How To Flourish: The Science Of Positivity

I love Thanksgiving and this opportunity to gather, play, cook and dine with those I love best.

Thinking about this lifts my spirits, as opposed to that other place I often go mentally during this season; dwelling on all the work I should do and all the details I haven’t yet tended.

I used to believe that checking off everything on my hostess to-do list would make our Thanksgiving better. However, thanks to what I’ve recently learned about positivity—the power of positive emotions—I now understand that those warm feelings of thankfulness and love are far more likely to help me create a better Thanksgiving than sweating the details.  A growing body of science proves this.

University of North Carolina Professor Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D. explains this in her book “Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive” and at a talk last week sponsored by the Family Awareness Network and New Trier High School.  Positive feelings open us up and expand our world. When we average a 3-to-1 ratio of positive to negative emotions, we flourish; our world broadens, we open our heart and mind more to others, live more creatively and find greater success in life and work.

Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it?

Fredrickson identifies 10 positive emotions: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love. She also makes it easy to determine our own “positivity ratio” and improve it to that 3-to-1 tipping point. The short (about 1 minute) test that helps us to determine our positivity ratio is online at

I have to confess that my ratio is only 1 to 1. That’s a long way from flourishing!  Fortunately though, the simple techniques that enhance positivity sound very inviting.  They quiet overworked brains and over-long to-do lists and will focus me more on the moment. These techniques include:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga & exercise
  • Music & art

So this Thanksgiving week, I’m doing more of them and less of worrying about entertainment perfection. I’m thankful that I can find many resources to help me learn meditation, yoga and better fitness moves in our Better List and Better You articles too.

Also, I would love to learn what helps you to flourish.  Please tell me your favorite ways to find more positive emotions.  I’ll try them and/or share them with our community.  And I will give thanks that I made the time to do this.

Photo credit: Barbara Fredrickson, Ph. D., and New Trier High School principal Timothy Dohrer, courtesy of Eric Dynowski