Positivity…More Than Just A Smiley Face

Positive emotion and affect have evolved within us because they have been so important for our ongoing survival, especially the great bursts of growth in evolution and culture. If positivity were not so very important, it would by natural selection become less and less as we have evolved.

To the contrary, positive emotion has become increasingly important to the survival of the species. Positive emotion has remained around precisely because it is the creative source of ongoing evolution. Negativity and fight-flight is a warning system that has kept us protected, but it is the positive emotional states that are responsible for unfolding, ongoing creation.

Here is the short case for positivity.

You either live most of the time in an UpSpiral of positivity, in a DownSpiral of negativity, or, like most people, yo-yoing up and down. The goal in our work is very simple. It is to enable you to get you into an UpSpiral and its benefits, and to get you to keep you there, at a high level of “feeling good,” most of the time.

We aren’t aiming for bliss or ecstasy; just “feeling good” most all of the time. You will learn how to manage and have great agility over positivity in such a way that you will develop positive emotional muscle and have a mastery over the use of positive emotion. Do the work and the work will work for you.

Here are just a few of the benefits of positive emotions from the recognizied research in the field.

Positive emotion enlarges the scope of attention. It broadens your personal access to strengths and increases your choice of options and behavior from your own larger repertoire. Negativity creates a sense of being trapped with no choices because it narrows focus and attention. Positive emotion increases intuition and creativity. Positive emotion changes our body systems and increases immune system response.

Positive affect predicts good mental and physical health outcomes. It is predictive of increased happiness, stronger resilience to the negative, psychological growth and lower levels of cortisol, as well as reduced inflammation in response to stress. Positive emotion is correlated with resistance to sinus infections and reductions in stroke. Positivity predicts how long people will live.

Positive affect means that you will solve problems more easily, be more creative, and have greater access to the higher functions of strengths and to their range. People stronger in positive emotion score higher on every test of well-being, every test of life satisfaction, and there is increase of healthy functioning at a cellular level.

And the list could go on and on.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Laura M Sparks

    Practicing the Emotional Gym by pulsing positive emotions has been effective for me. Just in my short time doing this course I have noticed how feeling these emotions on demand has enhanced my daily productivity. When I’m on the UpSpiral I accomplish more, feel better, and am more attuned to my surroundings. I think it is interesting to learn about how a negative feeling is a signal that we need to stop and use the pulsing. When we use the emotional pulsing we can lift ourselves out of the negativity and move on to a more positive outlook.

  • Sheila

    I have always believed myself, for the most part to be a positive person. I have instinctively understood flow and that when it is present in my life, magical things happen. Up until this course though, I had no idea how to harness it……

    I have ebbed in and out of flow for quite a while now, thinking it more random and not realising that it is actually there for the taking and that I had a choice in the matter.

    More recently I have been swimming upstream, not feeling in flow, finding in fact, that my world has become much smaller and me with it……interestingly and not unsurprisingly my health and physical/mental/emotional stamina has been adversely affected and while I have always believed in the mind body connection, to have seen it take such a toll has been quite a shock.

    I definitely know how I got here, I have just been struggling with how to get back to more of who I used to be.

    Now, though, I realise that not only can I get back, I can be even better than before……all I have to do is choose…..and do the work, of course!

    I want to thank Dr Johnson and Dr Larkin for their remarkable work.

    Just a few weeks of being introduced to this has given me hope, encouragement and a feeling of empowerment. I am eternally grateful.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    Well, we know through research, and hopefully through experience, that being positive is good for us. Most of us know that having positive thoughts are good. Add to that the information that feeling good is also important. Now all we have to do to do is be positive, right? You may have to work at it until it becomes the norm.

    Why? A zillion reasons: lower blood pressure, more energy, happier, more resilient, better problem solving, more fulfilling relationships, more creative, better mental and physical health, less illness, less depression, more optimism and longevity…. Sold – for the price of self-monitoring, discipline, commitment and perseverance. But isn’t it worth it?

    And again, I say, “Watch the company you keep.” It’s easier to be positive when you hang out with positive people. Naysayers will slip those zingers into the soup.

    Who makes you laugh? Who makes you giggle? Who shifts your perspective? Seek their company.

  • Echo Macdonald

    For all the reasons already mentioned, I understand the positive benefits of living in the Upspiral mode. I have found it a challenge to master the inclusion of positivity and pulsing into all of life’s challenging moments. I do see a benefit in the retreat from negativity and the pulsing of one’s thoughts and feelings toward positive emotions. If we have the misfortune of living with others who immerse themselves in the negative mindset, it’s difficult to make the switch to positivity, like swimming upstream against the tide. I’m still taking baby steps forward.

