Using Positive Psychology to Build Positive Emotions - Notes from the Seminar

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From notes taken by Natalie Hull during the GGSC seminar Using Positive Psychology to Build Positive Emotions. Her notes were nicely formatted in Word, but some formatting codes were lost in translation (Sorry Natalie). Please improve these notes by editing this page. This wiki code has been generated with 'I love wiki', an HTML to wiki syntax converter



Intro: Jason Marsh

Slides will be available on greater good website At GGSF, our focus is research on the science of a meaningful life Resources for a compassionate and resilient society Psychology, sociology and neuroscience of well being, and teaching skills for a thriving society. Focus on disseminating information.

Intro: Dacher Keltner

Metaphor: Barcelona, built a map of the city that maps it out based on different emotions you're likely to experience depending on where you go in the city. We are making maps of our lives. Emotion is the fundamental topography of those maps. It is the substance of life. As a science, we forgot about the wonderful emotions that Barcelona maps, the positive emotions. The psychology of positive emotions is a VERY new science. Touch is the basic language of TRUST and EMOTION. Positive emotions widen the scope of what people are seeing in the environment == Aims of this seminar == Insight and awareness Practical knowledge: for example, the power of compassionate touch New techniques: diagnosis, etc. Well-being

The Evolution and Neuroscience of Positive Emotion: What are positive emotions and why do we have them? (Keltner)

"Emotions" as a study has exploded on the scene in the last 25 years. We are in the age of emotion. Emotional intelligence in the workplace, teaching empathy to great effect in school. We have been very skeptical of emotions throughout history:

Think about metaphors we use when referring to emotions: "grab hold of emotions," "manage the beast," etc. We are finding that it's actually insight and way of connecting to others. This new scientific revolution is only 25 years old. Freud is an early predecessor. Darwin was very important in getting people to think about it, in 1872, wrote a book about how we embody emotions in face, etc.

Toward a New Science

Revolutionaries in this new science:

make up stories about it.

grammar of social life is emotion.

Theories of Emotion

What is an emotion, Dacher asks the audience. Responses: "physical response" "each emotion is bringing you specific information" "lenses/ways of looking at the world and what"s happening in life "not rational"

Great thinkers:

Dacher's Definition: Emotions are brief multicomponent responses to challenges or opportunities that tare important to the individual's goals

The evolution and social construction of emotion

Question Evolutionary Cultural What is? Biology Language, beliefs, roles Universality? Yes Possibly not Origins? EEA

Adaptive action Reify roles, Reify identities, ideologies Even depression, it is now thought, has an adaptive function. There are benefits we should be thinking about. Czech: "Vitos": the sudden realization of the tragic nature of your lifeEEA: evolutionary environment adaptive

An evolutionary Analysis (Keltner, 2009)

You can make a strong evolutionary argument for emotion. 'Sympathy will have been increased through natural selection; for those communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.' -Charles Darwin Our offspring are born more vulnerable than any species on the earth, requiring 7-52 years to reach independence. J We have a whole nervous system devoted to compassion. In hunter-gatherer cultures, we're always in face-to-face contact, a primary design is to take care of these vulnerable offspring.

A cultural analysis of embarrassment (Abu-Lughod, 1986)

A cultural perspective assumes that emotions are constructed by a culture's particular concepts, moral codes, definitions of the self, and rituals, practices, and institutions. From this perspective, emotions are fundamentally rooted in language, and they are culturally specific. Emotion of hasham in Bedouin culture (Egypt ' very hierarchical)

In other cultures, the emotion of embarrassment has very different meanings

Parsing Emotions

Negative Emotions Positive Emotions (focus today)
Anger Amusement
Disgust Awe
Fear Compassion
Embarrassment Love
Shame Desire
Guilt Interest
Sadness Pride
Contempt Enthusiasm

Until recently, there were only 3 studies on compassion, and 12,000 on fear. Feelings of sacredness, awe, etc., what it means to be spiritual and what it gives to you health and well-being wise is coming into scientific focus.

