Positivity by Barbara L. Fredrickson | Lessons & Book Review

Title: Positivity

Author: Barbara L. Fredrickson

Category: Nonfiction, Psychology

Rating: 3/5 

10-word summary: You need authentic happiness to grow and improve your life.

About Positivity

Positivity is a book about the power of positive emotions. According to the author, we need a certain ratio of positivity in our lives in order to grow and achieve success. Authentic positive emotions have the power to make us healthier, more resilient and more motivated.

We will inevitably have to deal with adversity and negativity of different types, but positive emotions can help us overcome them and go on living good lives.

The author is a professor who also did a lot of research on happiness, so many of her claims are based on research studies. She also draws on the research of other colleagues in her field and shares interesting information and useful advice.

What I like about Positivity

1. The book is partly science-based

Generally speaking, a book that includes information based on research studies should be trusted much more than a book that doesn’t. This does not guarantee that the information in it is correct or accurate, but there is a higher chance that the information is true.

I really liked that the author is a researcher and she could draw on her own research and that of her colleagues. She mentioned several studies to illustrate the effects positivity can have and this made the message of the book even more powerful.

However, only part of the book is really science-based. There are parts of the book that represent the author’s personal opinions too.

2. The author argues that we need real, authentic positive emotions to experience any benefits

Many people seem to believe that anything helps – platitudes like “Just be happy” or fake smiles or attempts to fool ourselves into happiness. Fredrickson sets the record straight and warns us that we cannot fool our brains as easily as we think. In fact, forcing ourselves to be happy – when in reality we aren’t – can backfire and have damaging effects on our health.

She argues that the brain can tell when we are truly happy or positive and that’s what we need – real experiences. So her advice is that we try to experience and remember moments that truly give rise to positive emotions. This is the type of experiences we need to live better lives.

3. The book includes some practical advice

Any book that tells us we need to change or improve the way we live our lives should include a section with practical advice. Luckily, Positivity does offer some advice meant to help us become less negative and more positive. But as it goes for any change, applying this advice will take some time and effort. Luckily, we have some ideas to guide us in the beginning.

What I don’t like about Positivity

1. I think Fredrickson is trying too hard to prove that her theories and thus some of her conclusions might be unfounded or incorrect

Throughout the book, Fredrickson talks about her own theory that positive emotions lead to a broaden-and-build effect. She argues that positive emotions can make us have a broader perspective, have a broader vision when we actually look at the world in front of us and help us build, create and expand.

While this theory makes sense, I believe she was trying so hard to prove that every study mentioned in her book also seems to prove this theory. However, I believe her interests may have occasionally lead her to make some erroneous extrapolations from certain findings or to interpret some information in an inaccurate way.

After reading the book, I also discovered that some of her theories were discredited or questioned – at least according to her Wikipedia page.

2. The book is unnecessarily long

Positivity has around 325 pages, but I think that the book is far too long for the amount of information presented in it. I think the author could have presented the same theories in about 150-200 pages had she left out certain stories and ideas that were not that important or informative.

Sadly, I find that this is the case for many books out there and I will mention it for every book that could have and should have been shorter hoping that this will change one day!

3. Any researcher or scientist that talks about hearts and souls makes me question their credibility and their ability to think critically

I am very wary of people who claim they base their beliefs on facts and scientific data, yet they also talk about hearts and souls. As far as I am concerned, we probably do not have any heart or souls.

I do believe we have hearts made of flesh that pump our blood, but not hearts and souls that are something mystical, non-physical and special in some way. I think the chance of us humans having hearts and souls is very slim. And even if we do have them, as far as I know, nobody has ever proven they exist in an actual scientific study.

So I am skeptical of anyone who claims they base their beliefs on facts and proof and yet they allow themselves to believe in and talk about hearts and souls and so on.

However, I am not that bothered by authors who casually mention this. The problem is when you want to prove how scientific you are by stating that you form beliefs based on facts, data and proof again and again. And then you casually mention hearts as if the entire scientific community agrees and has found proof that they exist…right!

Lessons from Positivity

Positive emotions can increase our health and our success.

We all have the power to create more optimism in our lives.

If you analyze your positive emotions, they will begin to fade.

Positive emotions can also help you have a more broad perspective, become more creative, more open and more resilient.

You need a ratio of 3:1 positive to negative emotions to grow and flourish.

Quotes from Positivity

“Positivity doesn’t just change the contents of your mind…It widens the span of possibilities that you see.”

“Scientists have shown that because positive and open mindsets produce exploration and experiential learning, they also come to produce more-accurate mental maps of the world.”

“It turns out that unexplained positivity lasts longer than positivity we analyze until we fully understand it.”

“Positivity transforms us for the better.”

Should You Read Positivity?

I would say no. Positivity is a book that is easy to read and it does include some great information that is science-based. So I’m sure you will learn a few things from it.

But to be honest, I think this is a mediocre book. If you want to learn more about the topic, I’m sure you can find better books.

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