The word “positivity” has been around for over 350 years, yet many people think it’s not a real word. It’s interesting to note that “positivity” is not as popular as its (much younger) sister word, “negativity.” While most people understand, what negativity means, there are still some who don’t fully understand the meaning of the word positivity. Nor do they comprehend the transformational effect it can have on their lives.
So what exactly is positivity and how can it benefit you? First off you should know that, although positivity is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, “the quality or state of being positive,” it is NOT the equivalent of Pollyanna in rose-colored glasses. Positivity is not naiveté but rather a determined decision to choose positive emotions over negative emotions, even at times when life’s circumstances may be less than favorable.
Recent studies in Positive Psychology point out that there are many research-backed benefits of positivity. These benefits are experienced when we consciously choose to upgrade our emotions, from negative to positive, regardless of the challenges which daily life may bring. In doing so, we also choose the life enhancing, wellness promoting, benefits of positivity over the life draining, illness inflicting, detriments of negativity.
Is it truly that simple? Do we really have a choice in our reaction to life’s stressors? Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, would argue that it truly is. He stated,
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedom—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Although Frankl’s stimulus and response concept may sound simple, applying it in real life is not always easy. In fact, it takes practice and persistence. First of all you have to learn how to quickly snatch up that space between the stimulus and the response and then you have to make the conscious effort to choose the higher leveled response. Is it worth the effort? You bet! In choosing the more positive response, you’ll learn to more often avoid the life draining high price tag of perpetual negativity.
For example, if someone cuts you off on the freeway, you can choose to honk your horn and yell at the other driver. Will that really do any good? Some may argue that it makes them feel better to let off steam. However in doing so, they may also find an increase in their stress hormones and a rise in their blood pressure; both of which take a toll on their health and wellness.
It’s no secret that negative emotions, like anger, frustration, fear and depression can be detrimental to wellbeing. These emotions are part of the human experience, however, if allowed to go unchecked (and unbalanced by positive emotions), negative emotions can literally zap your physical and mental wellness, causing ulcers, high blood pressure, sore/tight muscles, immune system challenges and a host of other physical health issues. If we let them, negative emotions can also affect our mental wellness. They can sour your self-talk, sabotage your confidence, drain your energy, squelch your productivity, stifle your creativity and damage your relationships (just to name a few).
Positivity, on the other hand, can have the exact opposite effect. It can help you have more self-compassion, build your confidence, renew your energy, increase your productivity, inspire more creativity, and strengthen your relationships. Consciously choosing positive emotions has the power to uplift your mood, attract more friends, bring you more joy and brighten your outlook on life. Research also indicates that positivity can have a positive effect on your physical wellbeing.
If negativity has been your downfall, be assured that you are normal. Negativity-bias is a real thing and it’s something every human being must deal with. The good news is, no matter where you are on the positivity/negativity scale, you can always set the intention to improve your positivity skills.
It’s true that word “positivity” has been around for centuries but the transformational effects of choosing positive emotions have been around since the beginning of time! Is it time to adopt a little more transformational positivity into YOUR daily life?