Amygdala and Gut Feelings

Amygdala is a sort of threat detector. We know the amygdala thanks to Joe LeDoux. The amygdala appears to function as an emotional computer, providing pre-conscious evaluations of objects in the environment. Anatomical description: it's a small, almond shaped structure in the midbrain. Sensory information comes in through eyes, ears, etc., and sends out two signals: 1) cortex/hippocampus that starts to represent it semantically, 2) another branch of neurons goes to the amygdala. Faster than your conscious understanding of the stimulus. It kicks in the fight or flight system. If you knock out the amygdala of non-human species, you find (research at UC Davis) the animal doesn't have gut feelings to make decisions. They behave wildly inappropriate. Eat wrong foods, copulate with researchers. Haha! A few studies of people who have lost the amygdala. It's impossible for them to make decisions. fMRI Research shows: in response to stimuli, we see that the amygdala is this threat detector; activated by bad smells, frightening images, negative memories, stressful experiences Sharp edges activate the amygdala, shadowy/dark images. Bob Evans (?) made the interesting point that you have fear/threat system that's rooted in the amygdala, and when we shift to positive states, it's probably physiologically impossible to be in this fear state simultaneously.

Nucleus Accumbens: (just above the amygdala) Reward System

Very old part of the brain. Also hooked to the VTA (ventral tegmental area) U of Michigan, important work here on the neurophysiology of pleasure We know that the NA and the VTA are a circuit that are loaded up with two sets of neurotransmitters: dopamine and the opioids. Dopamine: Research suggests that dopamine release is involved in wanting, goal pursuit. If you think about a wonderful lunch, that's the dopamine circuit. It's saying, I'm anticipating pleasure. Dopamine: WANTING Opioids: By contrast, the opioids are involved in a different dimension: savoring the stimulus. The leek soup itself, the sun on your face. Opioids: LIKING. Beautiful faces light up the nucleus accumbens, pictures of beaches with hammock (esp if it's raining outside), winning money (Knudsen), heroin, amphetamines, cocaine When you're on a diet and you show someone a picture of cake, their NA goes crazy. Oxytocin: a chemical produced in the brain stem and then moves through the body Dopamine-Opiate Interplay and attachment: Richard DePue: Great research on the dopamine-opiate interplay: they collaborate in helping us build our strongest social attachment. The dopamine circuit is triggered by social cues (smiling, etc.) that helps us want to approach, and the opiate in enjoying being with another person. Register, remember them.

Human Cortex

The cortex makes up 80% of the human brain. Eadweard Muybridge (great SF photographer): Fascinating glimpse into what happens to emotional life when you lose a frontal lobe. He took pictures of bodies in motion. Led to motion pictures, etc. He discovered that all four of a horse's hooves were above the ground at once. He was traveling through Texas, got into an accident and damaged the front part of his brain. He maintained rationality, language, mathematic ability, but lost emotional ability to connect to others. His photographs changed drastically. He took hundreds of bodies of persons in motion. Photos became very strange. He damaged the orbital frontal cortex (OFC). Lies behind eye sockets. Many signals coming in from amygdala, and nucleus accumbens. Helps us use this info in social situations in how to act in sensible ways. He no longer cared about his wife. Didn't care about baby. Emotional outbursts. Suspicious of wife having an affair. Shot the person he suspected.

The Frontal Lobes and Executive Control

We know that in the OFC, and Ventromedial frontal cortex, helps us make ethical decisions. When you study the Mibridges, they are disconnected, engage in inappropriate behavior that suggests they are not empathizing.

We learn from fMRI work:

When you are engaged in important practices to recognize, label, narrate emotions, that part of the brain that is calming down is the amygdala (emotion regulation). It's also key in empathizing.

Oxytocin and Trust

Exploding science! Birth/midwifes know about this for a while. Involved in contractions, milk let down. Now looking at how it maps to positive emotions. An old chemical in mammalian species. It's a little neuropeptide produced in the hypothalamus. Ancient parts of the brain. Projects into the brain and also goes into your blood stream. Goes to targeted muscle groups and tissues. The science of oxytocin is breathtaking. Research study: two little voles: one is promiscuous, the other is monogamous, the monogamous one has more oxytocin receptors.

The amazing couple that when a woman goes through 12 hours of labor and out comes this strange looking baby, 'you're the most beautiful thing in the world!' that's oxytocin. Oxytocin and Trust: Ernstfair and colleagues Huge therapeutic implications of this. What if you give people oxytocin to people? We can now just do so experimentally in the US. Trust Game. Half the people who inhale oxytocin gave away their money, vs. 20% with saline solution.

