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“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.”
Burt Bacharach and Hal David
Jackie DeShannon soulful rendering of this song, written in 1965, transported listeners for a few minutes – to feel lighter, breath easier and to imagine the possibilities of love. In the 1960’s, our nation was just beginning a large shift of consciousness that was felt in vast social, historical and political shifts. As the negative emotion felt by the anger of change grew, some thought that increasing our ability and capacity to love was the answer. However, back then, science had few tools for studying positive emotions like Love. Instead this emotion found expression and calibration through artists and songwriters.
Fast forward to the 21st century: our world still needs more love, more positive emotion expression. Science can now observe and collect clear data on how we express positive emotions like love… the greatest positive emotion. Advances in science give scientists this opportunity - neuroimaging of the brain, as well as the tools of medicine that allow us to measure neural activity and hormone secretion.One of the most exceptional social scientists on the scene today, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a distinguished Professor from the University of North Carolina, has written a compelling, cogent and warm-hearted book, called Love 2.0, How our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything we Feel, Think and Do. A gifted writer, she is able to interpret the hard data experiments that she and other scientists have done on the subject, interpreting and combining it with her own experiences, and at times poetical words to challenge us to consider a new definition of love: she calls it positivity resonance.
Love, she posits, is not just the stuff of lovers/married folks/parents and children…this emotion she renames “positivity resonance” can happen with strangers—even for a few minutes. Dr. Fredrickson’s research show that love is connection and therefore is:
“…The momentary upwelling of three tightly interwoven events: first a sharing of one or more positive emotions between you and another; second, a synchrony between your and the other person’s biochemistry and behaviors; and third, a reflected motive to invest in each other’s well-being that brings mutual care.”
A familiar example of what she describes as a “micro-moment of positivity resonance”: imagine waiting in an airport and casually telling a story with a stranger sitting next to you and, before you both know it you are laughing, even sharing similar life events, feeling lighter, more relaxed. Forgetting that the plane is 2 hours delayed, you are enjoying the brief exchange, where by the way, you not only make the time go faster, meet a kindred soul, but share a few traveling tips as well. That Barbara Fredrickson says is love… or positivity resonance. She has chapter after chapter of describing her own and other’s research showing changes in the brain, vagus nerve, respiration and one’s hormonal level during such positive emotion exchanges which gives proof of how love does indeed calm and connect us with ourselves and others.
So why is this important in living, relating and working?
We now know by Dr. Fredrickson’s own research as well as other research completed by Drs. Marcial Losada in mathematics and John Gottman in marriage – that there is a 3:1 tipping point of positive to negative emotion at which point, when experienced, people begin to flourish. At work that means we then can begin to interact with co-workers creating higher team productivity, smoother communication and more successful client interactions.
This research shows that negative emotion narrows our awareness (“fight or flight”) and positive emotion broadens our perspective (“calming and connecting”) which results in more creative thinking and some studies show, a higher IQ after interacting with someone in a positive way.
In the workplace, this could mean: creative breakthroughs, more flexible problem solving, and increased resilient behavior that allows for a broader array of skills to deal with difficulty, disappointment and loss. Dr. Fredrickson describes this as the ability of positive resonance to “unlock collective brainstorming power.” She even outlines a meditation practice that leads you to “re-designing your job around love.”
The book also gives myriad resources and tools on practices to increase positive emotion, particularly borrowing from the Tibetan tradition of Loving Kindness meditation.
She has crafted a most informative website: www.positivityresonance.com which offers tools, videos and a series of mp3 meditations, in her own voice, that you can practice and a few from some more famous meditation masters like Sharon Salzberg. As we strive to increase our positive emotion so that we can move toward flourishing in our work and life, Dr. Fredrickson’s book is a must read.
Love, 2.0, Barbara L. Fredrickson, PH.D, Hudson Street Press, 2013
www.Positivityresonace.com – Dr. Fredrickson’s website on Love 2.0 that has many tools and meditations available for listening.
Fredrickson, B.L., Losada, M.F., “Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing” American Psychologist, October 2005. This article is available on a Google search.
Gottman, John. Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last, Simon and Schuster. 1994
Research shows that when we can maintain a ratio of 3 (positive emotion) : 1 (negative emotion) in the work place we show up more able to make and maintain productive relationships, have more effective team interactions and more successful client interactions. Maintaining this ratio is challenging given the negative bias of negative emotions on the brain: we are biologically hard wired to pay more attention to negative emotion. Often stated: positive emotion is like “teflon” on the brain and negative emotion more like “velcro” on our brains.
So what to do?
These resources offer brilliant ways to practice increasing positive emotions and thinking to get to the tipping point each day at work of 3:1:
Barbara Fredrickson, Positivity, Three Rivers Press, 2009: This book, now available in paperback, is written by an award winning social scientist. Dr. Fredrickson not only explains her research but gives poignant examples from her own life of how she maintains positivity. The book also lists exercises and methods to practice daily to maintain the 3:1 ratio at work and in life. Also, check out Dr. Fredrickson’s website: www.positivityratio.com to test your positivity ratio each day.
Lynn Johnson, Enjoy LIfe: Healing with Happiness-available on his website and on Amazon. The subtitle of this book is: How to harness positive moods to raise your energy, effectiveness and joy. Dr Johnson gives really practical suggestions to maintain the positivity ratio as well as clear descriptions of relevant social science research.
Barbara Fredrickson and Marcel Losada, “Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing”, American Psychologist, October 2005. For those interested in reading the research data.
Martin Seligman, Flourishing and Authentic Happiness. Dr. Seligman is considered the Father of Positive Psychology. He is a must read if you are interested in studying Positive Psychology and applying the findings to your own life. He posits that in order to flourish in life (and to increase positive emotion) we need: Positive relationships, Engagement or flow, Relationships/social connnections, Meaning or Purpose and Accomplishment in our lives.
