Look On The Bright Side
We all know someone for whom the glass is always half-full, who knows how to make lemonade whenever life hands them lemons. These eternal optimists are often the happiest people around. The folks at SoulPancake wondered: why? Do their attitudes stem from lucky circumstance, or is there a scientific correlation between looking on the bright side and a life rich with happiness?
In their ongoing Science of Happiness series, SoulPancake created a video showcasing an experiment in positive focus. They’ve put the well-worn phrase, “look on the bright side,” to the test: does a focus on positive attributes influence a person’s overall happiness in life? The answer may surprise some, especially on the “half-empty” side of the fence.
“Psychologists have found that a substantial amount of your happiness in life is determined by your ability to focus on the positive,” says host Julian, before introducing the participants.
The experiment involved gathering a group of volunteers who experienced a significant and difficult life event in the past year. They were then given a test gauging current levels of happiness. A control group was asked to think about something they feel completely neutral about, while the variable group was asked to think about a recent time in life where they experienced something positive. Whether it was something they achieved, something that happened to them, or something they did for somebody else, the goal was to put them in a positive state of mind.
These people were asked to choose their biggest strength and tell a story that showed off that quality. One man shared an experience comforting a friend after his father’s death. Another told of how he used the doubts of others as fuel for motivation. One woman focused on her talent for helping young people who don’t like school to turn around and enjoy learning and growing, something she takes enormous pride in.
Afterward, the subjects were measured again, to see what effects the positivity experiment had on their happiness. There was an immediate difference.
The control group showed increases as high as 43% and drops as low as 31%, while the variable group, the ones focusing on the positive, had a much narrower range, increasing up to 18% and most importantly, dropping as little as 6%.
“So, maybe instead of focusing on your weaknesses, you should focus on your strengths,” says Julian.
The remarkable takeaway here is that by simply maintaining perspective on the positive aspects of yourself, you can literally achieve a higher overall level of measurable happiness in life!
People often fall into the rut of thinking that only outside, concrete developments in life affect our happiness – a promotion at work, a new relationship – but this study proves that what’s more important than events existing outside ourselves is how we engage with the world. When we come at life with a positive perspective, it makes a world of a difference.
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