Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Director of the Social Psychology Doctoral Program and the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory, President-Elect, International Positive Psychology Association Kenan-Flagler School of Business
Okay, I'd like you to just reflect for a moment.
Have you ever known somebody to overdo positivity?
Like how can you tell?
What does it, what does it look like?
What does it make you feel?
>> I feel like, you can,
I usually try to tell if someone is being genuine in their positivity, and
I think that's when I can tell, is that when someone is trying to overdo it, is.
You, you can't really fake that expression of happiness.
You know? It's,
when it comes from an authentic place you can just sense it right away.
>> Yeah. >> But if it seems a little forced and
over done, you start to wonder, you know, is that real?
And why are you, why are you faking it?
And you start to wonder is
there some other motive that this person is expressing.
You know positivity towards me but
I feel like it's one of those things you just kind of know.
>> Just kind of a gut sense.
>> Yeah. >> Yeah, yeah.
>> We have counsellors at in schools in training.
When they're always happy the kids are just not attracted to them,
you know what I mean?
They seem just unrealistic.
>> Right. >> And again I think your point about
being genuine is really hits home in terms of have an appropriate positive outlook.
>> [CROSSTALK] Yeah, yeah, all emotion, I mean, I like to say,
you know, no emotion was built to last forever, not even the ones that feel good.
You know, emotions come and go.
And so if people wear them as if they're a uniform.
>> Or a veneer then, you know, that's, it's off-putting.
So this is one of the places where I feel like, you know,
a little knowledge about positive psychology is a dangerous thing.
>> [LAUGH] >> Because people will take that
positive psychology like oh, I gotta be happy.
And be like [NOISE] I'm going to be happy.
So and I actually think that one of the challenges in
working in this area is trying to figure out where's that authenticity,
where is it wishful thinking positive emotion or what,
what I sometimes call eyes closed positivity versus eyes opened positivity.
You know this, this eyes closed positivity is like you know,
I'm going to feel happy no matter what, and you know,
I think one of the tell tail markers is that it really stays above the neck.
You know, it's really you know, just what you see on the face you know,
because a face is one of the easiest things for us to control.
It's just, you know, kind of sits in people's minds as a,
as a verbal mantra, I am happy, I am happy, I am happy.
You know, but it's not.
The eyes open positivity is really and embodied experience, it's not just sitting
up here, it's, you know it's dripping down and influencing the body as well.
And as it does it makes you more relaxed and
it makes you, you be more at ease and, and that's what puts other people at ease.
So, there's a way in which you know, the,
one of the difficulties was, as people learn more and
more about the benefits of positive emotions, people are like, I want that.
I want that benefit.
[LAUGH] You know, and
then they kind of there's ways to bring it on skillfully and less skillfully.
So that's, you know, part of the, the lesson of,
of part of this series is trying to figure out you know, when is it more authentic.
When is it you know maybe a, a bad strategy.
And, and, I like to say that you know when you learn about positive psychology.
It's not helpful to make your mantra, be positive.
I'm going to be positive no matter what.
You know one thing that I think is more useful is to make your mantra, be open,
you know to, because there's all kinds of goodness in our daily experience.
We just have to be open to it, we don't have to force anything.
So it's a matter of you know kind of having that open
readiness to kind of capitalize on the good things that we discover.
So and yet there's a, there's another proverb ancient Sufi proverb that I
think is really important to touch base with to, is that.
There wouldn't be such a thing as counterfeit gold if there were no
real gold somewhere.
You know, so we can kind of see by all the kind of
forced positivity in our midst that, well, the real positivity must be good,
because people are trying to fake it [LAUGH] this much, so.
You know, there's, there's a connection between those two but you, you know,
we don't, we don't want to be fooled by the, by the, by the counterfeit gold.
As one example of kind of
a down side of people taking positive, the news of positive psychology.
A little too firmly in their grasp is there's a,
there's ways in which people can value happiness to the extreme.
And there's some measures of this that I think if you read the items,
you'll get a sense for what this means.
There's a, there's a scale that's used in research that asks people things like
how happy I am at any given moment says a lot about how worthwhile my life is.
Or if I don't feel happy, maybe there is something wrong with me.
Or I would like to feel happier than I generally am.
I am concerned about my happiness even when I feel happy.
[LAUGH] You know, so,
you can see that these are you know, kind of taking it a little bit too seriously.
And, and, and if we go back to that model of emotion,
that I shared with you earlier.
There's a way in which, you know, these sort of values, valuing happiness to
an extreme is, is, in a way people are trying to change the way they feel.
It's like they're, they're taking their way of getting to happiness and
being like okay, I'm going to feel happy right now.
And just trying to, kind of, strong arm themselves into that.
What we found is in our research lab and this especially comes out of one of my
former doctoral students, Lana Catalino's work, is that if, if people want to be
happy but they put their eyes over at this end on their circumstances and prioritize.
Parts of their day where they might have the chance to
experience positive emotions, that that's a much more effective way to bring more
positive emotions into daily life.
Rather than try to strong arm the feeling you focus instead on
prioritizing circumstances that you know from your past experience are going to be
ones that lead people to experience more positive emotions.
I want to just share with you some items from our scale that measures this,
so you can get a feel for the differences.
A priority for me is experiencing happiness in everyday life.
I look for and nurture my positive emotions.
What I decide to do with my time outside of work is influenced by
how much I might experience positive emotions.
And so, and I admire people who make their decisions based on
the happiness that they will gain.
So, you know, it kind of has a,
a whole different feeling about of it compared to the other scale.
And it kind of reminds me of there's this Dolly Parton quote, you know.
>> Mm-hm. >> We can cite our famous country singers.
Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.
