The work of Barbara Fredrickson (2001), and other researchers, has told us how important it is to experience positive emotions like joy, hope, pride, amusement, love and gratitude, in order to be more optimistic, resilient, accepting, curious, happier and healthier overall.
When it comes to work, positive emotions have also been found to build better relationships, job satisfaction, and our chances of success (Fredrickson, 2001).
What’s more, positive emotions can undo the negative effects of stress and build our emotional and intellectual resources for the future (Fredrickson, 2001). While our experience of positive emotions can often be short-lived, it appears that just like putting money in the bank, as positive emotions accrue, they have long-lasting effects on our growth and development (Fredrickson, 2001).
Of course, too little and too much of anything can have a negative effect, and the same can be said for positivity. Some researchers therefore have suggested that in order to experience the right amount of positive emotions, we need three positive for every one negative emotion, which is known as the positivity ratio (Fredrickson & Joiner, 2002). Yet unfortunately the majority of us fall short on this…
So how can we increase our experience of positive emotions?
There are many ways, yet one technique I like is positive priming. Positive primers are often short activities that people do to make themselves or others feel good in order to increase their experience of positive emotions. They can be simple e.g. asking someone what the best part of their weekend was on a Monday morning, watching a funny youtube clip or telling a joke at the start of a team meeting.
For me, most recently, I got in the habit of playing music at the start and during the breaks of my university classes. Although I did no formal evaluation of the benefits of this activity, I know from the singing and comments made by the students (“there should be music played during every class”), that they really enjoyed the music, and it put them in a good mood at the start of the class.
Primers in action
It is well known (although the detail is fairly secret) that Positive Psychology has played a huge role in the Tiger’s amazing revival over the past few seasons. We know that a lot of their focus has been on vulnerability (thanks Brene Brown), positivity, and working as a team.
When you watch the Tigers play, you can pretty much see the strength of their mindsets – they don’t throw the toys out of the cot when the going gets tough (I am looking at you Nick Kyrgios) but they remain positive and therefore determined for the majority of the game.
Have a look at this clip from round 15 of the 2018 AFL season. Rather than seeing the players emerging from a pre-third quarter huddle with serious looks to prepare for the second half, they are seen laughing. Jack Higgins was the joke-teller and had been given free reign by the Richmond captain, Trent Cotchin, to perform a short stand-up routine at the half-time break. In fact, rather than giving intense pump-up speeches, the team has opted for humour during every half time break to lighten the mood. And I guess the outcome has been their results, which speak for themselves.
So the next time you find yourself chairing a meeting, starting a class, speech or workshop try and prime your crowd with some positivity – there’s no doubt we all need it!