The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
These words too are beautiful and I shan’t reveal their owner yet. Compared to usual content on mental health, the previous post on positive emotions may have read rather differently. The benefits of positive emotions are less commonly known and accepted, and it is not unusual for many to remain inclined to move away from negative emotions than toward positive ones.
For a long time coming, psychology has endeavoured to be a science and that included working with serious themes that held real consequences for society. What were antisocial behaviours and severe mental illnesses, which dominated research-based psychological inquiries for many decades.
Perhaps it then comes as a surprise that the science backs the validity of positive emotional experience. Its supporters include no less than Albert Einstein, who wrote the aforementioned quote in a 1931 article. What may the relevance of the identified emotion of awe be to living well?
Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory has paved the way for ten positive emotions to emerge into the limelight. This Part 1 of 2 introduces easy steps to inspire five of these representative positive emotions identified through Fredrickson’s studies. Starting to feel curious now? Chalk one up!
Positive emotions for positive change.
Experiences of positive emotions can refuel and recharge us to better ward off some of the impact of negative events that life tosses up, such as failures and setbacks. Last month’s post shed light on the concepts behind broaden-and-build. Well, now that we sort of have a vague idea of the theory, what is its relevance in real life?
Starting with Sunday’s feeling of awe. When was the last time you remember being awestruck or overwhelmed by the magnitude or sheerness of a structure? While it need not be about a grand sight, and the fragility of a snowflake or gossamer leaf may also spark overwhelming feelings about the majesty of Mother Nature, this amazing BBC short clip of a 15,000 km journey filmed by drone of the skyscape of the Great Wall of China, and especially Jiayuguan, may just do the trick for this first baby step. According to Fredrickson, feelings of awe allow people to absorb and accommodate the new vastness they are witnessing to fashion a new worldview that further facilitates future personal growth.
Try out interest for Monday. What is one thing you had not known about your work’s subject matter? Contrary to yesterday’s feeling that is overwhelming, with interest, we start small by piquing curiosity, which enables exploration and learning. The increased knowledge we gain, again, becomes part of our personal toolkit for building resilience. Fun fact about my subject matter of psychology. Did you know that looking at pictures of cute baby animals increases our task-attention and focus on details? No surprises that this research came out of kawaii country. How is this for a novel, interesting piece of knowledge.
Tuesday’s feeling is amusement. Silly, harmless fun to create a giggle and shared experience with others around you. What has been the silliest thing that amused you recently? You might even have to stifle a chuckle or two when you recollect that episode. This is the positive emotion we would like to generate and maintain.
Mid-week, let us recall some past accomplishment that can keep us chugging along. Wednesday’s feeling is pride. Pride that creates the desire to keep on dreaming for achievements and the aspiration to reach and attain greater goals. Achievement motivation is the resource that is formed through moments of pride, recognising one’s capability and potential, and daring to dream.
Rounding off the exercise is a familiar face. We have discussed gratitude practices before and this post’s self-care infographic may well be the time to revise some of those activities. The feeling of gratitude inspires the desire to consider new ways of being kind and generous, not only to ourselves but also to the others around us and our environment. Some mindfulness meditation sessions come to a close with a compassion-based script expressing appreciation for self and those around us, animate as well as inanimate. This could be an easy way to complete this baby step. How about sending some compassion and gratitude right now to the clean air we breathe, the fresh water we drink, and the tinge of spring permeating the wintry breeze this spring festival.
To learn more about self-care and how you can start putting yourself first on your priority list, connect for a free 15-minute phone consultation.