When we work with people in substance abuse recovery, we focus on identifying positive emotions they’d want to experience if their recovery from addiction goes as well as it possibly could. Using this “fake it ’til you make it” approach allows people the opportunity to imagine, and act “as if”, their ideal life was a reality. In this process, they are able to experience those positive emotions, if only for a short time.
Although positive emotions are only one of the many elements that go into authentic happiness, they are so important because they both signal and produce wellbeing. Barbara Fredrickson, in her book Positivity, listed 10 of the most common positive emotions that people experience:
• Interest: Noticing possibilities and life’s mysteries; being in flow; fascinated; focusing on new challenges; feeling open & alive.
• Joy: Feeling bright and light; noticing life’s vivid colors, feeling an inner glow; playful.
• Gratitude: Opening your heart, wanting to give back; heartfelt appreciation; not indebted.
• Serenity: Low-key joy; feeling everything’s alright; able to sit back and take in life’s pleasures; mindful state of peaceful savoring.
• Hope: Appears when circumstances are not ideal; holding the belief that things can change; possibilities exist, motivated to turn things around.
• Amusement: Laughter, heartfelt humor shared with others, feeling safe & lighthearted.
• Inspiration: Arises when we are witness to human nature at its finest; not resentment or envy but feeling genuinely pulled to transcend the ordinary with new energy and ideas.
• Awe: Goodness on grand scale; can feel overwhelming; feels like you are a part of something larger than yourself; self-transcendent.
• Pride: Not shame or guilt, but what blooms in the wake of socially valued achievement; motivates sharing of the good news; kindles dreams of more achievements.
• Love: Within the context of any relationship (not just romantic ones), experiencing all of the above positive emotions; non-verbal; physical response to bonding, trust and intimacy.
In a group that Gioia ran, one of the members of the groups said that he was taken with the definition of serenity. He captured his visualization of “low key-joy” in an ocean scene with a blue sky filled with wispy white clouds moving across the sky. As Gioia looked at his drawing, she could almost smell the salt air and feel that low-key joy.
Warmly, Gioia and Rebecca
Imagine feeling low-key joy-serene, calm, and peaceful. Make a painting, drawing or collage depicting that sensation. Post your artwork on our Facebook page!