NaBloPoMo 2016, Letters to Patients, Day 25
To Patients Seeking Positivity:
Aim for the Golden Ratio!
As many of you know, I have recently undertaken to re-evaluate my Facebook usage. Not long after I established my account c.2008, I decided to make my page a monument to positivity. I realized that after I die, it would be the most visible and accessible legacy I leave, and I have total control over what I post. I minimized complaining and ranting, and when frustrated I would try to write with an attitude of learning, of moving forward. Lately I tend to leave off the latter.
Somewhere along the way, I think over the past year, but I’m not sure, pessimism and cynicism snuck in, no doubt related to politics. The layers of consciousness infiltrated by the negative campaigning this time around extend deeper than any other election cycle in my memory—but maybe I just don’t remember. I think humans have evolved to forget pain as a survival mechanism. If women remembered all the pain and anxiety of pregnancy, delivery, and caring for a newborn, we would never do it more than once, are you kidding me?
I used to review my Facebook posts and feel elevated. Today they often bring me down; it feels terrible.
Thankfully, I have some tools to resist the negativity. I was reminded recently during my 3 Question Journal Shares with Donna over at A Year of Living Kindly. I remembered something about healthy relationships maintaining a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. Turns out it’s actually 5:1, widely attributed to observations by Dr. John Gottman, renowned marriage and relationship psychologist. I think the same thing applies in other realms, too, such as self-talk—a reflection of our relationship with ourselves. It’s not a far leap to see how this idea pertains to news, social media, and any other human interactions.
Business researchers have discovered a 5.6:1 ideal ratio in highly functioning organizations, whereas low-performing teams’ ratio landed close to 0.3:1.
For more information on the science behind the theory (and motivation for practice), I highly recommend Positive Psychology in a Nutshell, by Ilona Boniwell. For a brief overview, check out this PDF. The book summarizes the origins of positive psychology as a field, and the research and wisdom of its study and application. For example, psychologist Barbara Frederickson has described how positive emotions contribute to our personal growth and development (taken from Boniwell’s text):
- Positive emotions broaden our thought-action repertoires
- Positive emotions undo negative emotions
- Positive emotions enhance resilience
So hereafter, I will pay more attention. I will likely continue to share articles that illuminate my concerns for the future. But I will aim for the 5:1 positivity ratio. Holy cow, can you imagine if that’s actually what we saw on the news and social media? And why not aspire to 5:1 in my personal interactions, too? That’s taking charge of my own happiness, yes.