Positivity broadens our attention and builds our skills

As a result of our negativity bias (as outlined in last weeks blog), it might be easier for us to wallow in sadness, fear, anger or other negative emotions. However, this will lead to a narrowed focus, disconnection, lack of interest and less energy. Instead, we can develop skills to anticipate, initiate, experience, prolong and build positive emotions (Norrish, Robinson & Williams 2011). Doing so will help us to broaden our attention and build our skills (Fredrickson 2004).

Positive emotions cause broad, creative and flexible thinking and widen our attention (Fredrickson & Branigan 2005). This broadening of our attention tends to lead to being more willing to engage openly with the environment around us (whether it be people, nature, learning). This increased engagement with the environment leads to a building of physical, social, intellectual and psychological resources (Norrish, Robinson & Williams 2011). Fredrickson argues that “positivity transforms us for the better. By opening our hearts and minds, positive emotions allow us to discover and build new skills, new ties, new knowledge and new ways of being.”

Here are 12 tools/strategies to raise your personal positivity from Barb Fredrickson’s book, ‘Positivity’ (2009):

  1. be open

  2. create high quality connections

  3. cultivate kindness

  4. develop healthy distractions

  5. dispute negative thinking

  6. find nearby nature

  7. learn and apply your strengths

  8. meditate mindfully

  9. meditate on loving kindness

  10. ritualise gratitude

  11. savour positivity

  12. visualise your future

There are numerous strategies that we can use in order to enhance our positive emotions (and limit our negativity bias) in order to broaden our attention and build our skills. UPP incursions do this in a way that allow students to engage with many of these strategies.