The unseen but tangible relationships between gratitude, positivity, forgiveness, optimism and productivity, creativity and even good luck have been shown in scientific research. The more you embody positive emotions, the happier and more successful you are likely to be. The phenomenon has much to do with creating your own reality: the more that you expect good things to occur, the more they are likely to happen. The better you feel (grateful, optimistic, forgiving), the happier you will be. It’s a positive, upward spiral. In other words, the happy get happier.
The reverse is also true: the more negative, pessimistic and cynical you are, the more likely you will be to create that reality. A negative, downward spiral. The miserable get more miserable.
Some feel that they are victims in their own world. For sure, there is much suffering and pain among people who have done nothing to deserve it. But there are also victims and martyrs among the most affluent and successful regions of the world, and peaceful, contented, grateful people among the poorest. Given that our economic or social circumstance may not be entirely within our control, and that neither of them guarantees happiness (or misery) anyway, then apparently our happiness starts with us. It’s not the other way around. We are happy because we choose to be happy. Our circumstances do not make us happy.
This upward spiral is described in many resources including Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage. From my personal experience, this phenomenon is so very true. The more I maintain a positive, optimistic, grateful attitude, the more smoothly my life seems to go, things fall into place, and I can get into flow (I’m in my groove, my sweet spot!).
It’s almost as if there is some karmic parent out there doling out rewards and punishments: Suzie didn’t say thank you, so she gets no more gifts; Suzie has a bad attitude and is going into time out; Suzie did something she knew was wrong and is going to get spanked; Suzie didn’t do her homework and has to stay after school. Suzie made A’s in school and will get to stay up late and watch Homeland. Suzie wrote a nice thank you note and so will get a mani-pedi for her next gift. Suzie ate all her dinner and will get chocolate cake for dessert.
That being said, a great attitude won’t prevent anyone from getting cancer, getting hit by a car, or losing their job. It only means that you are more likely to turn a setback into an opportunity and weather the crisis gracefully. In other words, positive, optimistic people are resilient.
I don’t really know, in the end, about the karmic parent or the neurobiology behind the upward spiral. I just know that it’s there and whether we’re riding up or down is our choice. What are you choosing?