As a PhD student in psychology, I am immersed in the constantly evolving research around how to help people improve their well-being. The science of positive psychology (and yes – it is a science) is full of practical applications on how an individual can improve the odds of flourishing – now and into the future.

Many developments in the field are based on recent research conducted by the University of North Carolina’s Dr. Barbara Fredrickson and popularized in her awesome book, Positivity.  (You should read this!)

Dr. Fredrickson’s extensive research has revealed a “positivity ratio” at which point flourishing in life is much more likely. As an individual, in a marriage, or in a team at work, if you can get your positive emotions to negative emotions ratio to 3:1 (or greater), you are much more likely to enjoy an upward spiral of well-being leading to better health, vibrancy, and effectiveness of teams.

We are all conditioned to expect and endure, especially at work, the everyday negative emotions of apathy, fear, doubt, envy, shame, blame, resentment, anger, hostility, depression, and many more. These emotions fuel the stress, negativity, dysfunction and poor performance inherent in many teams. There is a better way. By intentionally developing a culture based on positivity, teams have been shown to dramatically outperform teams who don’t. And what are these positive emotions?  Some of these are joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.  Yes – love. Love has a place in teamwork.

Individuals who have a positivity-negativity ratio of 3:1 or greater are much more likely to be more generous and caring, are more dedicated, are more creative, have lower blood pressure, less pain, fewer colds, better sleep, lower risk of disease, and less depression. Marriages and work teams with a 3:1 ratio or better have a similar list of benefits.

So how does one improve her/his positivity ratio?  Easy – increase the amount of positivity and decrease the amount of negativity in your life. Ways to increase positivity include counting your blessings (a gratitude journal is effective), being kind to other people, following your passions, applying your strengths, connecting with nature, and dreaming about your future. Ways to reduce negativity include using meditation to minimize rumination, being mindful of the TV, music and other media you absorb, elimination of gossip and sarcasm, and staying away from negative people.

You can take your own free positive self-test by clicking here.  If you’ll adopt some of the things mentioned above, I’m guessing your positivity-negativity ratio will improve, and your life, your marriage, and yes – even your team will improve as well.


Brett Blair – Executive Coach