In her book “Positivity,” Dr. Barbara Fredrickson focusses on ten forms of positivity. Love is the most commonly experienced. The others are listed in order of how frequent they are. She says increasing positivity is an individual journey and that each person has to figure out when and how they experience these feelings. It is up to us to pay attention and be on the lookout for positive moments. When we experience one, it is up to us to appreciate it and take in how it makes us feel. We should notice when we feel these things, and draw strength from the feeling, but not try and delve too deeply into it or the “why” of it. We should just appreciate and accept it.
For each feeling, Dr. Fredrickson suggests we ask ourselves questions like, “When was the last time I felt this feeling? Where was I? What was I doing?” She encourages us to wonder “What else gives me this feeling?” and start paying attention to the answer to this question. The ten feeling states that can lead us to positivity are:
* Love is all of the other positive feelings coming into play in a close and safe relationship. It encompasses all of the below feelings as it deepens and grows. It is the most common feeling of positivity and comes in surges. It bonds us to those we have the deepest connections with. It is warmth and trust, and wanting to share time and space with the people who mean the most to us. It makes us want to do and be better people.
* Joy is A situation in which things are going your way, or even better than you could have imagined. What is happening just “feels right.” You are smiling, feel playful, are tuned in to your senses and to those around you. You feel safe and “at home” emotionally. Joy is about energy and a sense of being fully alive. It is excitement and that feeling of wanting to jump up and down with gladness.
* Grattitude – Comes when we appreciate something that has come our way. It is when we say “Thank you” not out of obligation, but out of a sincere feeling of gratefulness. It is about feeling blessed and wanting to bless others from a place of recognizing and appreciating the “good things” in our lives. We want to “pay it forward” simply because there is a wish to give back. It is about feeling lucky and fortunate.
* Serenity is a lot like joy, but a bit quieter, serenity is when you feel comfortable and unhurried, when you feel at peace and restful and calm. Its when you are engaging in activities that bring a feeling of contentment to your soul that you want to return to. Fredrickson says it often comes after other positivity experiences as a sort of “afterglow.” It is when everything “just seems right” with the world, when your heart, mind, and body are relaxed and untroubled.
* Interest is About the things that capture our intellectual attention. It is about exploring, fascination, and new discoveries. It is about curiosity and taking on a different challenge. It is about new ideas. It is about feeling open, alert, and alive, about learning and an intense pull towards knowledge and the previously unexplored.
* Hope comes into play when circumstances are not the way we want them to be, when life is not going our way. Hope is about believing that things can change for the better, no matter how awful they look now. Hope is about possibilities, encouragement, and optimism. It keeps us from giving in to despair. It motivates and inspires us to see good things in our own future. Hope keeps us trying to improve our situation. It is a belief in good outcomes, better times ahead, and things to look forward to.
* Pride is that sense of accomplishment we feel after we’ve put hard work into something and gotten a good result. It is about achievement or mastering a skill. Pride is a “self conscious” emotion, according to Dr. Fredrickson, in that we are aware that we’ve done things worth sharing with others. The child who studies hard and makes a good grade or the adult who’s been working on a piece of art and finally finished it will both take pride in their work because they feel good about how it turned out. They want others to share their joy, as well. Pride makes us want to challenge ourselves to go on to bigger and better things. It fuels our motivation to achieve. It increases our feelings of self assurance and confidence.
* Amusement is, of course, when something makes you laugh. It is when you focus on the silly instead of the serious. What makes amusement different, according to Dr. Fredrickson, is that it is social rather than something we experience alone. Amusement takes place in an environment of safety. Amusement builds connection and a sense of light heartedness with others. It helps us to feel good about the people we’re around because we are sharing lighter moments with them. “Goofing off” can help us feel closer to others.
* Inspiration is when we experience human nature at its best. This witnessing of extraordinary talent or heroism uplifts us and leads us to feel drawn in. It warms our hearts and grabs our attention because someone has done something that is beyond the day-to-day of life. Inspiration makes us feel good about our fellow man and pulls us out of ourselves. It makes us strive for great things. It is uplifting.
* Awe is when our souls feel moved or stirred. It is a sense of wonder and amazement. We experience awe when we feel overwhelmed by greatness so much so that we feel small and humbled. Many people experience awe in nature. Other times, people are awed by something so beautiful that they can’t find words for the experience. Art, music, or poetry can bring about a sense of awe. It compels us to realize that there is something much bigger than ourselves at work in life and the universe. It stops us in our tracks and leaves us momentarily speechless.