Rebecca’s Appreciation Cards
Over the last couple of months, we have been exploring how to boost our positivity by introducing “micro-moments” of positive emotions and experiences, especially important when we are going through difficult times. This helps us not only manage the stress, but as Barbara Fredrickson, founder of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology (PEP) Lab at UNC tells us, we are better able to cope with and bounce back quicker from difficulties. It also broadens our perceptions so that we are able to come up with more solutions to challenges we are facing.
This month, we thought we’d explore some of the interpersonal elements of positivity. We start off with a little anecdote about Rebecca and her mother. Rebecca has called her almost everyday since her mother survived cancer in 2001. However, Rebecca often perceives that her mother fusses about her when she calls. Rebecca’s husband KC has challenged Rebecca to find the positive motivation behind that worry, e.g. that she is trying to communicate that she cares or that she is trying to protect the people that she loves from harm.
KC also helped Rebecca develop simple “tricks” to increase positivity with her mother. For example, not just calling her, but also sending her little texts with photos or a string of silly Emojis. (Using images also capitalizes on the power of visual prompts to induce positivity, as we discussed in last month’s newsletter). Playful techniques like these can serve as a gift that to both lighten other people’s spirits and increase a sense of connection.
John and Julie Gotmann, known as the Relationships Gurus, suggest that in order to increase positivity in relationships with the people with whom we spend the most time (spouses, partners, friends, family, colleagues), we need to “increase our fondness and admiration”. This is particularly important because, as the age old adage “familiarity breeds contempt” reminds us, as we become more intimate with those people, it can become harder to appreciate their charms and easier to see their faults.
The Gottmans maintain that relationships need a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative exchanges. Although the Gottmans focus predominantly on romantic relationships, most of their strategies can be generalized to all relationships, personal or professional. Here are some of their suggestions: be interested, express affection and intentional appreciation, find ways to be playful and silly. They also recommend that when there is negativity or things get tense, find areas where there is agreement, try to apologize for your own mistakes and recognize the other person’s perspective, and show that the other person matters despite disagreements.
Here are some other things that you can do to increase positive moments with with people you know or even with with strangers.
- Think about the people in your life and write one thing you appreciated about them each day
- Share that with them if you’d like
- Play harmless and playful practical jokes
- Write a thank you note to someone who did something nice for you
- Put pleasing pictures of things the people in your life like around their environments
- Keep pleasing pictures of your people visible (posted in your office, fridge, on your phone) so you can see them often
- Write a thank you note to someone who does some kind of service for you (mailman, cashier, hairdresser, etc.) and thank him/her for what they do
- Write a gratitude letter to people who impacted your life telling them how they did so
- Refill someone’s parking meter
- Hide appreciation notes for people to find around the house or at work
- Open the door for someone (it turns out people still really like that!)
- Let someone in line in front of you at the supermarket or in traffic
Experiment with your own creative ways of increasing positive moments with the people in your life and see if it brings your positivity ratios up in your relationships. As always, we have a handout that might also be useful, this one on Positive Partnerships.
Positively yours, Rebecca and Gioia
Cut up a piece of card stock, any color, into small strips about 1″ x 4″ and write appreciations to 5-10 people in your life (at home or at work). Make a pleasing little symbol (like an Emoji) next to what you said–a flower, a heart, a sun, a cute animal, or something related to why you appreciate that person.
You can give them to each person directly or, even more fun place them somewhere where that person will find it. For some of those people, you might make multiple little appreciation notes and give them to them over the course of a couple of weeks or even months and see how they respond. Show us your appreciations cards if you’d like on our FB page. We’d love to see them!