I recently had the incredible privilege of attending a lecture by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson. She’s one of the world’s most prolific and esteemed academics in the field of positive psychology.
I barely maintained my composure as I got to listen to her share her groundbreaking findings about the clinically measurable impacts of positive emotion on numerous health and longevity indicators.
It’s the kind of stuff I’ve viscerally felt to be true, but has, in popular awareness, been relegated to the realm of “woo woo” pseudoscience or snowflakey wishful thinking for far too long.
Here are some of the top takeaways from her research:
1. Willpower does not work as a strategy to sustain long term behavior change (what a relief to finally be able to say that out loud)
2. What DOES work instead is pairing the target behavior with a positive emotion in real time
3. This also explains why shame, guilt, and inadequacy are not effective long term motivators (and thus why I nearly failed middle school P.E.)
4. Experiencing positive emotions actually changes gene expression that modulates the immune system, oxidative stress, aging, and more
5. Positive emotion significantly increases creativity, curiosity, and social connection
All of this ultimately means:
Feeling good is good for you.
(Not the hedonistic, addictive type of “good” feeling, but the kind of good feeling that accompanies love, joy, gratitude, and delight. The Greeks call this “eudaimonia.”)
I fervently believe that we’ve already extracted as much individual and collective productivity as we can by means of fear, guilt, pressure, and shame. The multigenerational toll of all that chronic stress is now coming due for our entire society.
The next frontier, and the only place left for us to grow and heal, is in the context of positive emotion – from a place of love, kindness, acceptance, compassion, and joy.
Consider this your doctor-approved permission slip to finally step off the suffering train, folks.