How increasing your positivity will allow you to come back stronger when life knocks you down


Workplace stress costs the economy billions of dollars every year.  As a result, we see greater emphasis on creating healthy workplaces, enhancing well-being and resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity or deal with setbacks.  Everyone needs resilience: it is a key to success at work and to satisfaction in life.

Let’s face it, life is hard.  Each day can generate frustrations – an urgent piece of work imposed at the last minute, dealing with a difficult colleague, facing a challenging situation, being stuck in traffic.  Then there are major setbacks in life – a lost job, a failed relationship, loss of a loved one…

Everyone needs resilience: the ability to bounce back from adversity or deal with setbacks is the key to success at work and to satisfaction in life.  Resilient people are better equipped to deal with life’s setbacks, large or small. While employers and leaders can play an important role in creating positive workplaces, we each have the ability to boost our own resilience.

Resilience is a resource that can be increased. To improve resilience, we can change the way we think about adversity and challenge our thoughts; another way is to spend time in nature. Research also shows that people who experience more positive emotions are more resilient.

While positive emotions are a large piece of what enable resilience, they also contribute to building resilience. Barbara Frederickson has done much research on the benefits of positive emotions.  Her work reveals that positive emotions change us in a very deep way: even though positive emotions are more fleeting or subtle than negative ones, those micro-moments of positivity accumulate over time and make a big difference in our lives.

One way to counteract this negativity bias is to become more familiar with the range of positive emotions – allowing us to notice them more easily and reap their benefit.  The ten different kinds of positive emotions are: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.

We feel JOY when something is going really great for us, something unexpectedly turned out well and we’re pleased.

When we notice that someone went out of their way to make a good thing happen for us, we experience GRATITUDE.

SERENITY comes from the feeling that our current circumstances are so right, that we would like to have more of this in our life – it’s about appreciating those positive aspects related to our circumstances.

INTEREST results from being involved in something, where there is some amount of novelty, something we haven’t mastered yet, but that draws us in.

HOPE is about yearning for the better.

Achieving (or seeing someone else achieve) something that is valued in our culture creates PRIDE.

Small mishaps create AMUSEMENT.  In turn, moments of shared laughter create connection between people.

INSPIRATION comes from seeing human excellence or a great talent that’s worthy of admiration.

We experience AWE when we are in the presence of greatness on a large scale. It helps us see ourselves as part of a larger whole.

Finally, LOVE is one of the most frequent positive emotions people experience. Love in its broad definition is about feeling joy with others, feeling serene with others – we feel love any time we connect with someone else over a shared positive feeling.

Different positive emotions make us do different things: explore, think big, be inventive, play, give, aspire to excellence.  In the moment, positive emotions broaden our mindset and our awareness. Over time, they build positive relationships and they contribute to resourcefulness.

One way to fully experience positive emotions is to notice them.  Paying attention and appreciating the myriad of positive events that occur every day is a choice.  Experiencing more positive emotions in our lives may not be so much about changing our circumstances, but about noticing and appreciating what is already there.

Take a moment to reflect.  Did you experience pride or satisfaction from having completed a challenging piece of work or handling a delicate situation?  Were there moments when you were so absorbed by a task that you lost track of time?  Did a colleague help you see a situation in a more positive or hopeful way?  Noticing those moments will increase your positive emotions and build your resilience over time.  This can also have a ripple effect on others around you.

I invite you to take a few minutes at the end of each day to ask yourself:

  • What went well today?
  • What am I grateful for?

Over time it will become easier for you to notice and appreciate the good “in the moment” and experience positive emotions more fully as they occur, building your resilience.

Resilience showcased by a flower