6 Exercises for Positive Emotions: Start Your Upward Spiral Today


Researchers have found new ways to increase positive emotions and well-being.

Psychologists including Martin Seligman, Barbara Fredrickson, Jon Kabat-Zin, and Amy Cuddy, have shared findings to help increase the level of positivity you can experience in your life.

The six techniques described below have all been shown to boost positive emotions, albeit with a certain amount of commitment and practice.

Depending on your preferences, you might find some techniques suit you more than others, but let us introduce six exercises.  Hopefully one will resonate with you, and you can let us know how it goes!


1. Journaling Three Blessings

This classic gratitude exercise is recommended by Seligman (2011) in his book Flourish. The idea is a simple journaling exercise: every day, at the end of the day, write about three things—large or small—that went well for you and why they went well.

This exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of depression over a timeframe of a few months, but we can all benefit from reflecting on what went well each day. Experiencing and savoring the moment is a powerful way of connecting with our inner selves in a positive way.


2. Practicing Mindfulness

While its origins can be found in ancient Buddhist philosophy and meditation, mindfulness has found its way into modern life thanks to advocates like Job Kabat-Zinn, who developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. The Berkeley University Greater Good Center offers an excellent overview of the evidence supporting mindfulness’s many advantages.

There are various techniques which can be practiced to train your brain for mindfulness, such as mindful breathing and full-body scanning.


3. Practicing Loving-Kindness Meditation

In Love 2.0, Barbara Fredrickson (2013) describes how increasing micromoments of love in your life—including compassion towards yourself—can increase your health, vitality, and well-being.

Self-compassion, a concept introduced and studied extensively by Kristen Neff, is about learning to love and support oneself. This approach of self-love has been shown to impact positive emotions toward ourselves, our behaviors, and our blunders, as well as develop loving-kindness and compassion for others.

Loving-kindness meditation is one method that can be introduced into your daily life to begin experiencing loving-kindness toward yourself and others.

You can find simple guided meditations on Fredrickson’s website.


4. Reframing Negative Events

How we interpret the world around us has an influence on our subjective well-being. Developing skills to deal with adversity helps us become more resilient and positive.

Reivich and Shatté (2002) describe a sequence of steps you can take to examine and reframe negative events, which include:

  • Identifying the type of emotion experienced;
  • Identifying thinking traps preventing us from seeing the bigger picture;
  • Putting our negative thoughts into perspective and;
  • Taking positive action.

Reframing forms one of the building blocks of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and plays an essential role in the coaching approach.

Famous motivational speaker Tony Robbins shows us the power of shifting perspectives in his TED talk, Why we do what we do.


5. Creating Positive Experiences

It has been shown that positive experiences, and especially those shared with others, can have a lasting impact on our emotions. The Big Think presents to us the evidence of why experiences make us happier than material things.

In a similar vein, research has shown that helping others makes us happy, whether it is helping out a colleague, friend, or neighbor on short notice, offering support, or volunteering ourselves regularly. Random acts of kindness are an easy and fulfilling way to bring positive emotions into your life.


6. Holding a Good Posture

When you are in immediate need of positive emotions, paying attention to your body language and adjusting it accordingly can be beneficial.

Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence (2015), and her 2012 Ted talk, “Your body language shapes who you areexplain how our posture affects our emotions, and she shares “power poses” to quickly change your frame of mind and build confidence.


Start Small

Wanting to start living in a positive spiral is achievable.  These six exercises, which each offer a unique approach to positive emotions, could be your solution to a more positive life.

Start with choosing one: practice it every day for a week, or even just three days a week for a month, and notice the difference you feel in yourself and toward others. We have no doubt that the changes will be noticeable and we wish you a positive experimental period.

Are you familiar with other practices? What helps pick you up or moves you towards experiencing positive emotions?

We would love to hear your story as well as new practices we can add to this list. Please leave a comment below.

  • Cuddy, A. (2015). Presence: Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges. Orion Books.
  • Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Love 2.0: Finding happiness and health in moments of connection. Hudson Street Press.
  • Reivich, K., & Shatté, A. (2002). The resilience factor: 7 Essential skills for overcoming life’s inevitable obstacles. Three Rivers Press.
  • Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish. Free Press.

About the Author

Sarah Battey is a psychologist by training and a certified systemic coach. Sarah worked for almost 20 years in international Human Resources roles in large corporations before setting up her independent consultancy business. Today Sarah works with companies looking to foster an inclusive environment in which all employees can flourish, as well as with individual coaching clients.


  1. Gale

    I am subject to instant anger attacks that are fairly recent, and they are a source of frustrations that have increased over several years. Very negative thinking, from being an “alpha” to feeling no value . More to it, but not loving a person who is living with me isn’t helping because I “feel” like it’s a takeover of my life, like going together in a relationship…. “ours”, not hers and mine

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Gale,

      I’m sorry to read that you’re having challenges with anger. Indeed, our partners can really support us or stoke the flames when we’re dealing with anger, so to make the right decisions about how to steer your life and relationship, it can be helpful to take the time to explore the underlying drivers of your anger. A therapist can certainly support you with this. Psychology Today has a great directory you can use to find therapists in your local area.

      Another resource you can work through on your own is this great Anger self-CBT book by William Knaus.

      I hope this helps.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  2. Lynette da Silva Fortes

    Superb techniques to incorporate in my Positive Psychology classes.

  3. Félicie Girardin

    Thank you for this article: it is a nice and clear list which will help me arrange and present the positive thinking “tools” I already know of to people I’m coaching (in French).

  4. Rosalind Irving

    It is wonderful to see these techniques more fully publicized.
    As a practitioner of Positive Psychotherapy, I already do all of them and promote them with my clients. They really do work.
    Thank you for your generosity in sharing them.
    Thank you for spreading positivity!
    Rosalind Irving. RCC

  5. Siobhan Connolly Hogan

    Thank you Sarah, I really think it is great to keep reading anything positive and directions to increase our happiness .Lots of respect to you ,Step and all the other positive warriors out there !


    Thank you Sarah.Wonderful piece for developing oneself. I am feeling happy to read this.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *