Thursday, August 5, 2010

what's your positivity ratio?

Yesterday I was on a webinar called "Boost Your Happiness Through Evidence-Based Activities," and, while it was kind of a cheesetastic hour, there was one exercise I came out of it with that I found interesting and worth sharing.

It's about your positivity ratio.

Think about the last 24 hours. And in the last 24 hours, have you felt any of the following:

You can have felt them a little, moderately, or a lot. (If you only felt them a little, don't count them in this round.)

Total up the number you've felt and put that number aside.

Now think about the last 24 hours again. Have you felt any of these?

Again, you can have felt these a little, moderately, or a lot. (With these, if you felt them a little, they count.)

Take your positive total, and divide it by your negative total. That's your positivity ratio.

The inventor of this test, Dr. Barabara Fredrickson, has research indicating that "a positivity ratio of 3 to 1 is a tipping point. This ratio divides those who merely get by in life from those who truly flourish."

But if you scored below 3-to-1, don't be surprised. More than 80% of U.S. adults fall short of the ideal 3-to-1 ratio. (I did, too, and I consider myself a highly positive person.) Instead of feeling guilt, shame, or stress over these results (because, watch out, you'll have to account for those tomorrow!) why not take interest in what you can do to up your ratio? Why not seek out a poem, a song, or a friend who inspires or amazes you?

You are in charge of where you put your attention. So when you catch yourself in a feeling of anger, frustration, or guilt, take some time to balance that out with some love, amusement, or gratitude. A simple way to approach this is through an exercise where you list five things you're grateful for -- like the comfort of your fluffiest pillow, the crispy, minty taste of your toothpaste, or the support of the people who love you -- and really sit in that gratitude as you move through your day. Similarly, sit down and list things that crack you up -- like the way your sister snorts when she laughs really hard, the way a muppet ends a joke by settling down into its neck, or that cute guy who is ninja funny -- and just sit with the enjoyment of that for a while.

Negative stuff will come and go, and I personally have a harder time keeping the negative feelings at bay than I do redirecting my attention onto the stuff that makes me happy. So this is a good exercise for me, too.

(And in just writing this post I've upped my hope, amusement, inspiration and gratitude quotients for today, so maybe tomorrow I'll have a 3-to-1!)

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