We all know that feeling good, feels…well, good. But did you know that positive emotions are actually good for you as well? As good for you as eating-raw-vegetables-in-a-yoga-pose-after-running-a-marathon, good?
Yes, you heard that right. Not only are positive emotions quite pleasant but they give you energy, improve cardiac rhythms, glucose levels, inflammation and your immune system (fellow science nerds check out below*).
So where are we supposed to find these elusive positive moments that make us feel good and improve our health? Great question - because this definitely sounds more enjoyable than running a marathon - for real!
Well the great news is, you don’t actually have to do anything, because it turns out they are already there. All the time. Everyday. Like oxygen.
Okay, I know it might not feel like that a lot of the time. Or perhaps even most of the time. But that’s just what you think. And what you think also happens to be the problem. Confused? I’m sounding kinda cagey here so I’ll get to the point.
If you can manage to turn the volume of your thoughts down for 5 mins you’ll notice that most moments in your day are actually positive - I'm not just making this up! There’s scientific data proving it! In fact, those helpful scientists even named it – it’s called the “Positivity Offset” (terrible name, but marketing isn’t their strong suit).
Me and you, we’re here today because humans have survived as a species due to pessimism and looking for the danger in any situation - AKA “Negativity Bias” (another poorly named, but useful fact thanks to our scientist buddies). What this means is that our brains are always looking for the negative, for what is - or more usually what might - go wrong. So this explains why your first thought might be to see the glass is half empty. Because if it is almost empty, you need to find some more milk quick smart or WE’LL ALL DIE!
You can’t blame your brain for this tendency. It's useful. It’s always looking to keep you safe and alive. If you're a glass half-empty kinda person it probably means you're a pro-survivor and in times of apocalypse will be one of the last left standing!
But the problem with negativity bias is that it tends to paint a less-than rosy picture and make life look one way (you know, stressful, dangerous, troublesome) – and that way is not usually accurate. Because our useful and friendly scientists have shown that on any one day, moment by moment more good stuff happens than bad. We just tend to notice and dwell on the bad.
Our life is made up of moments. Stacked on top of one another. If we were able to experience our day and instead of thinking, worrying, imagining and generally getting all wound up in our negativity bias – then our day would be a lot more pleasurable. AND we would be improving our health! That my friend is win-win.
Now, just to clarify, this isn't about denying the negative. Of course sh*t does happen. You're alive, ergo you’ll have some trouble to deal with. Plus, some days we just feel in a bad mood, and have negative thoughts and feelings. Also okay. It’s not pretending none of that is there – but it’s about spending a lot more time experiencing your day, instead of thinking about it (or last week, or 10 years ago, or 5 years in the future). Get out of your brain and into your skin! (See the Bad Day Box below for Bad Day Strategy!)
Let’s also clarify what a positive emotion is. It does not equal always “being happy” (in that always smiling, hugely annoying over the top way – argh I feel sick). Positive emotions include joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.
More good news! It’s the frequency of the positive emotions that counts, not the intensity. So you pat a cat, and notice it feels quite nice. Tick, positive moment (good for health). You have a friendly chat at the cash register in the supermarket, and you feel quite connected to another person. Tick, positive moment (good for health). You like the feeling of sun on your skin, you get through the lights before they change, you find $1 on the ground, your friend invites you for coffee, you have a cuddle, you smile at a thought-provoking yet humorous blog 😉, you listen to a good song on the radio, your washing doesn’t get wet, you see a beautiful picture, the kids have gone to bed and its quieeeeeettt…. all ticks! And your life is probably already filled with loads of them plus a lot more meant just for you.
You get the point? It’s in the ordinary transactions of every day life that positive emotions grow.
MORE great news, the more you notice the positive moments and emotions, the more there are! If you can just stop always thinking and be present with them.
So give it a try and see what you can notice.
Now if you want a bit of help with practicing being more aware or present in your day, then contact me for a complimentary chat. Mindfulness is close to my heart. I’ll be offering a few resources to my lovely newsletter subscribers soon that you may find useful (so if you aren’t one yet, sign up!).
Lastly, make sure you add some things to your to-to list that are just for the fun of it. Just purely because you enjoy doing them. It’s good for your health!
So the reason I became a health coach is because I got a really bad illness – one that could have had me lying 6 feet under by now. Or sitting in a china urn on a mantel somewhere.
Following that I learnt a lot of things that are really important and useful to help prevent said illness reappearing and thought ‘shoot I better share this info, kinda important!’
Scary but interesting fact alert! Did you know that chronic illnesses (like the ones we are all statistically most likely to, ahem, die from) like heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers are largely influenced by the way we live our life? As in, lifestyle and diet can help prevent that beast being born? As in, what you do on a day-to-day basis has a massive impact on your health? I bet right now you are nodding your head thinking ‘Yes I know that’, but also totally thinking ‘but that doesn’t matter because I won't get one of those though’.
I know you are thinking that because I did too, until I got one of course.
But there is another side to all this. Its one thing to try and keep yourself alive for as long as possible, but what’s the point if you aren’t living a good life? By your definition. I mean deep down in your pants how you really want to be.
Not in a job you hate, surrounded by people you don’t like, numbing yourself with food, drugs and digital screens whilst ignoring all those things you truly love doing.
I mean what’s the point of living longer if you aren’t actually enjoying it?
I know from experience that there is freedom in realising that you aren’t actually going to live forever. Certainly puts things in perspective. Certainly focuses your attention.
So today instead of telling you the secret to living to a ripe old age, I want you to answer this question:
What would you do differently if you found out you only had 18 months to live?
How would that knowledge change the way you live? What would you stop worrying about? What would you start doing?
Would you care how you look? Would you care if you did x well enough? What y thinks of you? How annoying z is?
What have you always dreamed of doing that you would plan to do before you departed? A trip to Italy? A sky dive? Spend more time with your mum? Go fishing? Tell someone how you really feel about them?
What is it you wish someone would give you a permission slip to do?
Why not do those things now? Really, what is stopping you? Are you waiting until everything - including you - is miraculously perfect? Babes, it’s never going to happen.
No need to wait until you realise you are about to drop dead. Give yourself that permission now. Or ask me and I’ll handwrite you one.
We only have so much time and energy to use in this world – where are you directing yours?
It’s never too late to make a change...as one of my favourite sayings advises: Just Do It (even if you suck).
I'd love to know what you would change, so please tell me in the comments below - go on I dare you!
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Ready for change, but don't know how:
Health coach, Mindfulness teacher, Mother, Bee Pollen consumer. "You want health? Well, health costs, and right here is where you start paying in sweat" (tee hee - actually its really rather pleasurable and fun!)