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The Happy Couple [Preview]

The key to keeping the magic alive in a marriage, experts say, is finding ways to promote the positive

Positive Steps
Experts also have tips for injecting positive emotions into your life. First, learn to respond constructively to your partner's positive declarations. Look for opportunities to express your interest, support and enthusiasm. Acknowledge a terrific presentation at work, say, or faster time in a road race. Ask yourself regularly: “What good news has my partner told me today? How can we celebrate it?” Affirm your partner's joy first. Discuss your concerns, such as the practical downsides of a promotion, at a later time. In addition, be attentive and actively participate in the conversation. Ask questions and indicate interest nonverbally: maintain eye contact, lean forward and nod. To show you heard, rephrase a part of what he or she said, for instance: “You seem really excited about this new job.”

Moreover, a variety of exercises can boost your ratio of positive to negative emotions. Schedule exuberant feelings into your day by, say, making time for activities that evoke such emotions. Locate places you can walk to quickly to connect with nature or other beautiful scenery. Make these places regular destinations for exercising, reflecting or hanging out with friends. In addition, practice savoring a genuine source of positive emotion that is currently, has been or will be a part of your life. Truly cherish the event by focusing intently on the feelings it evokes.

Another idea for raising your personal positivity score: create a “positivity portfolio,” a collection of meaningful mementos signifying a positive emotion. For example, you might encapsulate joy by creating a collage of uplifting song lyrics and pictures that make you smile. Looking at your creation every day for 20 minutes can improve your positivity score. Try infusing fun or pleasure into mundane tasks. For instance, transform dinner preparation into a family activity in which the kids help by measuring ingredients and slicing vegetables, perhaps learning about nutrition along the way, Fredrickson says. Or play romantic or fun music during the dinner-making process. Turn daily challenges or snafus, like your child's misplaced shoes, into a game to see who can find them first.

Look for opportunities to thank your partner. “Try highlighting those small moments in which your partner has been thoughtful and expressing it to him or her,” Fredrickson suggests. And find time each day to share something positive that has happened to you.

(Further Reading)

What Good Are Positive Emotions? Barbara L. Fredrickson in Review of General Psychology, Vol. 2, No. 3, pages 300–319; 1998.

Authentic Happiness. Martin E. P. Seligman. Free Press, 2002.

Will You Be There for Me When Things Go Right? Supportive Responses to Positive Event Disclosures. Shelly L. Gable, Gian C. Gonzaga and Amy Strachman in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 91, No. 5, pages 904–917; 2006.

It's the Little Things: Everyday Gratitude as a Booster Shot for Romantic Relationships. Sara B. Algoe, Shelly L. Gable and Natalya C. Maisel in Personal Relationships, Vol. 17, No. 2, pages 217–233; June 2010.

On Passion for Life Activities: The Dualistic Model of Passion. Robert Vallerand in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 42, No. 10, pages 97–193; 2010. Edited by M. P. Zanna. Academic Press.

Readers can measure and track their positivity ratios, record personal milestones and share their stories with others at www.positivityratio.com

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