Nothing conjures up pictures of yellow smiley faces like “positive emotions”, the first pillar in the PERMA model. A lot can be said for positive emotions and their benefits for our wellbeing beyond the present moment. While we all intuitively think to recognise positive emotions when we sense them, they actually come in many shapes, sizes and experiences.
Think about it: You (or your kid or other favourite player) just scored a goal for their team – positive emotions? Sure, what a great feat to celebrate! How about this: You just sent the last email for today and shut down your computer – positive emotions? Sure, a deep sigh and a satisfying sense of achievement!
What are your positive emotions?
Positive emotions are a deeply personal experience. What is positive depends on the person and the context, so there is no clear way to label an emotion as clearly positive or negative. The key: You will know if you like the emotions you experience right now or not – and that is what matters.
So, what are your positive emotions? Familiarise yourself with the many positive emotions you experience every day and pay attention when they occur: Often, it is the small things in life that have the biggest impact. Savour each one of these happy moments and do more of the things that make you smile.
A valuable resource
Your positive emotions matter for your wellbeing and resilience in the moment and in the longer term. They broaden your thought-action repertoire because they can stimulate new ideas, make you try something different, or be more open to engage with others. They can help you build lasting resources for the future based on the new knowledge and skills or relationships you built. They can also help undo some of the effects of negative emotions. So, what’s not to like?
Recognise what’s already there
Having positive emotions is one thing, but what if they seem elusive? Sometimes people then go off to find “happiness” somewhere out there – maybe by buying that new handbag, car or another “thing” – or they wait for “happiness” to find them. Good things come to those who wait, right? In all that waiting and searching, it is easy to miss the likeable emotions we already experience. Recognising a positive emotion that is already here can take much stress out of the quest for positive emotions.
Making positive emotions go further
Now that you recognise positive emotions for what they are, savour them. Take a mindful moment to really sense this emotion. Where in your body do you feel it? How does it feel? If you can, share this experience with others – even if it is just that you finished work for the day! Reliving events through telling others allows you to benefit from the same positive emotions twice (or as many times as you like) and makes them go further. And the good thing: Sharing allows others to enjoy some vicarious positive emotions!
And my personal favourite
My personal favourite for positive emotions: building the character strength of Humour. It is not just about jokes (i.e., humour lower case) but about playfulness and laughter. Need to submit your expense reports today? Turn it into a game: Can you do them faster than last time? What is the weirdest receipt you can find?
Also, the simple act of smiling or laughing can generate positive emotions, even if we need to fake it because it is one of “those” days. Try laughter yoga, smile back when someone smiles at you – even if it’s just through the camera on your zoom call. Positive emotions – big and small – are always around, we just need to make them happen.Expand your understanding of wellbeing and learn about and some positive psychology interventions that boost wellbeing in our ICF-accredited The Science of Wellbeing for Positive Psychology Coaching course – apply to the course today.