October 2021 Newsletter

Hi everyone! First few months into the school year and it feels like we’ve never been away.

In this newsletter I would like to share with you some tips and tools about how to generate those healthy, happy and pleasant emotions which is the first part of the PERMA model of RESILIENT HAPPINESS I talked about in the previous newsletter.

Before looking into the benefits of positive emotions and effective ways of generating those it is important to know what they actually are. As with many subjects in science, there are many views of what emotions are. For the purpose of this article, I will share with you the one I prefer (which is a combination of a few directions, so any questions to me!) According to Zemach (2001), emotions are a state or feeling that cannot be conjured up at will and arise as a reaction to a change in the immediate environment. Positive emotions are those emotions which contribute and stimulate our sense of hope, content, joy, purpose, pride, and many other valuable traits. Even though those emotions sound very valuable and pleasant, actions which need to take place for generating those emotions usually involve some sort of challenge, commitment, and practice.

Importance of positive emotions.

According to Fredrickson’s Broaden-and-Build Theory (Theory of positive emotions 1998), as human beings, we need positive emotions to grow and open our minds, broaden and expand our awareness, and facilitate the building and development of resources, including knowledge, skills, abilities, and relationships. Sounds quite evolutionary, doesn’t it?

The effects of these emotions are in sharp contrast to the effects of negative emotions, or those experienced in a dangerous situation (e.g., fear, terror, anxiety), which usually have the effect of narrowing our focus and limiting our myriad of options to the one or two best suited for survival.

In such situations, these automatic responses are vital for ensuring that we make it out alive; however, in situations that are not life-threatening, we don’t need such a narrow perspective or limiting of options and would benefit from expanding our focus of attention in order to thrive.

In the all-encompassing domain of physical and psychological health, positive emotions can have fantastic effects.

Positive emotions generating practices.

The six techniques described below have all been shown to boost positive emotions, which is not without a certain amount of commitment and practice of course.

  1. Journaling Three Blessings

The idea is a simple journaling exercise: every day, at the end of the day, write about three things—large or small—that went well for you, why they went well and how you feel about it.

This exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of depression over a timeframe of a few months. Experiencing and savouring the moment is a powerful way of connecting with our inner selves in a positive way.

  1. Practicing Mindfulness

While its origins can be found in ancient Buddhist philosophy and meditation, mindfulness has found its way into modern life thanks to advocates like Job Kabat-Zinn, who developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction therapy. Mindfulness is suggested to have many benefits for our physical and psychological wellbeing.

There are various techniques which can be practiced to train your brain for mindfulness, such as mindful breathing, 5 senses and full-body scan practice.

  1. Practicing Loving-Kindness Meditation

In Love 2.0, Barbara Fredrickson (2013) describes how increasing “micro-moments” of love in your everyday life (including compassion towards yourself) can increase your health, vitality, and well-being.

Self-compassion, a concept introduced and studied extensively by Kristen Neff, is about learning to love and support oneself. This approach of self-love has been shown to impact positive emotions toward ourselves, our behaviours, and our blunders, as well as develop loving-kindness and compassion for others.

Loving-kindness meditation is one method that can be introduced into your daily life to begin experiencing loving-kindness toward yourself and others. You can find simple guided meditations on Fredrickson’s website.

  1. Reframing Negative Events

How we interpret the world around us has an influence on our subjective well-being. Developing skills to deal with adversity helps us become more resilient and positive.

For example, in a certain, emotionally triggering situation do the following steps:

  • Recognise what you are feeling.
  • Identify thinking traps preventing you from seeing the bigger picture. Those thoughts are usually defensive and judging.
  • Put your negative thoughts into perspective by filtering them as helpful or unhelpful.
  • Take positive action according to your values rather than following judgmental statements.

    5. Creating Positive Experiences

It has been shown that positive experiences, and especially those shared with others, can have a lasting impact on our emotions. Random acts of kindness are an easy and fulfilling way to bring positive emotions into your life.

  1. Holding a Good Posture

When you are in immediate need of positive emotions, paying attention to your body language and adjusting it accordingly can be beneficial. Rolling your shoulders back, doing a few stretches and relaxing your facial muscles whilst taking a few deep and slow breaths can shift your nervous system from the defensive stance into relaxed and confident state. Your body plays a huge role in how you can change what you feel and can be a very effective tool for shifting between emotional states

All the techniques above stem from brilliant work of psychologists like Martin Seligman, Barbara Fredrickson, Jon Kabat-Zin, and Amy Cuddy.

Big changes happen as a result of small steps.

Wanting to start living in a positive spiral is achievable.  These six exercises offer a unique approach to generating positive emotions with long lasting effects for your health and wellbeing.

Start with choosing one, practice it every day for a week, or even just three days a week for a month, and notice the difference you feel in yourself and toward others. The change will be very clear and noticeable. Approach it with fun and curiosity because you are worth it 😉

Are you familiar with other practices? What helps pick you up or moves you towards experiencing positive emotions?

I hope you are enjoying our exploration of PERMA model of happiness and can benefit from some effective tools in your wellbeing toolbox. Please share your thoughts or drop us an email if you have any questions or would like to discuss anything.

Best wishes from Unravel.