Positive Emotions and Hemispheric Asymmetry (Davidson U Wisc-Madison)

Leading the scientific study of meditation and what it does in the brain, Richard Davidson argues that all the positive emotions are about approaching things. MOVE TOWARD good things in the world. Joy, love, etc. That is their function. The negative emotions (contempt, sadness) are about MOVING AWAY. It's an old idea in the study of the psychology. APPROACH vs. AWAY. Simple organisms operate at this level' can be seen in numerous studies. He's done hundreds of studies about pleasure, savoring things like ice cream. Studies of activation patterns during positive and negative emotional states. When in negative states; the right side of the frontal lobes is activated. MOVING AWAY. In contrast (70-80 studies showing this finding): if experiencing positive states, the left side of the frontal lobes is activated. APPROACH. Matthew Riccard (check spelling) (monk): Davidson scanned his brain. There are 1,000 people are on a distribution. He is six standard deviations on the left side. Research is suggesting that if you engage in contemplative practices, you can get some of the same benefits. 'Emotions' as a study has exploded on the scene in the last 25 years. We are in the age of emotion. Emotional intelligence in the workplace, teaching empathy to great effect in school. We have been very skeptical of emotions throughout history:

Think about metaphors we use when referring to emotions: 'grab hold of emotions,' 'manage the beast,' etc. We are finding that it's actually insight and way of connecting to others. This new scientific revolution is only 25 years old. Freud is an early predecessor. Darwin was very important in getting people to think about it, in 1872, wrote a book about how we embody emotions in face, etc.

The Brain in Love

William James and Reverberation of Emotion in the Autonomic Nervous System

Sympathetic ' Parasympathetic Fight/Flight ' Restore/befriend Taking a deep breath can have a huge help on having a child calm down James believed that emotions reside in the ' viscera' 'in modern parlance is the Autonomic Nervous System. Old part, regulated by hypothatlamus, amygdala, etc. SYMPATHETIC: One part: sympathetic (12 branches. inhibits salivation, accelerates heart rate, sweat, shuts down digestion, sexual, etc.). To read more: Robert Sapolsky (Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers). Does oxytocin calm that down? Being researched now. Tending/friending behaviors does calm stress down. PARASYMPATHETIC: there are regions that come out of the top of the spinal cord. One is the vagus nerve (hot area in the clinical sciences). Starts at the top of the spinal cord, unique to mammals, connected to oxytocin release, wanders through body and activates muscles that are involved with others. Facial muscles, nodding head, etc. STUDY: When we show images that activate compassion or a sense of suffering, we find that it increases activation in the vagus nerve. Vagal stimulation in therapy is being studied for Asperger's, depression, etc. You can stimulate it with infrared signals into the ear. = The Language of Positive Emotions: Verbal and nonverbal expressions (Keltner) = Switching gears to the many languages of positive emotion. Important in almost every clinical application. Doctors, people working with schizophrenia, etc.

Example of flirtation

Old nonverbal language. You will not succeed on flirtation if you rely on verbal methods.

The Nonverbal language

Paul Ekman in creating this field in the 60's: nonverbal reactions are so complex, we need concepts to make sense of it. Five kinds of nonverbal behaviors. Some are more directly mapping to emotions than others. All important to clinical work. 1) Illustrators: Actions that dramatize speech (the Clinton/political speech thumb gesture) We use them to dramatize our speech. Finger point, eyebrow raise. Research shows we flash our eyebrows when making the most important point. 2) Regulators: Actions that govern communication. Orienting bodies in certain ways. For people working with Asperger's' you have to build up in a very skilled way to use these regulators. Eye contact, nodding head. 3) Self Adaptors: Nervous, random nonverbal actions. Touch our face, pull our hair. 4) Emblems: Actions that directly translate to words. victory sounds, peace symbol, thumbs up.

Facial Expression

Transdiagnostic conditions: common to lots of disorders. One is empathy. Lots of disorders have trouble with empathy. Another is emotion system. Postpartum depression'massive quieting of the emotion system. Asperger's kids: trouble picking up nuances of emotion systems. History: Charles Darwin 1872. Grieving the loss of his daughter. Massively involved in fathering. Interested in human beings and other non-human primates. Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals (amazing book by Darwin) Facial expressions / emotions are universal: Paul Ekman

Facial Anatomy

Human face as 25-30 sets of muscles; some voluntary, some involuntary. Our facial anatomy is very similar to chimpanzee. These are the substance of communication of emotions. Babies eye gaze mostly goes to the face. Autism: not.

