went by and Adam was still living independently. Five years later, he and his close friends couldn’t help but credit his positive approach to life with keeping him going strong. Eventually, AIDS did take him, but it was nine years after the doctors had forecast that he had less than a year to live. Adam’s story is no unique. Positivity does indeed forecast living longer, as he has been supported by several scientific studies in the years since I first introduced the broaden-and-build theory. One of these studies emerged from the UC San Francisco research project that Adam was in and helped shaped. Others tap more general samples of the population. But the findings are the same in each: people who express more positivity than others live longer. Up to ten years longer. Positivity matters. Just as our ancestors needed positivity to survive, we need it today for the same reason.


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2. As we’re now entering an era where work can easily cross the line between a work-life balance, make sure that you give yourself an opportunity to take a break. It can be quite easy to get caught up in work and disregard other important things in your life but you need to set aside time, and be fully present, to work on the other things or otherwise they’ll slip past you before you realise it. Setting aside time for other important things in your life may seem like a step back, but it’ll bring you two steps forward. As a young assistant professor, I overworked so thoroughly that my boyfriend (now my husband) had to work hard to convince me that we should take vacations. Although I eventually conceded, I insisted that we keep our vacations secret from my colleagues and students. I would also bring along stacks of papers to grade and a laptop so I could keep up with my e-mail. There was joy and laughter in those early vacations – but there was also frustration, guilt, shame, and red ink. Having learned from my own research, when I vacation these days, I leave papers and e-mail behind and focus on having fun with my family. I also encourage my students and junior colleagues to do the same, which is the opposite of what my own mentors had encouraged. More important, I look for mini-vacations each day – a walk through the arboretum, lunch with a friend, a dance class, or a book to read for fun. I try to balance my entrenched work ethic with a growing play ethic. I find that vacations from my strong need to achieve refuel me and add depth to my life. In an achievement-hungry workplace, my new approach can at times run against the grain and take some resolve to pull off. Even so, I find the fruits so sweet and abundant that there’s no going back to my old ways.


3. Serenity is one of the parts that make up positivity. One way to increase your positivity is to reward yourself with a relaxing activity. This could be sitting in the shade, going to the beach, and sitting down and reading a book. Make sure you give yourself a chance to just kick back and relax from a hard day of work. Like joy, serenity enters when your surroundings are safe and familiar and require little effort on your part. But unlike joy, serenity is much more low-key. It’s when you let out that long, luxurious sigh because your current circumstances are so comfortable and so right. It’s when you lie back in a shaded hammock after a day of strenuous and rewarding work in your garden. It’s strolling down a sandy beach on a bright morning with ocean sounds filing your head and a cool breeze tingling your skin. It’s curling up with a good book and a warm lap cat, with your favourite cup of tea beside you. It’s that sinking-into-the-mat feeling of Savasana, the traditional closing pose in yoga practice. Serenity makes you want to sit back and soak it in. It’s a mindful state that carries the urge to savor your current circumstances and find ways to integrate them into your life more fully and more often. When you tell yourself,’ I need to do this more often!’ that’s serenity. I call serenity the afterglow emotion.


By Ryan Timothy Lee


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Check out the book here:

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1 Comment

  1. […] life. There are plenty of other books written by other Ph. Ds. that all discuss the importance of positivity, good emotional intelligence, and a strong mindset. Here are some of the points to the […]


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