The 3-to-1 positivity ratio, also known as the Losada ratio after its creator Marcial Losada, is a positive psychology concept that presents a “formula” for flourishing. Together with Barbara Fredrickson, also a psychologist, Losada’s research led him to discover a 2.9013 positive to negative affect for the happiest individuals.
What does this mean? Essentially, it means that to rise above people who simply languish, you must experience three positive experiences to each negative one. Losada’s experimentation showed that people who followed this ratio noticeably flourished and even referred to the 3-to-1 concept as a magic number of sorts.
Since its conception, this critical positivity ratio has faced plenty of praise and criticism, ultimately resulting in it being discredited due to insufficient critical reasoning and academic sources. However, though we can’t take the exact 3-to-1 positive ratio to count in our lives, there are still some lessons to be learned from it.
But how can you learn from something discredited? Well, the critical positivity ratio had one thing right: negative events are a standard part of life, and you don’t need to eradicate them to be happy. Sometimes, you need to make positive things to combat them instead. With that in mind, here are 6 simple ways to combat stress with the 3-to-1 positivity ratio.
1. Start Small
The goal of the positivity ratio is to work on experiencing positive events that combat or even override the negative. It can definitely sound like a very tall order, and that’s understandable. The trick, then, might be to start small.
In what small ways can you give yourself a positive experience today? How can you do simple things that bolster your happiness without overwhelming yourself?
- Smile at someone you see
- Pay someone a compliment
- Play your favorite music
- Watch an episode of your favorite show
- Play a game for half an hour
- Treat yourself to a nice meal
- Dress up in your favorite outfit
- Buy yourself something small you’ve been wanting
- Hug a loved one
Positive things don’t have to be huge to have a significant effect, so don’t worry about needing to spend a large amount on happiness. In fact, research indicates that having vast amounts of wealth can actually reduce one’s ability to enjoy the little thing in life. So focus on doing what you can with what you have and you’ll find that those little moments of positivity can bring down your stress significantly.
2. Accept That Negativity Is A Part Of Life
It’s a simple fact that negativity is normal. It is not possible for everything to be positive constantly, all the time, and to expect that is to expect the unreasonable. Ironically, fearing the negative only makes it come to you!
This means that you need to start learning that it’s okay to feel negative emotions and be in negative situations. Accepting that there are ups and downs will help you feel motivated to counteract them with positivity, and you’ll also be more open to learning how to better manage future negativity.
In other words, if you accept negativity, you accept that stress is bound to happen. Accepting it allows you to prepare for it and to develop healthy, positive coping mechanisms that will let you handle that stress in a good way.
3. Rewire Your Biases
A lot of people have natural ways of thinking that have been hammered in from a young age. These are often dictated by the biases of others around you. Unfortunately, a majority of people perceive negative things more severely than positive things, resulting in an unfair and very pessimistic view of the world.
Of course, completely rewiring your brain is no small task, and it seems like a lot to do to fight stress. But in the long-run, it will permanently change the way you respond to circumstances and handle stress at all, which will pay off for the rest of your life! Here are some tips for attempting this momentous task:
· Broaden Your Viewpoint
You are the sole person who has full control over your responses to events. It is you who decides how to respond to and perceive different experiences. If your brain naturally narrows to one of negativity in any situation, then stress is sure to follow. Widen your horizons and realize that there are multiple different ways you can react to things that happen without letting stress rule.
· Rewrite The Negativity Bias
In any given situation, there is likely to be some good and some bad. If you have the same negativity bias that plagues most of the world, then you’ve likely amplified the bad naturally – so rewrite that narrative! Instead of being stuck on the bad parts, shift your attention to the good and give it just as much, if not more, of your energy. You’ll find it’s harder to be stressed out when you’re optimistic, even cautiously so.
· Don’t Be Controlled By Isolated Events
Negative events can have prolonged effects on the human mind. But if you allow isolated bad times to control your entire life and dictate your behavior, you’re basically throwing positive thinking to the wind from the get-go. Single bad events don’t mean the end of the world and nothing you experience is permanent. Instead of going under the influence of stress each time, shift your attention to focusing on moving forward. If you’re experiencing severe post-traumatic stress, though, you should speak to a qualified mental health professional for help.
4. Take Risks
It can seem a little counterproductive to try to fight stress by potentially opening yourself up to more of it, but it actually works better than you might expect! The act of risk-taking is actually a skill. The first time you do it, it’ll be extremely stressful. But the more you work on it and the more often you do it, the more likely you are to realize that risks, when made with critical thinking, are often good things!
How does this tie in with the 3-to-1 positivity ratio? Well, risks usually involve a fair mix of positive and negative sides. By taking more risks, you’re training yourself to find the three positive things (or more) for each negative aspect. You’ll get better and better at taking risks each time!
Sometimes, you won’t be able to find the positive in a situation. That’s when you have to create it yourself! Taking control back over bad events helps to combat stress as you focus your energies on making things better for yourself. Your stress will melt away as you learn more and more actions you can take that work against it while helping your ratio. Here are some ideas for creating the positive:
· Make Some Positive Things Into Habits
The human brain is significantly more likely to flourish in the presence of routine and habit, according to research. It’s also simply easier to perform certain tasks and do certain things when they’re wired into your memory as habits. So add certain things you love doing into your daily routine! Whether it’s watching your favorite show or spending time with loved ones, turning the positive into a routine means you’re always guaranteed a couple of positive things every day, increasing your positivity ratio!
· Plan Surprises
Just as it’s important to build positivity into your routine, it’s also important to create positive experiences that fall outside of the norm. After all, nothing but routine can get a little boring. So add some variety to the good things in your positivity ratio. Remember, you deserve to be treated well, and you deserve to be spoiled – even if it’s just by you!
· Treat Yourself
Very minor things can feel like treats! You don’t have to spend a lot of money or even a lot of time giving yourself a little gift every now and then. Soaking in a nice bath, eating a sweet dessert, buying a nice drink with lunch, and other similar treats are all wonderful ways to give yourself a boost to your ratio. Try to rotate these treats to give them a fresh feeling and maintain the experience of them being rare and special.
· Take A Break
Even if you’re very busy, we can all benefit from a break. Put work on standby for just a few minutes to go and do something else when you feel the stress levels rising, or walk away to recuperate during negative events if you can. This will combat stress and also boost your productivity and effectiveness once you come back out. Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing wrong with resting and it doesn’t make you lazy or idle. Your brain is always working and is continuing to improve itself even as you rest, so breaks are scientifically good for its function and your positive thinking.
6. Use Positive Self-Talk
When you can’t create tangible forms of positivity, it’s time to turn to the person with the most power in your life to create it from themselves. Who is that person? Well, it’s you, of course! Telling yourself positive things can help bump up your ratio just a little bit, helping you to better weather the negative situations you may find yourself in.
But what kind of self-talk works best? They’re not all made equal! Studies suggest that the most effective form of positive self-talk is one that refers to yourself in the third person. You’ll find that many successful individuals, especially those who overcame tough odds, use this method.
As it stands, when you use “I”, you’re more likely to say things like “I can’t do it, I have no idea how this works, I’m so stressed out!”. But when you use third-person language when talking about yourself, you put some separation between the negativity and yourself and you can view yourself as a friend you want to be kind to. Try it out and see!
Many people get caught up in the idea that they can only be stress-free if they completely remove negativity from their lives. They might take negativity as a sign of failure or blame themselves for experiencing it. This isn’t the case and shouldn’t be your mindset, and if anything, it’ll just make you more stressed out.
The trick is to learn to balance out your negative experiences with positive ones. Even small instances of positivity can go a long way! So start putting that into practice today.