So, here’s the good news, the happier you are, the smarter you will become. Now, before you get indignant and feel this is unfair on those whose life is not a bed of roses, let me explain further. You don’t have to be thrilled and happy at all times, but being positive and optimistic in general would be enough. If things are bad, and you are just telling yourself, you are going to be okay… well that works too. And this finding is not my optimism speaking, this is based on research. Sounds better?
According to Social Psychologist, Barbara Fredrickson, positive emotions like joy, contentment, interest, love, and pride, all have the ability to broaden your thought-action repertoires and they help you build your personal resources, whether it’s physical, intellectual, social or psychological.
What does that mean?
It means positive emotions allow you to discard automatic responses and instead explore creative, flexible, and unpredictable new ways of thinking and acting. By doing this, you allow for more creative cognitive processing, including making more connections. That’s what makes you smarter.
There’s more. The broaden-and-build theory also states that positive emotions can help you process the residue of negative emotions better. In simple words, it means that if there’s a stressful or negative situation that you have to deal with, you will bounce back faster. Thus, the positive emotions will not only make you smarter but they will also protect your general health and wellbeing.
Interestingly, this finding can be applied to organizational behaviour as well. This works by increasing employee engagement, by fostering a culture of continuous learning, by building positive leadership and by enhancing customer connection.
So being positive would be useful in life and in work situation, especially for leaders.
In Researcher’s own words
(i) broaden people’s attention and thinking
(ii) undo lingering negative emotional arousal
(iii) fuel psychological resilience
(iv) build consequential personal resources
(v) trigger upward spirals towards greater well-being in the future
(vi) seed human flourishing
The theory also carries an important prescriptive message. People should cultivate positive emotions in their own lives and in the lives of those around them, not just because doing so makes them feel good in the moment, but also because doing so transforms people for the better and sets them on paths toward flourishing and healthy longevity. When positive emotions are in short supply, people get stuck. They lose their degrees of behavioural freedom and become painfully predictable. But when positive emotions are in ample supply, people take off. They become generative, creative, resilient, ripe with possibility and beautifully complex. The broaden-and-build theory conveys how positive emotions move people forward and lift them to the higher ground of optimal well-being.
So, look at the brighter side. The glass is half full.