Before we get on to the positivity ratio, a little background. The sad fact is negativity affects us far more deeply and lasts much longer than positivity. There’s a sticky quality to negativity that is hard to shake off, yet we seem to need both positivity and negativity in our lives in order to function at an optimal level.
Positive emotions are hugely beneficial. Even so we also need a dose of reality to keep us in check. Too much positivity can lead to unrealistic and disappointing outcomes. Here’s an example: Jack is a person who sells the house, invests everything in a business he knows nothing about and then goes broke. Is he stupid? If he knew nothing about the business then yes, Jack was stupid. However, too much negativity reduces our options and distorts the way we see the world. If Jack had known about his business then he was taking a calculated risk and that’s often what pays off. A lack of risk taking constrains us because of anxiety and the prediction of failure or disappointment.
Enter the idea of a positivity ratio. Psychology Professor Barbara Fredrickson argues that positive emotions are a vital component for health and she indicates a tipping point of 3:1. In other words our positivity needs to outweigh our negativity by a proportion of 3-to-1. She says:
Negativity pervades your self-talk and your judgments. It bleeds into exchanges with your kids and your colleagues, eroding goodwill. Making matters worse, negativity breeds health-damaging negative emotions – like anger, contempt, and depression – which seep into your entire body.
So how do we stack the odds in our direction? The good news is there are a host of small things we can change in order to do just that. A small kindness for another person, being out of doors rather than staying in, singing, being involved in something creative, having a coffee and watching the world pass by, sharing time with friends.
The number positive emotions is much more important than their intensity. The more you experience, the more likely it is you develop a platform of positivity from which to grow and develop.
If you are interested in assessing your current positivity score you can take Prof. Fredrickson’s free online test. http://www.positivityratio.com/single.php