MIND, PSYCHE, SPIRIT
Positive Human Flourishing
♦ The Dynamics of Human Flourishing
To flourish means to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience. Flourishing contrasts not only with pathology but also with languishing: a disorder intermediate along the mental health continuum experienced by people who describe their lives as “hollow” or “empty.” Fewer than 20% of U.S. adults flourish and that the costs of languishing are comparable to depression.
♦ What predicts whether individuals or groups will flourish or languish?
We have found that a ratio of positive to negative emotions of 3:1 consistently characterizes people in flourishing mental health. Positive affect and positivity here refer to the pleasant end of a spectrum (e.g. feeling grateful, upbeat; expressing appreciation, liking). Negative affect and negativity represent its unpleasant end (e.g. feeling contemptuous, irritable; expressing disdain, disliking). The affective texture of a person’s life—or of a given relationship, or group—can be represented by a positivity ratio, the ratio of pleasant feelings and sentiments to unpleasant ones over time.
♦ Positive moods & sentiments carry multiple, interrelated benefits
Given a positivity ratio of at least 3:1, positive moods and sentiments widen the scope of attention, broaden our behavioral repertoire and increase intuition and creativity. They speed recovery from the cardio-vascular after-effects of negative affect and increase immune function. They predict resilience to adversity, increased happiness and psychological growth. They lower levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammatory responses to stress (including physical pain) and even predict how long people live.
♦ "Appropriate negativity"
Appropriate Negativity is also is a critical ingredient within human flourishing, because it serves to maintain a grounded pro-evolutionary system (ie. person or group). The dynamics of flourishing are complex, but the positivity ratio effect is genuine and reproducible between 3:1 and 11:1. It disintegrates beyond the upper figure.
This has been summary of the original scientific paper by Fredrickson & Losada, Positive affect & the complex dynamics of human flourishing. Dr Fredrickson has recently written two fine books for general readers, Positivity and Love 2.0