Changepower

Secrets to habit change

Can Positive Events and Emotions Make You More Willing to Change?

The sparkle of good feelings, like humor, helps your perspective.


"Girl Raised From Birth by Wolf Blitzer Taken Into Protective Custody"

"Fill Your Own Goddamn Emotional Void," by Food

"Animals Keeping Impending Earthquake to Selves"

No, I haven't taken leave of my senses. Since I'm writing about positive emotions and events this week, I thought I'd create some positive emotions in myself and in you with a few headlines from the satirical newspaper, The Onion, at www.theonion.com. Do you feel more open as a result of this dash of humor? If so, think about your desired habit change right now!

"It's the sparkle of good feelings, after all, that awakens your motivation to change." So contends researcher Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity. Based on her research, Fredrickson argues that positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, serenity, and amusement don't just lead you to trade good thoughts for negative ones. Rather, positivity shifts your attention, widening the range of ideas about possible actions you can see yourself taking to solve a problem. Positive emotions and events open up our minds and hearts, leading to more willingness to change.

See All Stories In

The Laughing Cure

To bolster immunity, relieve stress, alleviate pain, laugh a little.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

When I thought about writing this blog, the first positive event that came to mind was a wanted pregnancy. Numerous students of mine have testified that becoming pregnant inspired them to stop smoking, give up illegal drugs, or turn from the wild-partying habit. A few others said they stopped smoking during pregnancy, only to resume after the baby was born.

But that is anecdotal evidence. Here is a key statistic:

The percentage of women who smoke during pregnancy is down almost 42% from 1990, from about 18% of women to about 10% today.

That's progress! This statistic indicates that women who feel positive emotions about pregnancy, understand the dire effects of smoking on fetal development, and are concerned about their developing babies' health, are motivated to change a highly addictive habit. Unfortunately, about 2/3 of women who stop smoking during pregnancy start again after giving birth, mostly due to fears about weight gain. Still, they've practiced some harm reduction, to their credit.

There are other positive events that can lead to change. According to the Edelman Health Engagement Barometer, a large-scale survey of over 15,000 people in 11 countries, people were motivated to make positive changes in health habits when they became a parent (25%) or when they renewed an emotional or spiritual connection (26%).

I have a feeling that expectant mothers (and fathers) are also motivated by another powerful positive emotion that inspires change--love. Next time I'll focus on "The Love Motivator." Meanwhile, if you are on vacation, enjoy the positive feelings that a good vacation can evoke. Maybe you'll find that those feelings raise your motivation for change by a notch or two.

(c) Meg Selig

I am the author of Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (Routledge, 2009), reviewed here.  For short takes of habit change, willpower, and healthy living, please like me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter.

SOURCES:

Fredrickson, B. Positivity (2009). NY: Crown.

American Lung Association, "Women and Tobacco Use." http://www.lungusa.org/stop-smoking/about-smoking/facts-figures/w.... Accessed 7/19/2010.

CDC, "Smoking During Pregancy---United States, 1990-2002." http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5339a1.htm. Accessed 7/19/2010.

See "Edelman Health Engagement Barometer," http://www.slideshare.net/edelmaninc/edelman-health-engagement-ba...

 

Meg Selig is the author of Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success.

more...

Subscribe to Changepower

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?