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Eight Ways to Increase Positive Affect (Good Feelings) in Daily Life

Research proves that these eight actions truely are helpful;  result in feeling better, more energetic and more connected to others.  The research was done by Judith Moskowitz, PhD, MPH UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. 

How can I manage the stress at Lowell?

1. Note positive events in daily life

Most of the time, even during extreme stress, people have the capacity to recognize positive events and to use these positive experiences to help them cope with the stress.

• These events do not have to be big – they can be very simple, even everyday things.

2. Capitalize On and Amplify Positive Events

However, it may not be enough simply to notice an event – people often do something to extend, amplify, or capitalize on the event – they tell someone about it, take a moment to stop and savor it, write about it, revisit it in their minds later on and re-experience the positive emotions that come with that event.

• Amplifying the positive events is related to more positive emotion and it may even be related to more adaptive forms of coping with stress.

3. Keep a daily gratitude list

Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation. It can be expressed toward others as well as toward nature or nonhuman sources (God, animals).

• Scientific studies on gratitude in student samples and in people with serious illness have demonstrated that keeping a gratitude journal is associated with less negative emotion, fewer physical symptoms, better sleep quality, and greater satisfaction with life.

4. Mindfulness

We often find ourselves rushing through the activities of daily life on "automatic pilot" and wishing that things in our lives (both big and small) were different than they are. Many tasks of daily life have the potential for bringing enjoyment, but far too often we either get caught up in hurrying through them--or our minds are somewhere else altogether.

• On the other hand, if we make an effort to remind ourselves to be in the present moment instead of thinking about the past ("I wish I hadn’t said that!"/ "I can’t believe he/she did that!") or the future ("I wonder what will happen when/if…"), we may have an easier time appreciating and finding satisfaction in what is happening right now.

• Another tool for being more fully in the present moment is to practice focusing on the breath. Breathing is a fundamental aspect of human life…We all breathe many thousands of times every day, but how often are we really aware of our breath? Paying attention to the breath can be a simple way for us to begin to be more fully present and aware—and it can also be a valuable tool for calming down when we experience stressful events.

5. Positive Reappraisal

Since our appraisals determine our emotional reaction to an event, if we can change our appraisals (aka how we perceive, view, or interpret an event), we can change how we feel.

• Positive reappraisal is a way of dealing with stress in which you make a positive change in how you interpret or appraise an event. Positive reappraisal can take many forms. For example, your first reaction to a crowded, slow muni ride may be annoyance with the driver, the muni system, or your fellow passengers. One positive reappraisal is to note that the driver is doing his best to get you to your destination safely and to focus on the fact that riding the bus is faster than walking and cheaper than driving yourself and paying for parking. Or you may focus on something good that comes out of this situation.

6. Focus on your personal strengths

Everyone has a unique set of strengths, talents, skills, and positive qualities. These strengths can include things like patience, flexibility, enthusiasm, optimism, realism, determination, perseverence, kindness, logic, originality, and curiousity and so on. Recognizing your own strengths and instances in which you have used or exercised these strengths can help you better cope with stressful things in your life.

7. Set Realistic/Attainable Goals

Many people experience positive emotion when they have achieved a goal. When we think of goals we often think of grand, far-reaching plans, but short-term, more easily achieved goals are the ones that are likely to help us experience positive emotion on a daily basis. We call these short-term, more modest goals "attainable goals." Attainable goals can be things like completing a required form, making an appointment, or completing a daily to-do list. When we are in the midst of a difficult time, when even the activities of daily living (getting out of bed, showering, leaving the house) can seem impossible, achieving a small, very modest goal can have a big impact on well-being.

Attainable goals have four characteristics: 

• Realistic: one that can reasonably be completed in the time you have to complete them.

• Clear: So that you can lay out exactly what steps must be taken to successfully complete the goal

• Not too easy, but not too hard: the goal should be challenging, but not impossible or too global

• Have a clear end point: You should know when the goal has been successfully completed.

When thinking about possible attainable goals to set for yourself, it is helpful to think about your personal strengths and how these strengths could help in attaining the goal.

8. Altruistic Behaviors/Small Acts of Kindness

There is growing research that helping others is good for the person doing the helping.

We think that altruistic behaviors are beneficial physically and psychologically for several reasons: 

• altruistic acts give you a break from thinking about your own problems and shift the focus to someone else, even for a short while;

• altruistic acts make you feel good because human are social creatures and seeing someone else who is having difficulty can make us feel bad. Helping them, even in a small way, gives us a sense of control and increases positive emotion.

• Finally, even though you may be going through a difficult time yourself, recognizing that you have the ability to help someone else, despite your current stress, gives you a feeling of success, which, in turn, can make you feel good.