By Dr. Mercola
Most Americans have two positive experiences for every negative one, according to Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist and positive-emotions researcher. This sounds like it would set you up for positive emotional health, but this 2:1 positivity ratio is only enough for you to barely get by.
In order to flourish emotionally, Fredrickson’s research shows you need a 3:1 ratio.1 That is, you need to have three positive emotions for every one negative emotion.
Flourishing mentally is described as being beyond happiness “in that it encompasses both feeling good and doing good.”2 Only 20 percent of Americans achieve this critical ratio, which means 80 percent do not.
What Are the Benefits of Positive Emotions?
Positive emotions obviously make you feel good, but their benefits extend far beyond this. In the video above, Fredrickson explains that positive emotions open your mind, broadening your awareness of the world and allowing you to become more in tune with the needs of others.
Experiencing positive emotions also increases intuition and creativity while broadening your mindset. A broadened mindset, in turn, helps you build important personal resources like social connections, coping strategies, and environmental knowledge that will help you thrive. Indeed, according to research by Fredrickson and colleagues published in American Psychologist:3
“The varied good outcomes empirically linked with positive affect support the broaden-and-build theory, which asserts that positive emotions are evolved psychological adaptations that increased human ancestors’ odds of survival and reproduction.
The theory holds that unlike negative emotions, which narrow people’s behavioral urges toward specific actions that were life-preserving for human ancestors (e.g., fight, flight), positive emotions widen the array of thoughts and actions called forth (e.g., play, explore), facilitating generativity and behavioral flexibility.
Laboratory experiments support these claims, showing that relative to neutral states, induced negative emotions narrow