Darwin's Predictions

Encoding: when feeling an emotion, we express the emotion with similar muscle movements in the face (and body) Decoding: (see slide)

The Universality of Expression

Now several hundred studies on this. People express anger, disgust, etc. in similar ways. The tightening of the b'(?) muscle (chin) and is correlated with heart disease (stress connection)

Discoveries related to practice

1) Laughter: a maligned emotion in western culture. The average child laughs 1200 times a day. The average adult raising that child, laughs once every two weeks. We think laughter is superficial, but science says the opposite.

Laughter = Les petite vacations

Laughter signals suspension of serious meaning. Test skills, explore possibilities Laughter and exhalation: shift to PANS ' if you laugh in a stressful situation, you return to a calmer physiological state. Laughter calms the body down. Laughter and health (Martin & Lefcourt) Reduction of cardiovascular stress Laughter cascades benefit marriage (Gottman, 2003) Martin, Lefcourt: (systematic review): sense of humor benefits health


Barbara and Dacher started studying it in the early 90's. Studying startle response. Side note: Dacher suggests: Use the startle response in therapy. When they're just waking up: go up sneak up behind them, BAM! Universal response, the magnitude of the startle response tells you how stressed the person is in life. Really stressed out people flip out more. When you get startled in an experiment that is being video taped, you lose composure, spit flies, then people show this half-second behavior of embarrassment.

Everyday reconciliation, forgiveness

Embarrassment as an appeasement device (Keltner & Buswell, 1997). The display resembles mammalian appeasement displays (across mammals)

Embarrassment display prompts forgiveness:

People with little embarrassment:

-break rules: OFC patients, sociopaths, really violent kids


Looks like dominance in non-human species. Universal display Shown by blind and victorious Olympic athletes (Matsumoto & Tracy) - Are American kids too proud? Stronger display by those in West.

Voice and Emotion

The voice might be more important in communicating emotion. In human evolution, when we walked upright, the larynx and vocal chamber elongated compared to non-human primates. We evolved the tongue. Very dexterous and can do gymnastic work in the mouth. We position our teeth, tongue, tension of jaw, many anatomical processes to create sound. Remarkably sophisticated.

The Richness of the Voice

Laughter (Backarowski has done great work): -own space of acoustics. a very old signal that pre-dates language. Friends' laughter starts to synchronize. Gender differences' women emit voice laughs, and men more likely to grunt -variety Teasing: largely accomplished acoustically We can differentiate bullying and sarcasm from friendliness -playful markers - Problem: context, markers, power sarcasm: slowing down vowels, slow, low-pitched acoustic tone Motherese: Stanford study ' we speak very differently with babies. New ' Petese! Depression other disorders, can be registered in changes in these intonations

Emotion conveyed in vocal bursts (Simon-Thomas et al., 2009, Emotion)

Study: try to communicate different emotions with the voice. All you were allowed to do was make a sound, and people had to guess it. Chance accuracy was 8-9%. What we saw in this study was that with 400 millisecond sounds, people could tell at 30,40, up to 80% accuracy Amusement, awe, compassion, desire, enthusiasm. etc. -Lunch Break-

Functions of Touch

Not well studied, yet fundamental to the communication of emotions Touch is at the top of the list of therapeutic Oldest modality of emotion, it's the first to come online developmentally Enabled by our dexterous hand and our amazing hand. Our skin is our largest organs, three layers. Cells that process very specific information about touch.

The new science of touch is astounding.

The right kind activates the reward system in the brain. Touch builds trust and reciprocity. Non-human primates spend 20% of their time grooming each other. If you pat someone on the back, they're more likely to give money, speak out in class, etc. Touch is the basic language of TRUST and EMOTION. Studies on touch in the NBA Touch signals safety Over 80 studies now in the significant benefits of touch in clinical settings (preemies, Alzheimer's, etc.)

Touch and the spread of goodness

What does this have to do with emotions? Can you communicate emotion through touch? Important question: how do we spread goodwill? Spectacular language of touch. We can communicate very specifically through this modality. When working with couples, families, there are unbelievable gender differences. In one study, when a woman tries to communicate anger to a man, he had no idea what she was doing, and vice versa when a man tried to communicate compassion and the woman had no idea what he was doing. Regretfully, we have 'no touch' policies in institutional settings, and yet this is one of the strongest boosters of mental health that we've evolved.

Emotion, Character, Identity (Keltner)

Switching gears: How positive emotions become part of ourselves. Has ancient early (four spirits(?), etc.) Emotions as organizing forces (Malatesta, 1990)

Malatesta argues we come into the world with a particular emotion profile that gains momentum as we live life, and organizes all the facets of our identity. How we express ourselves, the careers we choose, etc. When you have an emotion tendency, what happens first off:

Selective continuity

These are profiles that build into your life' Dacher's brother finds everything funny. It shapes how we look at the world.

Evocative continuity (Reactive?)

They shape also how we react to things. Our traits evoke systematic responses in other people.

We know people come into the world with temperaments

-fearful people overestimate risk, perceive threat more quickly, remember fearful things more readily, overactive sympathetic nervous system -angry people: overestimate blame, etc.

Temperament (biological)

Are you fearful? Warm, compassionate?

GENETIC BASIS: On the third chromosome, there's a gene that helps build oxytocin, which translates into a temperamental difference. STUDY: If we're giving away these emotional cues from our temperament, would yearbook pictures predict your next 30 years of temperament? YES. (Harker & Keltner, 2001) Mills College

Extraversion (Kagan)

Kagan has been studying shy kids for decades. What kind of lives build up around emotion tendencies?

The Resilient, Warm Temperament

Gratitude, compassion, love in daily lives.

Attachment: Theoretical Assumptions

This is a robust new science. John Bowlby, spectacular theorist (ethology) Bowlby: attachment breaks down our connection into three systems: biological systems shaped by evolution with a lot of positive emotion around it

Working Models: Ideas about caregivers We don't remember much early on'. hippocampus comes online at 2-3 years of age. We don't have access to early experiences of warmth, etc., of parents, but it lays down patterns of relating for how trustworthy the world is. Can you rely on adults, etc.

Attachment styles: These reflect our family emotional themes

The Attachment Perspective

Attachment sense is a good predictor of the lists below

The healthy lives of securely attached (See slide)

-Report greater life satisfaction

The problems of anxiously attached partners (See slide)

-More prone to depression, anxiety

Patterns of Secure Parenting

-Expressive warmth, touch (Watson said at the turn of the century ' parents don't need to touch their children, shake hands at bed time) -Contingent behavior (smiles, gaze, voice). It's about synchrony, nodding when they nod, smiling when they smile -Inductive parenting: reason through conflict rather than laissez faire or authoritarian parenting. Asking them about the conflict, reason through. The kids feel more confident in their attachment. -Valuing of compassion, care (Oliners, Humbolt State. Studied hyper altruists) Part of the family atmosphere: talking about compassion, empathy. Part of the family ethos.

Dysfunctions in positive emotion: Too much or too little (Keltner)

Emotion and problems of adjustment

We want to take this knowledge of positive emotions and look at what it says about clinical issues.


On the rise. Fascinating, complex. What happens when facets of emotion become poorly calibrated or disrupted.

This syndrome is a testimony to how we need these emotions. If you teach them this emotional language, much improvement is seen. Blasting them with oxytocin rather than anti-psychotics is making a big difference.

Depression and Positive Emotion

Surprising absence of emotion


Reduced smiles, although similar self-reports of emotion Reduced anticipatory pleasure; similar consummatory pleasure Interesting to note the major disconnect between their emotions and what they present

Emotional disorders as deficits in Self-compassion

(Researcher: Kristen Neff)

reduced anxiety, depression

Bipolar disorder and mania

Has positive emotion gone haywire in these individuals? It seems the reward circuitry is dysregulated. -Break-

Barbara Fredrickson, PhD: Boosting Your 'Positivity' Ratio (Fredrickson)

Dacher's Introduction: Dr. Fredrickson is from UNC ' Chapel Hill. Have known since grad school. Studied rumination and depression, meaning at end of life. Won the positive psychology award for her research. Has written the best paper on positive emotion. What does meditation do to our emotional profiles. We know it's good for you' how? Why?

What Good are Positive Emotions?

Early interest in this question was academic. The more we've learned about the discoveries of positive emotions and how it changes who we are next season, next year, it's about life and how to live it. Huge problems with unemployment, trauma after war, multiple tours, global warming, achievement gap (racial disparities), obesity epidemic, disasters in other countries. Jump for joy positive emotions can seem trivial, but nothing can be further from the truth. There are a range of positive emotions, including in our bones grateful, in tune with environment.

ONE: Positivity OPENS us.

It literally changes our minds. Your world is larger. Sunlight is what changes flowers to be open. The openness of our minds is a result of the warmth of our heart, our common humanity with others. Randomized Controlled Studies: some people given doses of positive experiences, or neutral pictures (pictures of puppies, or a gift of wrapped candies, or pleasant music). Global vs. Local visual processing (Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005) Figures: Injecting positive emotions results in people being able to see the bigger picture, a more global picture. Positive emotions widen the scope of what people are seeing in the environment When you induce a positive emotion, people can't help but pick up context cues, even though they're told not to. (house/face studies) (Schmitz, 2009) WIDER AWARENESS. Better memory for details when the episodes were positives (Talarico(?), 2009) 'There is a way of breathing that's a shame and suffocation and there's another way of expiring a love-breath that lets you open infinitely. -Rumi This isn't just poetic language. Positive emotions expand our peripheral vision.

Not just the old story' about rose colored glasses, half full. It's also that we're seeing the BIG picture at a fundamental level. Can make a huge difference when we're trying to address some of these entangled societal problems.

TWO: Positivity Transforms Us

We replace about 1% of our cells a day. Maybe it's no coincidence that it takes 3 months to learn a new habit. The latest science suggests that the pace of cell renewal doesn't just follow a pre-determined script. Positive emotions change who we are in the future. This suggests that if we increase our daily diet of positive emotions' Lifestyle Change: like moving a river. Not something done on a dime. Takes continual practice and reinforcement.

Meditation research

How to elevate this trait. In particular: Lovingkindness meditation. Cultivate the warm feeling you have toward a love one. Learn to self-generate that emotion and direct it toward yourself, to people you normally wouldn't feel that toward, and eventually to direct it to all sentient beings on earth. Positivity can Increase'.see Fredrickson et al (2008) 'and Build Resources:

Positivity Transforms Us if we increase our daily diet of positive emotions, we're better stronger more resilient versions of ourselves It's happening at a cellular level. They literally change the way our genes are transcriped and shape who we are at a basic level.

We can all either Languish or Flourish

We've found that the degree to which they experience positive emotions predicts whether they'll be languishing or flourish. We need to think about the micro-moments and follow the lights of the positive emotions. Let them light our way. 'Things that are good are good, and if one is responding to that goodness, one is in contact with a truth from which one is getting something.' -Thomas Merton We know sunlight is critical to the growth of plants, and they turn toward the light and stretch. Heliotropic effect. There is a similar effect in humans. We are oriented to turn toward positive.

The Broaden-And-Build Theory of Positive Emotions

They broaden our awareness in ways that re-shape who we are and build up useful traits in ways that bring out the best in us. People who experience and express pos emotions live longer. These studies need an explanation, which is, I propose, is the Broaden-And-Build theory.

From Description to Prescription:

How much positive emotions do we need? How much is enough? POSITIVITY RATIO: > 3-to-1 Fredrickson & Losada (2005) This helps determine your odds of languishing or flourishing. We need at least three heartfelt emotions to help lift us up compared to one negative. This is not about eliminating all negative emotions. We experience negative emotions in overblown amounts and it's worth looking at. 3:1 is not an arbitrary number. The complex dynamics of Human Flourishing. Ratios of 2:1 are associated with what most of us experience on a daily level. 1:1 is generally depression-levels.

Negative emotions are necessary

Sailboat metaphor. Positive (mast), Negativity (keel) The negativity allows the boat to stay on course. The keel maters most when you're going into the wind.

How To Create More Positivity? It's Not: 'Be Positive'

How do we get there? Don't 'Be Positive' that motto backfires. It's a toxic insincerity that is corrosive to our bodies, our cardiovascular systems. Pumping sunshine is a big danger of positive psychology. Hyper zeal that isn't real. 'There wouldn't be such a thing as counterfeit gold if there were no real gold somewhere.' Sufi proverb.

Create the Mindset of Positivity

Reciprocal causality between mindset of positivity and positivty itself. Lightly create the mindset'

So often we can be preoccupied about the future, ruminating the past, we can be completely oblivious to the goodness that surrounds us, because it's so riveting. We miss the fact that almost every situation is in this moment benign. We're comfortable, had a good lunch, good conversation. We're often blind to the subtle sources of goodness. When we're open to our current circumstance, it's easier to draw from positive emotion.

From these spring positive emotions.

Tap into your own positivity ratio by going to positivityratio

Takes two minutes. 80% of American fall short of the ideal 3:1 ratio. Keep track of your daily emotional diet. Barbara tells the TWO WOLVES STORY. Which one wins? The one you feed.

