Book Review: Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Fredrickson’s book, Positivity, is a must-read for anyone who is serious about being happier.

Frank recommends: buy it in BULK
Barbara Fredrickson‘s book is a must-read for anyone who is serious about being happier.
Dr. Fredrickson was studying positive emotions even before Positive Psychology was officially formed. In fact, it was her research that got Martin Seligman so excited that he was running up the stairs two at a time, singing her praises. Positivity is jam-packed with research backed studies that will bring hope to the hopeless and broaden and deepen the level of happiness of even the happiest of people – including me! The most important message of the book: there is a “tipping point” of positivity. Dr. Fredrickson likens this to the transformation that ice takes on when exposed to a certain temperature – when ice becomes water. Her research proves that human beings have such a point when we transform from languishing to flourishing. Teaming up with other researchers, Dr. Fredrickson reported the exact tipping point to be 2.9013 to 1. Rounding up, she suggests that people strive to experience 3 positive emotions to 1 negative one. She reports that the majority of people have a positivity ratio of 2 to 1 and are considered to be languishing. Those experiencing a ratio of 1 to 1 (or lower) are usually diagnosed with depression. What is your positivity ratio? You can find out right now. But before you click on, two things: She suggests testing yourself often to get a true measurement of your overall positivity, so if you score low, don’t sweat it – you might just be having a bad day. Also, I (the “Happy Therapist”) scored in the languishing range myself. But the great news is that Dr. Fredrickson not only tells you what your score is, more importantly she tells you specifically how to raise your positivity score, that you may flourish! You can take the a self-test at .

What IS “Positivity” exactly? Well, Dr. Fredrickson uses the word in place of “happiness”, deeming the word “happiness” as to broad and vague. “Positivity”, however is way of life stemming from joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love. She offers a new toolkit and specific exercises in her book on how to cultivate more of these feelings. Dr. Fredrickson also has a section on decreasing negativity, including how to deal with negative people. I personally loved the concept of “social aikido” (page 175).

My only criticism of Positivity is that Dr. Fredrickson at times offers so much research to support her points that one could get mired down in the data. I urge you to not let this dissuade you. There is true gold in Positivity and urge not only buy it, but buy it in bulk. You’ll want to give a copy to all your friends (and maybe even a few “enemies”). I will be using Positivity extensively in the next semester of Happiness 101. Join us.

Frank Clayton (a.k.a. The Happy Therapist)
Licensed Professional Counselor

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