Increasing Positive Emotions

By Danielle Siegel, PCC, LCSW.  It’s the Thursday of Fleet Week in San Francisco, which means the Blue Angels have literally just begun their practice flights throughout the city. I have lived in San Francisco for 20 years and this happens annually. Each year, hearing and seeing them fly overhead, I become a child again experiencing both joy and awe. When I heard them flying a few minutes ago, and while watching a plane fly sideways over my house, I was thinking about what to write for this blog. What better to write about than positive emotions while I am feeling them (although I have to own that I am extremely distracted because I want to run outside each time they fly over…).

According to positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, people feel and do their best when they experience at least three times as many positive emotions as negative ones. 

Here are ten positive emotions that we experience:

  1. Joyful: to feel happy, glad, lighthearted, pleased
  2. Grateful: being thankful and appreciative
  3. Peaceful: being at ease, relaxed, serene (a very loud, fast plane just flew overhead; peaceful is definitely not a feeling I am experiencing right now!)
  4. Interested: being engaged and attentive
  5. Hopeful: expecting good things
  6. Proud: feeling confident, accomplished, satisfied
  7. Amused: acting playful, silly, being humorous and fun-loving
  8. Inspired: being creative, uplifted
  9. Amazed: feeling awe, being part of something bigger than ourselves
  10. Loving/loved: being compassionate, caring or kind

Here are three tips for increasing your positive emotions:

  1. Identify and track them. Keep a positive emotions journal or a “treasure chest of positive emotions.” What were you doing? Who were you with? What was the experience?
  2. Focus on a specific positive emotion and act to increase it. 
  3. Re-read the positive emotions you have been tracking or keeping in your treasure chest when you need a boost.

Once Danielle comes back inside from gazing at the Blue Angels, she’ll happily discuss with you how to increase the positive emotions in your life!