ReachOut Schools uses cookies to give you the best experience. Find out more about cookies and your privacy in our policy.

What are positive emotions? How do they fit within positive psychology? This information will give you a snap shot of how people optimally experience, predict, and savour the positive feelings and emotions that are part of normal and healthy living and human functioning (e.g. peace, gratitude, inspiration, hope, curiosity etc).

This information will help you:

  • define positive emotions
  • explore ways to imbed positive emotion strategies to daily life.
Girl sitting in group smiling at camera

What are positive emotions?

Positive emotions include feelings such as appreciation, joy, love, passion, excitement and freedom.

Research suggests that the very act of reflecting on some of the good things that happen to us actually contributes to our wellbeing. By doing this we start to notice what goes right as well as wrong in our lives, changing our focus to the positive not the negative. Even on a bad day there are some good things that happen, however small. It is important that we accept it, learn from it and move on with a positive attitude.

If you aren’t experiencing enough positive emotions in your life, stop and think why. What are some ways you can leverage your talents and strengths?

The ABC of self-talk

The relationship between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours can best be explained by looking at the ABC of your self-talk:

A is for activating situation

The activating situation refers to the situation itself, or the things that happened when you began to feel bad, such as being at a party with a whole lot of people you don't know, being overloaded with essays and assignments, or making a silly comment that you later regret.

When you identify the activating situation, it's important to stick to the facts, for example: 'I tried on my jeans and they were too small', rather than 'I tried on my jeans and I looked so disgusting and ugly and fat', or 'Sally said "hi" to me and I blushed and looked away', rather than 'Sally said "hi" to me and I made a total idiot of myself'.

B is for beliefs

Beliefs comprise our self-talk (thoughts) and assumptions that we make about a situation. Identifying our self-talk can sometimes be tricky. This is because it is so automatic that often we are not even aware of what is going on in our mind.

When something happens and we suddenly feel upset, we assume that it is the situation itself that has made us feel this way. However it is not the situation (activating situation) but the way we perceive it (beliefs) that makes us feel the way we do.

Our thoughts largely determine the way we feel. For example, your thoughts might be 'I've become really fat...I must look so wonder guys never talk to me'. Your feelings resulting from these thoughts might be sadness and frustration.

C is for consequences

The consequences of our beliefs include our feelings and behaviours.

Feelings are emotions such as sadness, anxiety, guilt, anger, embarrassment, joy, excitement or stress. Behaviours are the things we do, such as communication, withdraw, ask for help, go for a run, stay in bed or raid the fridge.

Thinking negatively about situations makes you feel bad and it can also cause you to behave in an unhelpful way. In addition, negative self-talk can affect your self-esteem. When you feel down it is likely that you are very hard on yourself, and that you will tend to criticise and judge yourself unfairly. The worse you feel, the more negative your self-talk is likely to become.

We often blame ourselves when things go wrong, compare ourselves with other people in a way that makes us feel inferior, exaggerate our weaknesses, focus on failures and predict that the worst will happen.

Practical activities

Tips for positive emotions

  • Track the good things throughout your day.
  • Perform random acts of kindness - they are contagious.