Last week Lee introduced the COR theme of the month: Joy and Celebration. He gave you two very simple yet powerful practices to engage in.
Why this focus on joy and celebration, when there is so much to “work though” with our wounds and defenses? To put it simply: Because positive emotions open us up and they significantly help us grow.
Lee and I are in the midst of an eight-week course sponsored by Stanford University in preparation for a yearlong training to become“Compassion Cultivation Training” teachers. This project was started by the Dalai Lama in collaboration with Stanford Scientists. It aims to teach people from any or no spiritual affiliation to cultivate compassion and unify humanity, and it is meant as a tool for research and education.
In this 8-week course, we were told that latest neuroscience and brain research indicates that positive emotions contribute to important life outcomes, including friendship development, higher incomes and better physical health. People who experience frequent positive emotions have even been shown to live longer.
How does joy and celebration do this? Why do people’s fleeting and subtle pleasant states pave the way to their later success, health, and longevity? Because positive emotions arise in response to diffuse opportunities, rather than narrowly-focused threats (which are usually only perceived threats, but our nervous system reacts to with fight, flight and freeze trauma responses anyways).
Positive emotions momentarily broaden people’s attention and thinking, enabling them to draw on higher-level connections and a wider-than-usual range of percepts or ideas. In turn, these broadened outlooks often help people to discover and build consequential personal resources. These resources can be cognitive, like the ability to mindfully attend to the present moment; psychological, like the ability to maintain a sense of mastery over environmental challenges; social, like the ability to give and receive emotional support; or physical, like the ability to ward off the common cold.
People with these resources are more likely to effectively meet life’s challenges and take advantage of its opportunities, becoming successful, healthy, and happy in the months and years to come.
The second part of the theory is that positive emotions set people on trajectories of growth that, over time, build consequential personal resources. Studies have shown that people who, for whatever reasons, experience or express positive emotions more than others show increases over time in optimism and tranquility, self confidence, mental health, and the quality of their close relationships.
If you want to know more about the science behind this, here are two resources:
1. A video lecture by Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D.
2. An article on how positive emotions build consequential personal resources from the National Institute of Health
So, now that we have so much scientific backing, let’s make sure we focus on positive emotions like joy and celebration! I personally really needed to hear this, given the kind of deep work I do as my daily job, ministering to the darker aspects of humanity. On top of that, we Germans are conditioned to always be honest, to not live in “LaLa-land,” and never to deny what negativity might have been swept under the rug. So I was habitually looking at the glass half empty, so to speak.
Bringing in more gratitude, acknowledging the positive, and letting my heart be uplifted by all the beauty, goodness and truth that is in my life, has been an amazing practice for me. I am in turn much more resilient, compassionate, detached, and peaceful about approaching the shadow aspects of myself and others.
What do you feel joyous about and how do you want to celebrate it? Please share it here on Facebook with us.
Much love, blessings and joy to you,