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Boosting your Health through Positivity

Boosting your Health through Positivity

By Suzi Skinner

Positivity in all aspects of life leaves people feeling happier and healthier. Having just completed a week long immersive training program in the US with a group of incredible coaching peers, I can certainly vouch for its benefits! Feeling happier and healthier holds true whether you happen to be the one exhibiting positivity, or the one receiving it. For example, expressing gratitude has been associated with increased wellbeing. Further there is now a lot of evidence highlighting that positive emotions are linked with human flourishing. So it comes as a welcome development that researchers looking at positivity have continued to contribute to the growing evidence base in this area.

The work of Barbara Fredrickson (1998,2001) provides the theoretical background for the many of these insights. Her ‘broaden and build’ theory regarding positive emotion has been research proven to result in two key outcomes:

  • firstly positive emotions enable us to broaden our thinking and creativity;
  • secondly they enable us to build psychologically meaningful skills and resources that contribute to our overall wellbeing and resilience.

Not surprisingly researchers have also found that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing when it comes to positivity. Positive emotion has been shown to have positive impact up to a point and this newer frame of positivity and negativity of emotion represents a new frontier for investigation. How much positivity is too much? And what is the relationship with negative emotion?

One aspect of this research highlights that we cannot eliminate negative emotion however there are very simple actions we can take to increase the balance of positivity that people experience. A simple technique is found in simply asking more questions. Inquiry versus advocacy has been shown to engender positive emotion in the person being asked. To this end, researchers Fullagar and Kelloway (2012) noted that increasing both the frequency and length of time experiencing positive emotion had a positive impact on both physical and mental health.

So whilst there is debate in the literature about the actual ratios of positivity, the benefits of positive emotion on mental health remain, with higher being better, within bounds (Fredrickson 2013).

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