Positive Emotion and Mindset

Positive Emotion

Positive psychologists have research positive emotions and found that beneficial effect on creativity, health, mental well-being, and productivity. While much of the research is in it’s early stages there seems to be encouraging support for the idea that cultivating a positive attitude can do us good. Much of the research has been around gratitude or appreciation. Later we will look at the exercises used in the research but for now lets start with the experience of positive emotion itself.

There are many ways we can experience a feel good moment, there are many, many aspects of positive emotion and an equally large number of activities which will allow us to experience them.

Somethings that make us feel good require resources ie new Ipad
Other things require luck or particular skills winning the lottery, getting a promotion.
Other maybe more surprising sources of positive emotion don’t require many resources or luck for example doing things for others, or spending time with loved ones. Whatever it is Positive emotion is good for use in many ways. It helps us balance out the negative emotion we might experiencing and it promotes overall well-being. A key part of benefiting from positive emotion is becoming more aware of it, and being able to deal on it. To do that we need to not only understand what provides moments of positive emotion for us but also become more sensitive to the sensation of positive emotion.

Mindfulness is a useful technique to support awareness, as is becoming more aware of the effects of positive emotion on our body. Try the exercise below and see where you feel different emotions in your body.



Positive Emotion and your body

Get comfortable use your favourite technique to quite your mind and relax. You might like to visualise numbers being written on sand and then gently washed as away as the waves lap the shore only to be replaced by the next number while you count down. Or you might like to imagine the numbers sung to a soothing melody in your mind. Whatever you choose, as each number goes by feel yourself becoming twice as relaxed.

Think back to a time.. : Once you are as relaxed as you wish to be, think of a time that you were very happy. Think of an event sometime in your past. Maybe it was your birthday and you were given a wonderful gift or perhaps it was dinner with some good friends or possibly a time when you felt loved. Once you have thought of the event re-live the event in your memory with as much detail as you can. Particularly focus on how it made you feel. Once you have grasped the feeling, identify where you feel it in your body. Is it in your head? Is it around your heart? Once you have it, focus on it and encourage the feeling to grow and intensify. Remember where the feeling is. Once you have completed this try a few other positive emotions. Do you feel them all in the same place?

How useful is Positive Emotion?

Positive emotions are more then just a nice experience they are also good for our well-being. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky experiencing positive emotion has many more benefits than just in the moment of experiencing.

In her research into she used methods such as giving students candy before a test and finding their test scores where higher. I am not suggesting you keep candy in your pocket to enhance your performance through out the day. But there might be a case for controlling your state with a view to enhancing performance.

Sadly, we also know we habituate to things that create positive emotion so we have to keep changing things around. However, what we have just seen is that a memory of a positive emotion can still create the same sensation and so bring benefits.



Review your positive emotion list from week 1 are there new options you would like to add?


Quiz 1: What is your Mindset?

Rate these questions on the scale provided where 1 = strongly disagree 5 = strongly agree
Do the rating quickly so you know your elephant is answering!


1. You can never change how intelligent you are. 1 2 3 4 5

2. Your intelligence level cannot change very much.

1 2 3 4 5
3. Even if you learn new things you will not change how intelligent you are. 1 2 3 4 5
4. You can significantly increase your level of intelligence. 1 2 3 4 5
5. You can increase your IQ by practicing 1 2 3 4 5
6. If you want to become really clever you can. 1 2 3 4 5


Scores:1 thru 3 = 4 – 5 score and 4 thru 6 = 1 -2 (fixed mindset)
1 thru 3 = 1-2 and 4 thru 6 = 4-5 (growth mindset)

Your mindset has a big impact on your success and well-being. People with a growth mindset tend to do better and are happier than those with a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset is characterised by the belief that talent is innate and cannot be improved by practice. A growth mindset means seeing effort as the key factor in success, and mistakes and setbacks as useful milestones on the way to ultimate success.
The good news is that by paying attention to your mindset you can change it to the more productive, growth mindset . The practices we will try later are designed to help you switch to growth mindset.

Professor Carol Dweck coined the term mindset, which refers to the way individuals view their and others capacity to change their attributes or skills. Professor Dweck has defined two distinct mindsets, fixed and growth.

A fixed mindset is characterised by a view that ones skills are fixed or innate. People with a fixed mindset believe you either have it or you don’t. Dweck’s research has shown a number of disadvantages to having a fixed mindset, even for those who are gifted. People with a fixed mindset tend to view the skills as part of their identity. Failure is taken personally and set backs are hard to recover from. Because their skills are a reflection of their innate talent practice or increased effort seems pointless to someone with a fixed mindset.

A fixed mindset person may pretend their life is perfect and they have no need to change because to admit otherwise it so admit they are flawed but also since there is nothing that they can do to effect change they must except things as they are.
Alternatively, those with a growth mindset view their abilities as flexible. People with growth mindsets view setbacks not as a blow to their identity but as useful information with which to drive improvement.
In Professor Dweck’s book “Mindset – How you can fulfil your potential” she recounts numerous examples of how a fixed mindset has lead to financial and personal disaster. From Enron executives to violin, prodigies Dweck details the mechanism by which high-flyers can spiral down in the face of set backs. Equally compelling are her stories of growth minded people who savour the journey as well as the many layers of success which flows naturally from their effort rather than their innate skills.
Dweck is quick to point out that, while the studies categorise people into fixed or grow mindsets for the purposes of the study, many people have a different mindsets for different skills or attributes. For example one might think of IQ as a fixed attribute but see skill at sport as something that can be developed.
Before we start the next practice let’s take a moment and think about other limiting beliefs. Mindset is just one type of limiting belief ie talent is what counts I can not improve.

Here are a two video of Carol Dweck talking about mindset, genius culture and the duck syndrome you might like. Dweck is an entertaining speaker!

Dweck on Mindset

Dweck on Perfection



Paying Attention

Listen to your words, thoughts and feelings

Once you have completed the quiz and practice 2 you will have a better idea about how you think about growth vs talent for different types of skills. Now look out for fixed and growth clues as you go about your day. For example:

This is new, there is a real chance I could fail.
I can’t do it, I’m no good at this.
It wasn’t my fault, it’s someone else’s should have taken care of that.

When you notice these types of thoughts or phrases, take a moment to switch them round.

It is new but if I work hard and smart I can do it.
Nobody is perfect the first time out. It’s ok to fail along the way – either way I am learning.
If I could take responsibility what could I have done differently to make that work better?