You know, so it's about you know, kind of getting our eyes,
setting our priorities not just on the many things on our to-do lists that
are often about achievement and you know, meeting obligations.
That some of the things on our to-do lists should be about enjoyment.
You know, and, and
that people who do have to-do lists that have enjoyment on them fair better.
So just take a moment to think about one or two ways that, you know,
in your daily routine you already prioritize positivity or
could prioritize positivity as part of your daily routine.
>> Well I start my morning with affirmations.
It starts as I go into the shower.
And sometimes I'm stuck in the shower because I'm just going over them.
There's like 30 or 40 of them that I say, I memorize.
>> Yeah so, that takes me, you know, to another state.
>> But affirmations are very important to me.
>> Yeah. >> Yeah.
>> Yeah, that's a great ritual.
>> Mm. >> In terms of, again, prioritizing is,
is a key part of your everyday routine.
So one of the things we've learned is that we've given these scales to large samples
of people this valuing happiness to an extreme and, and prioritizing positivity.
And what we find is that people who score high on prioritizing positivity,
no surprise, they have more positive emotions in their day.
They also have higher life satisfaction reduced depressive symptoms.
They have more resources.
They are more resilient.
they're, they also happen to be people who are better able to
express appreciation and build better relationships.
And when we give them behavioral tasks in the lab we find they are willing to
put in more effort to experience something good.
Like they'll work to, you know, will work for positive feelings.
And when they have something good in front of them as part of you know, so
that, that they can choose to do, they choose to linger with it longer.
So, behaviorally they're more likely to savor.
And they, if we ask them what's on deck for
Sunday, they name more pleasant things that are on deck for Sunday.
Whereas by contrast, people who value happiness to an extreme.
It actually chases happiness away.
I mean people report fewer positive emotions in daily life when we check in
with them on a daily basis.
They are actually ironically feeling fewer positive emotions.
They have lower life satisfaction and are more likely to have depressive symptoms.
So again, how people approach
trying to get more happiness into their day is a, is a delicate art.
An, another thing that they show is more loneliness.
Other people's work has shown that people who are valuing happiness to
an extreme don't have the same kind of connections as others.
And one of the reasons I raise this is that I don't think this is
a personality trait.
I think this is like an attitude that you can
develop just as you learn more about the science of positive psychology.
Oh, wow, if positive emotions do all this, I'm going to make that a priority.
So it's not something that's like, changing your personality.
It's just changing what's on your to-do list or what's on your list for
the weekend or, you know, that, those kinds of things.
So it's actually what has inspired me to write books for a general audience.
Because this is something that I think can change really readily for people.
Is the degree to which they, they,
people choose to prioritize positivity in, in daily life.
>> I'd say also it just feels good.
>> Yeah. I know.
>> You want things to feel good.
>> Mm-hm. >> Exactly.
>> Mm-hm. >> To enjoy-
>> You know, we can get so caught up in thinking oh, what do I gotta do?
What do I gotta achieve?
>> Exactly. >> What, what do I have to do so, so
nobody gets upset with me?
You know, when, you know, really, we're alive.
>> We should, we should enjoy it.
And then actually, people would want to spend more time with us if we're
bringing positivity in their day and
trying to creating opportunities for other people to feel good too.
>> Hm. >> It sounds like
appropriate expectations of that'll bring too.
That if you have this huge expectations but
if you just notice the slow moments that maybe
if you have too high of expectations you might not be able to create what you want.
>> Right. >> And some of those folks-
>> Right. >> That are really just
trying to make it happen.
>> Right. >> Well, and
also in, in prioritizing a part of your day like,
I'm going to go go out for a run or do something else with a friend.
You know, you, you, you make your choices in setting up this situation, but
you're not kind of forcing yourself to feel a particular way
when that experience is unfolding.
Then you just go in and experience it in a more natural and easy way.
But you've kind of, you know, you've set the parameters by putting yourself in this
situation that you know is going to potentially lead to some good.
>> I'm reminded of that quote, "Youth is wasted on the young."
>> [LAUGH] >> Because they're open.
>> Yeah. >> You know, when you think about
the elementary or middle school, they're open to all of this, and as we get older,
sometimes the parameters, whether it's from work,
the boundaries from personal relationships, and we close up.
>> Yeah. >> Versus being open to everything.
>> Yeah, right, right.
>> And being playful.
>> Right. >> Mm-hm.
>> So just having that kind of, you know,
bringing that youthful attitude into, into our daily lives now.
>> Yeah. >> Yeah, I find that it's a big
thing encouraging people to just bring more play into their lives.
Because we've all kind of learned that it's not appropriate to be silly or
we don't want to be able to be judged by people so
just to intentionally bring in playful attitude and realize that we don't have
to wait to get everything done before we bring in the pleasure or the positivity.
That it actually makes everything else that much more rich.
>> Right, right.
And, you know, one mistake that people make is like,
oh I'll enjoy myself on vacation.
[LAUGH] Or on the weekend.
You know, instead of as part of this life today.
Yeah, great example.
The concept of the positivity ratio can be quite practical.
Your experiential assignment for
this week is to take what I call the positivity ratio challenge.
Just live your life as usual and take the online positivity self-test each
evening for several days to see where you stand.
I created the website to go along with my first book,
Positivity, to help you do just that.
Then, once you've come to appreciate where you stand,
come up with new ways to raise your ratio.
Either by reducing negativity, increasing positivity, or both.
Plus, keep taking the positivity self test as you begin to enact these changes in
your daily life so that you can gage their effectiveness.
Overtime, does your ratio improve?
Does your outlook improve?
Does your resourcefulness and resilience improve?
My challenge to you is to take the ideas of this course and
begin experimenting with them in your own life.
That's when positive psychology will truly come alive for you.