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Positive Emotions in a Negative World

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

Watching the news these days is a recipe for worry and anxiety and in extreme cases major depressive disorder. My son calls it 'bad news' whenever it's tuned in, and he's only 4.

So what impact is it having on his world view?

Television stations have focused all the more on ending their news casts with positive stories, in the hope that their audience will be left with at least one positive emotion, and will subsequently return again to watch the following day. Unfortunately, the negative may have already done its damage, and further strengthened the negative neural pathways in the brain. Maybe if stations utilised the theory of it taking 3-5 positive emotions to balance out a single negative, they'd have a better chance of accomplishing this.

Organisations and the individuals within have become riddled with a 'fixing' mindset, fuelled by constant problem solving and endless change. We've become entities of reactivity and this too is contributing to the negative space in which we now find ourselves immersed . Our 'rest and digest system' (the parasympathetic nervous system) is not being activated nearly often enough to counteract the sympathetic nervous system dominance (SNSD) we are facing. SNSD sends a flurry of stress hormones (IE cortisol and adrenalin) throughout our brains and our bodies, correspondingly affecting our performance and our well-being.

All of these elements are having a detrimental impact on our outlook, our behaviour and our health. Fortunately, by taking a few practical measures, we can begin to approach each day with clarity and optimism and pull ourselves off of the hedonic treadmill.

Positive Approaches To Employ Each Day

  1. Create opportunities for positive emotion. Positive emotions can include gratitude, serenity, interest, intrigue, inspiration, awe, love, amusement and the like. These positive emotions not only make us feel good in the moment, they offer an 'upward spiral' of positivity that contribute to resilience, optimism and hope. How often are you getting to experience these emotions each day?

  2. Introduce the magic of the 6 second exhalation. This kicks your parasympathetic nervous system into gear, releasing positive hormones/neurotransmitters like dopamine and oxytocin. These offer you a sense of feeling in control, a sense of calm and a balanced perspective.

  3. Challenge your negativity bias. Whilst we are naturally inclined to respond with our limbic systems 'fight or flight' mode to threats, challenges and fear, we have a choice. Revel in the space between the stimulus and your response; according to Viktor Frankl, it provides us with an opportunity 'to choose our response & in that response lies our growth and our freedom'. Reframe the negativity into positive or perhaps get curious about it. Ask yourself if this emotion will serve you?

  4. Connect with others. We can isolate ourselves in our 'doing modes' and neglect to have any meaningful conversations throughout the day. Make the time for these conversations. Social well-being is a win-win and the time you dedicate to nurturing your relationships will be time well spent.

  5. Movement in the morning. I used to say I wasn't a morning person, but in my wise old age they've come to represent the most cherished part of my day. I've been active in my mornings alternating with sunrise runs, morning yoga and will soon start swimming again. Words cannot describe the energy and positive perspective this has offered. It means getting a good nights sleep (which we all know is imperative) and applying self-care ~ which we all need on so many levels. Personally, there wasn't another time that worked, and now, I wouldn't change it for any other time of day!

In a world where it's natural to focus on and be consumed by the negative, life is so much richer when you choose positive. Positive emotions are a platform for opportunity, connection and unlimited potential. Whilst all emotions should be recognised, we don't want to get trapped in the negative ones; by changing your approach, you can change your day and potentially your world. Choose positive, it's worth the effort.

Kirsten works with individuals, teams and organisations to help them develop their potential through constructs in psychology & neuroscience. Contact her today to arrange a confidential discussion about your future.

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