  • Eddy Macdonald

    The title of this article really resonates with me, as a smiley face is an external symbol of a positive emotion, and what you are helping your students and clients to learn is that emotions start inside, not outside.

    Through this work, I’m finding I can feel when I dip below a fifty on the UpSpiral. I’m gaining insight into my emotional triggers, and also gaining confidence in my ability to slingshot back where I want to be. I’m noticing that my perception of interactions with others is subtly changing – that I’m aware of how much what I perceive is said has more to do with where I am in the UpSpiral and perhaps less to do with what they said. I’m noticing that I am somewhat addicted to negative neurochemicals, and that often after enjoying a prolonged state of living in the UpSpiral, I self-sabotage into a down spiral. My head feels…different. Parts of my brain feel more awake or alive. I’m having a harder time falling asleep than usual. I like these changes, because to me it means that the process of learning and growing is happening!

    • Laura M Sparks

      Hey Eddy:)
      I’m having a harder time falling asleep too! It’s like my brain is more awakened…Harder to slow it down being in the UpSpiral. A good thing, but annoying to not be able to sleep!

  • Kalah Vaughan

    Wow the benefits of positive motions listed is a gift that keeps on giving. I have had to grow over the years to have a positive mindset. When something happens out of the blue,sometimes just need to put a positive spin on it and move forward. It wasn’t always like this, before I used to play the victim card when life threw a curve ball.

    The up spiral score and emotional score is a great way to measure where my mindset is on that given day. If I have a lower score in the 60’s I understand throughout the day that my realsilantsy my not be as quick to bounce back that day, However I now get that the next day may be a completely different story. I am learning that we all have ups and downs with our scores. But building up an understanding over time will help me make the down swings become smaller and smaller. My goal is to live in the 80+ score with a nice consistent line of positiveness.

  • Yvette Gauff

    ”… positive emotion has become increasingly important to the survival of the species. Positive emotion has remained around precisely because it is the creative source of ongoing evolution. Negativity and fight-flight is a warning system that has kept us protected, but it is the positive emotional states that are responsible for unfolding, ongoing creation.

    When I read this I was somewhat surprised. Its states that positivity has been the catalyst for “ongoing evolution”. However, when we look at the world we live in, and how we live in it, it
    seems we have somehow adopted an overarching, negative, fight-flight way of being. It shows up everywhere – news, media,etc. It is a sad testament of the state of humanity.

    As I read the litany of positive outcomes from positivity, I would advocate for the use of positivity to health education in every school from kindergarten on. Perhaps earlier!

    The idea of working, ‘exercising’ and managing our emotions in the positive to “develop positive emotional muscle” has so many benefits. I have been an athlete, and spent time working out for the better part of my life; the concept makes so much sense to me.
    The relationship between working out (Lift weights) and the outcomes (get toned, build muscle, you are healthier, your mind is clearer, you fight off sickness and disease).

    What is there not to accept in this? Given these positive results, why would we be
    resistant to positivity as our norm? There is nothing negative about it.

    When one has spent most of their time “feeling bad”, the thought that through using positivity once can experience the opposite is so encouraging. It is a shame we did not learn it earlier. Better late than never. I am excited by the fact that consistent use and sharing of this principle of positivity, and making it a regular part of one’s daily existence can make such positive change and present beneficial outcomes. It seems paramount to a life well lived. It

  • Yolanda Smith

    Sometimes you just have to experience things for yourself in order to get it! At the onset of this class, the concept of “feeling good most of the time”, seemed like an unrealistic goal. Not necessarily for others, but for myself.

    The pressures and stress of everyday life will certainly cause people to be in a constant state of DownSpiral or yo-yo in between up-and-down. However, when you were armed with the type of information that we are learning in this class, it is much easier to understand how you can actually be happy most of the time. I now understand that when you are in the UpSpiral, you are happier, have more clarity, dream more, have hope for a better future and you are not living under that constant dark cloud.

    When you have spent a large part of your life living in a DownSpiral state of mind, it is imperative that a person make a concentrated effort to begin to change that direction with daily practices. For example, reciting the Zeno Meditation is a great thing to incorporate in your daily disciplines. I am a firm believer that life and death truly are in the power of your tongue and that thoughts do become things. I am convinced that if a person can just get a taste of the life, which exist on the opposite side of the DownSpiral, they will find that life truly is worth living. And yes, they can experience “feeling good”, and positive, most of the time.

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute