Guest Post: Build Your Happiness Ratio

This week is a guest post from a dear, wise friend and fellow coach, Sharon Rosen, over at Heart of Self Care.  The message of this post seems so simple and, at the same time, so powerful.  Sharon talks about positivity (and kindness) towards ourselves… Imagine a world where this same intention was extended to others?  For instance, what if we shifted to offer others more gratitude and praise?  I know schools would be one place where this would have a profound effect.  You feel me?

Self-care for us caretakers and nurturers is vital in order for us to make the essential contributions we make– be sure to check out the link for Sharon’s Flourish and Flow: WellWoman’s Coaching Series.


I’ve been immersed in a wonderful book, “Positivity” by Barbara Fredrickson, which talks about a magic ratio, the tipping point for a life of more positivity and happiness. It’s a simple, elegant equation of 3:1.  Yes, amazingly enough, researchers have scientifically proven that you need to have at least three heartfelt positive emotional experiences for every one heartwrenching negative experiences in order to truly flourish in life.

I’ll bet you’re wondering exactly what that means and if it has any practical application for your life. Is it a statistically supported thumbs-up to eat as much ice cream as you’d like? That might feel like your most positive action during really stressful times, but notice: the wording was “heartfelt positive emotional experiences” not “knee-jerk stressed-out emotional responses!”

Here is what I find so profound about this ratio:

1) You don’t need to be supernaturally predisposed to positive thinking in order to increase the level of positivity in your life. It is an acquired skill; anyone can learn to shift their awareness towards the positive emotions like gratitude, cherishing, appreciation and kindness more often than they might be used to.

2) The ratio is 3 positive emotions to 1 negative emotion, not 3:0…meaning that the goal is not to be happy and peppy and bursting with love every single moment of your life (feels exhausting just thinking about it…). It acknowledges the very real and necessary human emotions of anger, sadness and fear while helping us learn that it’s giving ourselves over to them endlessly that harms us. It’s not simply pasting a yellow smiley face over everything and hoping it sticks!

3) You can learn to consistently build more positive moments into your life, meaning you’ll be not just happier but also more resilient during times of change and stress (which seems like most of the time, right?), more connected with those you love, and better able to deal with the negativity pushers in your life.

Oh, and one more thing — you’ll also feel better physically as well as emotionally when you build your positivity muscles. How’s that for incentive?

Create Your Emotional Wealth Portfolio

As I’ve talked about in recent newsletters, negative thoughts are naturally stickier than positive ones. This helped our ancestors when they needed to respond to life-threatening situations quickly but can be depleting in excess when the fear builds without any true need to flee. The great news is that we can train our minds toward the positive, and to help them do that we can use some fun and creative measures.

Fredrickson recommends making your own portfolio of positive emotional triggers, a collection of visual aids and word cues that evoke specific states of being like joy, hope, pride, inspiration and amusement (to name just 5 of the 10 positive emotions discussed in her book). This way, when you are feeling lost and low, you can pick up and look at a physical reminder of a more positive state of being. Her two caveats are: don’t keep the same one out all the time or it will begin blending into the walls; make new versions from time to time so that they remain fresh and a reflection of your current life and needs.

I have always loved making collages and they are ideal for this project. In planning one for amusement I’ve been collecting photos of my cat in a belly-up pose, Bruce Springsteen making one of his classic, ecstatic faces during a performance, a card with the words “Life’s too mysterious, why take it serious?,” and a pic of my nieces and nephews piled up on one another many Thanksgivings ago, for starters. You could also create individual file folders with your collection and store them in a place that is readily accessible for pulling out any time you need a little attitude adjustment.

Expand Your Toolkit

If you’re curious to see what your current state of positivity actually is, there is a self-test available through Dr. Fredrickson’s website at

And if you are ready to feel more joy, hope, inspiration and gratitude in your life, it might be time to get some support so you can Flourish and Flow: Learning to Live From Your Core of Well-being. Find out all about it and register for special year-end pricing.

Here’s looking forward to a new year of increased happiness and flow!

From my heart to yours,


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