“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.”
The holiday card that the Perla Group sent out this year states:
During this season of gratitude and celebration,
we acknowledge those who have made our
success possible. In this spirit, we say thank you.
May peace be with you and yours
in this coming year, as well as a prayer for our world.
Yes, indeed it is the season of celebration: Celebrating the past year, our successes and accomplishments, what we cherish and hold dear—what gives meaning to our lives. Not only acknowledging these successes is key, however, taking time to express thanks is most crucial.
Who has not seen the movie, “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and (my favorite) Danny Kaye? It is one elaborate production of song and dance and GRATITUDE. The two army buddies take time from their holiday gigs to remember a general who lead them during their wartime experiences and who inspired them to move through life with courage and grace. You may not go through the bother of renting a Vermont Inn to express thanks and gratitude to someone this season, however, think about taking time to formally express thanks to someone who you appreciate.
Research in positive psychology is demonstrating that the habitually grateful among us are happier than those who are not. Now there is a reason to express gratitude each day: you might wind up feeling and being a happier person.
What workplace would not be lighter and happier if colleagues formally expressed thanks for a job well done or for a gesture of kindness? I can still remember a memo that a colleague of mine wrote back in 1984 to my superior commenting on how my service to the hospital unit was a valuable asset to his staff. Completely unsolicited, and yet, it added incredible support and encouragement to my sense of professional esteem. A gesture I treasure and still remember to this day.
Take away: One of the most powerful positive psychology exercises is the Gratitude Letter. This exercise asks you to think of someone, parents, teachers, employers, teammates, etc., who have been kind to you but who never heard you express your gratitude. Write a letter of gratitude, describing in concrete terms why you are grateful. Delivering the letter in person and having the person read the letter in your presence delivers the most powerful experience. Mailing or faxing the letter and following it up with a phone call can be an alternative and as moving. Expressing your gratitude in words and actions not only boosts your own positive emotion but those of the recipient as well. In this process, we not only reinforce their kindness but also positively strengthen the bond of the relationship.
McCullough, M.E., Kilpatrick, S.D., Emmons, R.A. & Larson, D.B. “Gratitude as moral affect.” Psychological Bulletin, 127, 249-266.
Peterson, Christopher. A Primer in Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press, 2006.
Selgman, Martin. Authentic Happiness. Free Press, 2002.
“Positive emotions are not trivial luxuries, but instead might be critical necessities for optimal functioning.”
— Barbara Fredrickson
Positive Psychology is the study of what makes us flourish and what makes life worth living. I attended the 2nd Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital’s “Coaching in Medicine and Leadership” Conference which was held on September 25 and 26 2009. This conference had many scholars speaking on new research in positive psychology. Unlike traditional psychology which, in the past explored pathology and treatment – Positive Psychology focuses on optimal performance and ways to enhance the lives of ordinary and extraordinary people. Positive Psychology is the theory that underlies the field of coaching. Coaches explore ways and create conditions to contribute to their client’s flourishing and optimal performance.
Take away: A Positive Psychology exercise suggested by Martin Seligman, PhD, a leader in the field: At the end of the day, think of 3-4 things that you are grateful for that happened during the day AND ask yourself how did you contribute to making that good thing happen?
“Positive Psychology- Science at the Heart of Coaching.” Carol Kauffman, PhD, Coaching in Medicine and Leadership, Harvard Coaching Conference, September 2009.
Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman. Simon and Schuster, 2002.
Positivity, Barbara Fredrickson, 2009
These blogs will offer three things: an inspirational quote that seeks to inspire you, the reader; second, a teaching or strategy which will intend to broaden and build a set of skills or resources that can positively serve you in your work life; and, thirdly a take away: a practical tip to help you see that there is more than one way to do it as you are learning to be and show up as your best self each day in your work and life.
A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.
Common sense may tell us that when we are calm and experiencing positive emotions, we show up as more intelligent. However, haven’t you had a time when you looked back on your life and remembered something that you did when you were scared and angry? Then later, this action seemed really dumb? Certainly we can all recall a lot of these “What was I thinking?” incidents. So, how to cultivate these positive emotions to move toward being our creative and intelligent “best” especially in the work place?
Psychologists now believe that there are three core positives feelings: compassion (a feeling of understanding of others coupled with a desire to help), curiosity, delight and joy. Love, the magical combination of all three, is the greatest positive feeling. And, any of these positive emotions stimulate positive thought: creativity, insight and peace - which leads to our best thinking.
How do we make these shifts into positive emotion? What do we look for when asking ourselves for the highest and best way to deal with a challenge? For example, we might ask: Is there another way to feel, do or respond to this situation?
The key here is that the answer to this question often comes from inside of ourselves. There is an old Sufi (a Persian mystical sect) story about this. It seems that Nasrudin was seen madly riding his donkey from one side of town to the other, searching for something. Finally the people in the town stopped him and asked, “Mullah Nasrudin what are you looking for?”
“My donkey” was the frantic reply.
Take away: Like Nasrudin in this story, we often race around looking for answers outside of ourselves. Sometimes the answers may not come as we expect. Yet, when we listen to ourselves and, at the same time, shift into positive emotion; this is often the time when we have the most insight and creativity. Yes, we all have untapped wisdom within. Look for it there.
Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD Positivity, Crown Publishers, 2009
Lynn D. Johnson, PhD “Activate your frontal lobes: One Minute to Increased Intelligence and Creativity” email@example.com. 1999-2004
Chris Peterson, A Primer in Positive Psychology, Oxford Press, 2006
Martin Seligman, Flourish, Free Press, 2011