How To Spark Positive Emotions

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Be ready for a Captain Obvious moment… Increases in positive emotions leads to better well-being. If you are thinking “duh,” then we are thinking the same!

When I first started reading about Positive Psychology, I wondered how on earth this is a model of therapy. What I learned was, it is a SUPER science base practice and I love coming across awesome studies.

This post will give you some details on the PERMA model, but will focus on the P (Positive Emotions). Keep reading to find out more!

Posted: May 6th, 2021

Disclaimer: Although I am a mental health professional, all information and reflections are meant for educational purposes only. If you plan to make changes in your life, it may be worth consulting with loved ones and/or your wellness team. Also, this post may contain affiliate links that will connect you with some pretty cool products and when making a purchase through those links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.


Martin Seligman is the man responsible for the PERMA model and the growth of Positive Psychology. He has multiple books published, but the one I’ve been reading is Flourish. I wouldn’t say Flourish is a light read, as it talks a lot about research, but definitely a cool perspective!

That being said, let me mention more about the PERMA model. What does it stand for?

P (Positive Emotions)

E (Engagement)

R (Relationships)

M (Meaning)

A (Accomplishment)

The goal of Positive Psychology is for people to “Flourish” and the way to do this is foster a little of each of the above elements. Apparently, having fulfillment in each of these areas leads to lower risk of depression and higher life satisfaction (Rashid & Seligman, 2019). Now let’s get more specific to Positive Emotions.

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    Positive Emotions

    Fostering positive emotions alone does not help us with emotional regulation during negative events. That being said, they sure do not hurt!

    We actually want past, present AND future emotions to have a positive vibe. Interestingly, there are methods to amplify the intensity and duration of these emotions (Rashid & Seligman, 2019). What are the emotion goals?

    Past: satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, pride, and serenity.

    Future: hope, optimism, faith, trust and confidence.

    Present: savouring and being mindful of all positive emotions.

    Initially the theory of happiness and well-being stated the GOAL was positive emotions of happy and satisfied…

    Now, they are just a piece of the puzzle.

    Increasing Positive Emotions

    – Finding positive meaning in events

    – Savoring past or present positive feelings

    – Sharing positive memories and experiences with others

    – Attempt to find the positives in a negative event

    – Find things to be grateful for even during a stressful time

    – Recall positive memories

    – Positive self-affirmations

    – Distract self by doing enjoyable activities

    – Surround yourself with positive supports

    Positive Items

    These next few items are only suggestions, as each person has different ways of bringing forward positive emotions!

    – Photo Album – instead of searching your phone, print your favourites or make a book online.

    – Tickets to a movie, comedy, art show or something you enjoy.

    – Memory Journal

    – Gratitude Journal

    – Positive Affirmation Journal

    What is the Impact?

    So there has to be some specific benefits, right? Well, yes there are!

    – Building positive emotions and practicing ways to cultivate them can help build resilience. Not only for negative events, but also to counteract the impact of negative emotions.

    – Some studies even note that positive emotions can almost “undo” the effects of past negative emotions.

    – Growing evidence also shows that positive emotions can lead to more flexible, efficient, integrative and open-minded thinking patterns.

    – This also means that we may not react as quickly to negative happenings, even if anger or fear pop up. There is a better chance of slowing down our reactions and behaviours.

    – Building positive emotions can spark an upward spiral of overall emotional well-being.


    An actual positive emotion may be fleeting, but the benefits have some long-lasting effects.

    Positive psychology does not have ANY expectation that you will be happy all of the time.

    Positive emotions are just a piece for improving your overall well-being and preparing you for difficult times.


    Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American psychologist56(3), 218.

    Rashid, T. & Seligman, M. (2019) Positive psychotherapy. In D. Wedding & R.J. Corsini (Eds.), Current Psychotherapies (11th ed.) 481-526. Cengage.

    Waugh, C. E. (2020). The roles of positive emotion in the regulation of emotional responses to negative events. Emotion20(1), 54–58.

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