“”Stoking the Positive-Our Future Depends on It”

by Bonni Akalis on December 11, 2008

A recent post in the “Huffinton Post” from Dec 3, 2008 discussed Barack Obama’s political campaign in which he communicated to the American public a feeling of hope and painted the possibility of a better future.  “Even amidst economic crisis and international turmoil, a shared sense of hope lifted and opened people’s hearts, seeding their better dreams.  And with Obama’s decisive win of Nov 4, hope erupted into effusive joy.  For millions of supporters, ‘Yes, we can’ morphed in to ‘Yes, we did’. ”

As we return to our daily routines and lives with all the challenges of paying the bills, work, raising children, etc., the highs will fade.  Millions of Americans are facing homelessness, joblessness and more.
“We need positivity, the complex web of causes and consequences of positive emotions, now more than ever.   Not just to sugarcoat bitter news or distract us from gloom.  We need positivity because we’re different people when we are under it’s influence.”

“Pleasant emotions like hope, inspiration, joy, and well-earned pride litterlally open us up.  As the blinders of negativity fall away, we take in more of what surrounds us.  We see both the forrest and the trees.  We appreciate athe oneness that binds us instead of the barriers that devide us.  Even race becomes irrelevant.”

The research of Barbara Fredrickson and her “Broaden and Build Therory of Positive Emotion” illuminates beautifully the power of positive emotion to engender creative and integrative thinking making hard-to-find solutions and compromises more possible.  With the problems we currently face as a nation, we desperately need expansive thinking.  Thinking broadly helps us to build new thought-action repitoires, build new skills and develop more resliency.  “Even mild positive emotions experienced regularly, set people on discernable trajectories of growth, making them better off next season than they are today.”

Fredrickson suggests that when we expereince emotions in a 3-to1 ratio of positve to negative, we cross a psychological threshold and function at our very best.  The trick is knowing how to cultivate this positve outlook and how to call upon it on a regular basis.  “Tools developed and sharpened by the science of positive psychology allow us to self-generate positivity whenever we choose-even during these trying times.  Indeed, positive emotions are at the heart of what allows people to bounce back from hardship and become stronger than ever.”

“Many of positive psychology’s science-tested tools hinge on the stance we take toward our current circumstances.  Are we truly open to what is?  Do we savor and celebrate the good?  Do we see adversity with clear eyes that resist stoking catastrophe?  Do we connect with others earnestly and with kindness offering up our best selves?  When we adopt these stances, we considerably raise the odds that positive emotions will bloom.”

In order for positve emotions to have a transformational impact, they must be geniunely felt with the full knowledge that they are a feature of moments, not a permanet emotional state.  Forced or fake positivty does more harm than good.  We are looking for realistic, optimistic thinking that leads to heightened sense of possibility.  “Positive emotions fundamentally change our biochemistry and our worldviews.  In time, we can even change who we are-helping us become better versions of ourselves”.  Even though it may seem like we are helpless to control the waves of negative emotions that enter into all our human experiences., we each have much more control than we realize over what we feel and when.  As president -elect Obama has warned, it will most likely get worse before it gets better.  How will we rise to the challenge of indivdually and collectively stoking the the fires of positivity?  The answer will determine to a great degree our futures, both personlly and as a nation.