Question & Answer Session- Dr. Fredrickson and Dr. Keltner

Dr. Keltner's Questions

D: It seems they are out of our control (emotions). They are involuntary almost by design. But the question of how to change your positivity ratio, how do you do that? B: If you unravel theories of emotion, you realize emotions are highly contextualized, but also how you interpret current circumstances. That's how you can unlock more positive emotions. Once you see that appraisal pattern that initiates the emotion cascade, then you can change that piece. 'How can I look at this as a gift' and the like. Mindfulness meditation can help. There's a thought, I don't have to follow that feeling.' With positive: gratitude comes from every time you see something as a gift. If you see opportunities to connect with others and see them as safe and warm. They are very subtle and we fly by 20 opportunities an hour. Once you get a lens for it, you unlock more. D: What are the switches you turn on to be more open? B: trying to be in the present moment is first. If you really take in how does it feel to sit here right now? How does it feel to be in the sun. Instead of being tied up in mental time travel. Absorbing things in the moment. D: Lots of people interested in meditation. This is hard word to generate the findings you're getting. Ten years from now, what do you hope science unlocks about meditation? B: I'm most in pursuit of is: how is it that learning how to self-generate positive emotions fundamentally changes our capacity of who we area AND at a cellular level. If we think of it as out of our control' we can learn to see our own role in it. Self-determination. Ancient meditation techniques are surprisingly effective at dealing with pathological self-absorption, anxiety. D: Robert Solomon (philosopher) talks about cultural ideology that teaches us that emotions are out of control' I was struck by your observation about giving candy' a lot of happiness research/positive psych got a lot of momentum because we're underperforming as a culture in terms of positive emotions. David Meyers said we're not as happy as we could be. You have simple interventions for turning them on at a cultural level. Are you imagining those? B: I think'. one grad student is looking at positive emotions. Do you think it's worthwhile to arrange your day to have more? That's a huge missed opp that we have as a culture. I want to get people to question that. Thinking about raising kids. Reading may not be as important as stoking their play instinct. D: I was reading a history of the Puritans' D: You have radical ideas about change'resilience change, etc. There's a view in the scientific literature that is skeptical: temperament perspective, etc. You're pushing this' meditation can change my cells. B: I like to say: you can become the best version of yourself. If you think about the range of your own experiences, unproductive, unconnected to feeling very alive. Why not have more? People's interpretations of current contexts stay the same. If you change the interpretation to see more hope, or beauty or wonder or gifts. Social genomics work that looks at changes in immune cell function and loneliness. It could be the chronic interpretation of people as unavailable and that's what's most stable. WE don't know. It's reasonable to question how it is that these dynamics can bring us on an upward or downward spiral. D: final question: you've struck a cord' with the idea that positive emotions are opening. Negative are closing. The question of boundaries: is there too much? Excess? B: the mathematical work by Losada is that there is too much. A ratio above 11:1 is when the flourishing aspect begin to diminish. Appropriate negative emotions have a function. Important to remember.

Audience Questions

Q: Criticisms of Barbara Ehrenrich (?). Thoughts? B: Glad I wasn't mentioned in it. (laughs) That yellow smiley face version (blind eye to difficulties and just feel good) is an unfortunate distortion has been around before cognitive psychology. that obliteration of attunement to negative poses a real danger. The diff b/w sincere versus the plastered smile that feels like a mandate: that is counterfeit gold. it's used on commerce as if it were the real thing (flight attendant). She did a great job pointing out dangers. Hope is about fearing the worst but yearning for better' it has both in it. Q: How to develop positive emotions. I'm a group psychotherapist, I see group context as an accelerant. Emergence in that system. Any research on group contexts? B: great potential in that. In our lab we're looking at the effects of laughter: alone, side by side with another, and then WITH another and how it effects sense of safety. I see love as any positive emotion felt within a safe interpersonal context. Q: intrigued by comment about how negativity is stronger than positive because it grabs attention. Fox news embodies it. how do you see the emotions of positivity as trying to be a counteracting force. B: I think the difference between bad is stronger than good helps us understand 3:1. We need safety in numbers to overcome that potency. It's for good reason that negative emotions grab our attention, they're often a matter of life and death. To be hypersensitive is healthy, it's by design. Positive emotions are more frequent than negative emotions. Most moments are benign, most of the time people feel mild positive, unless there are habits of cynicism or sarcasm. If you don't turn a blind eye to the greater frequency, you have a better chance at balance, but there are habits in our culture that have us turn a blind eye. I want to sharpen people's lenses. Q: I have been teaching in a clinical PhD program for 40 years (California School of Professional Psychology professor). You mentioned something about spirituality and depression. Not mindfulness, but more broadly' I'm always troubled by negative emotions and positive emotions. Anger is a positive emotion, love can be a negative emotion. B: there's a lot of ways to define' they're all positive' I like to think of it in a (?) way of what emotional states have a pleasurable state that people like and want. All things being equal, positive emotions have that feel in that people want them. Negative emotions are useful, it feels good to be angry when you're fighting an injustice, but you don't want it all the time. It's: pleasant subjective feel that you work to get more of. Q: is there work going on in intensive meditation experiences (retreats) B: great work being done in this area, just starting to be published. It can be done in subtle lifestyle shifts too. Q: different socioeconomic groups. money is an issue of security. there are people who grew up in poverty who are very positive' B: money matters but only at the pulling us out of poverty level. When people don't know if they'll have enough food, etc. it matters. Feeling safe and satiated are bedrock conditions. After that, there's not much of an association. It's mildly positive. -Break-

