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Positive psychology - it's not just "thinking positive"!

What is positive psychology?

Positive psychology is a study of the experiences and emotions that are good, strengthening, fulfilling and build us up. It is important to recognise that positive psychology does not mean you have to ignore or deny negative emotions or problems - more it seeks to help you to strike a balance of experience between positive and negative.

Positive emotions tend to be more fleeting and subtle than negative emotions, which is why they can pass us by without us noticing them. Negative emotions tend to feel stronger and last longer, so it can seem that negative experiences can overwhelm the positive ones. This is part being human, and a long time ago in evolutionary history it might have helped to keep us safe from danger. It is less useful now, but it can be worked with.

Spending time on positive emotions can be useful, because these are the feelings that encourage us to broaden our actions, to expand our awareness and improve our engagement with the world. There is also evidence to suggest that improving our understanding and relationship with our positive emotions can help us to become more resilient, leading to greater mental and physical health.

Ratios and positive and negative emotions

Barbara Fredrickson, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says that a good ratio of positive to negative emotions in day to day life is around 3:1. She has identified ten separate positive emotions, which are:

  • joy,
  • gratitude,
  • serenity,
  • interest,
  • hope,
  • pride,
  • amusement,
  • inspiration,
  • awe,
  • love.

How often do you feel these emotions? Do you see them as “neutral” and end up overlooking them?  What helps you to feel these emotions, and how much time do you make for these activities? If the answer is “none” or “not much”, what is preventing you from doing so and how can you work with that?

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Written by Emma Thompson Registered Member MBACP

I am a qualified integrative counsellor and Registered Member MBACP (100054). I am available for short or long term counselling at my rooms in Sittingbourne in Kent. I have particular professional interest in working with anxiety, lack of confidence, poor self-image and invisible disabilities.… Read more

Written by Emma Thompson Registered Member MBACP

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