In the last few months, I’ve been listening to various audiobooks as I drive around town. One of my favorites that I would honestly read or listen to again is Brené Brown’s “Rising Strong”. It’s brilliant, funny, and completely relatable. A really engaging part for me is a section where she debates the idea regarding people doing the best that they can. As an avid researcher, she asked hundreds of people their thoughts. Many said yes, people generally do the best they can, but many also said no, people could definitely try harder. The “surprising” finding in this study was that the ones who answered more positively and said they believed that most people were truly doing their best tended to have more joy and gratitude in life. I found this correlation fascinating yet not surprising.
According to Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s work with thousands of couples spanning more than four decades, they have found that there is a simple yet powerful process that shifts an individual’s perception of their partner. The Gottmans believe that a 5:1 positive to negative ratio of interaction builds a more favorable view of a person’s outlook not only regarding their partner but about the world around them. Basically, practicing intentional positivity to outweigh the negativity brought more joy and harmony to these people’s lives as well as decreased conflict in their relationships. How cool is that? Well, maybe cool in a nerdy therapist kind of way.
In the work I do with my couples clients, this is a large part of the healing process. I have them practice more positive sentiment towards each other in an attempt to overshadow the negative sentiment that may have built up and be interfering with their happiness as a couple. I often have couples physically turn towards each other and take turns verbally focusing on the positive aspects of the other person instead of making the session all about complaints and past hurts. This is not to negate that there are negative aspects in the relationship, but to amplify the positive ones.
I don’t know if you have noticed this, but most people I know can focus on something negative for WAY longer than something positive. Maybe this is a big reason why shows like Jerry Springer and Maury are still on television or why we can’t look away from a car crash. We love to focus on pain, hurt, and negativity – especially in others. I have no real answers to why this is, except perhaps it’s more interesting, or it makes us feel better about ourselves and that our lives aren’t as crappy as “those people”, or in a weird way, it’s merely just enjoying the pain of others (my favorite German word, “schadenfreude”). In any case, even if those things make us “feel better about ourselves”, where is the focus truly going? It’s still negative.
If you’re wondering how to evaluate your personal 5:1 positive to negative ratio, ask yourself these questions:
“Do I focus more positively or negatively in my life overall?”
“How often do I dwell on the negative?”
“Am I struggling to find joy and satisfaction in my life and relationships?”
“When is the last time I gave positive focus to something for an extended period of time?”
“When is the last time I gave positive focus and appreciation to my mate?”
“Do I notice and amplify the positive aspects of my relationship?”
If you pondered these questions and were disappointed by your answers, then now is the time to address your focus. It’s never too late to become a more positive-minded person. It takes time and practice, but when you implement the 5:1 ratio, you’ll be amazed at how the world shifts with you. Give me a call at 720-381-2755 or email me at tradewindstherapy at gmail dot com to set up our first appointment today and get started on your more positive path.