Cultivating Positive Emotions

How to cultivate positive emotions in yourself and others (Keltner). Our last hour, we'll move through the question: what can we do as a culture about this? This is the spirit behind the Greater Good Science Center. One of the gratifying things about being part of the center since it's been around is we're really starting to see the broader cultural effects. Seeing changes in how medical doctors interact with its patients. Johns Hopkins shifting to patient-centered. Starting with kindness and compassion. The reintroduction into the schools. We're redrawing the map of our culture. The bullying episode that just happened in Massachusetts' horrifying AND preventable. All of this compassionate attention to bullying (empathy training to bullies) we're seeing drops in the episodes of bullying at a nation-wide level.

The benefits of Positive Emotions within the Good Life

I will move broadly through some big ideas here. Why should we cultivate positive emotions? Rise in loneliness, rise in anxiety. We're seeing rising narcissism in our kids. We need this. And health and well-being benefits.

Why cultivate positive emotions and happiness? Lyubomirsky, King, Diener 2005 - meta-analysis, positive emotions are good for: health, creativity, marriage, happy children, neighborhoods: IT'LL BE GOOD FOR OUR CULTURE

The meaning of cultivation

Tips for Cultivating Positive Emotions

Here are eight principles: Culture gets in the way for a lot of these practices. Just have to do what we've evolved to do, similar to Michael Pollan in the local, fresh food revolution. Get back to what we evolved to do.

Social Connection

We need to return to this as a value.



The Power of Gratitude

Gratitude/Appreciation/Reverence. Feeling reverence for the things that are given to you. Training your mind, thought patterns and social behaviors


The apology:

Linguistic studies about apologies show which work and which don't

  1. state what was done wrong
  2. accept responsibility
  3. offer explanation
  4. show remorse

Important pioneering work coming from Stanford. Fred Luskin and Mike McCullough

Definition: Four components

  1. Accepting transgression
  2. Decline in punitive tendency
  3. Decline in avoidance
  4. Increase in compassion toward partner. Offenders have human suffering, want to be happy

Benefits of Reconciliation

Practical applications

Restorative justice

1500 programs in US, Europe


Outcome data: Victims 4 times less revenge, 2.6 times more likely to forgive. These are empirically tested tools University of Denver

Collaborative divorce


Humans have meaning-making narrative minds that seek to develop coherent narratives in spoken word, written word, painting, music. Pennebaker's 20 years of research on expressive writing. Functions: produces insight, reduces suppression

Sources of Narratives: Parents

POWER of narrative

Narrative forms

Why? Insight, what does it do Reduced suppression John Gross Catharsis: insight


Allan Wallace: Genuine Happiness (book)



Read Jon Kabat-Zinn

Loving Kindness

With every dose of loving kindness you get a boost of positive emotions. Not just for monks - Richie Davidson taught mindfulness mediation to software engineers over 8-week period. Boost to immune system. (But still no dates; meditation can't do everything).

Cultivate the Sacred

Spirituality Cohen et al., 2009) Provocative topic.

Reich: wrote The Evolution of God. Hunter-gatherer societies (every one) has a feeling of the sacred. Empirical: (see slide)

145 studies, 98,000 participants (Smith, 2003)

Summing Up

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