David Strittmatter

How to harness positive emotions to live a better life

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart – Helen Keller


  • Positive emotions are worth cultivating, and we need to find ways to add more of them to our lives
  • The main limiting reason is fear – particularly fear of rejection
  • Too often, we don’t bother to let negativity take so much space in our lives

Practical advice:

  • Make it a habit to answer questions genuinely
  • Appreciate people as much and often as you can
  • Always have a smile on your face

Dear friend,

I frequently ask myself, what makes life great? When do I truly feel happy?

Repeatedly, this reflection process came down to one thing: Emotions.

Appreciation, adoration, amusement, excitement, interest, joy, nostalgia, satisfaction, sympathy, triumph – positive emotions are the spice in our lives. Without them, life is plain and dull.

But – as you might have already experienced as well – it’s not that simple with emotions.

In today’s article, I’ll write about the importance of positive emotions, factors curbing them, and how I add more spice to my life by making use of emotions.

The importance of positive emotions

What do you like better:

A job where you can never joke around for fear of getting fired if you do OR a workplace where you can laugh, be happy, and be upset?

Friends who show and share their true feelings, aren’t afraid to talk about failure and weaknesses, and exhibit empathy when you pour out your feelings OR who always try to be cool, have a neat appearance, and don’t talk about their struggles?

A partner who loves every perfect imperfection of you, appreciates when you share your feelings, and doesn’t hesitate to open up her/his feelings too OR who is afraid of disclosing weak spots, cannot talk about her/his passions, and maintains different personalities depending on the situation?

When we cannot show our true emotions, we’re something missing. Life feels different when we feel safe to share our inner self: We have more energy, are more resilient, feel a stronger sense of connection, maintain a higher level of discipline, feel at ease, etc.

Positive emotions are worth cultivating, and we need to find ways to add more of them to our lives.

Why we lack positive emotions

Even though we all value positive emotions and would have rather more than fewer of them, we struggle to have more of them. But why?

The main limiting reason is fear – particularly fear of rejection. Why should we disclose our inner feelings when we’re punished for doing so? Why to appear different when being different isn’t desired? Why should we talk about our struggles when others don’t want to listen?

To induce various emotions, we need to open up. We feel less excitement, appreciation, interest, nostalgia, sympathy, triumph, adoration, … if we cannot share. Sharing feelings amplifies them many times over. Thus, fear of rejection greatly inhibits our capacity to feel positive emotions.

Secondly, we often opt for convenience and comfort instead of true joy: Why should we focus on the positive aspects of a problem when ranting feels more satisfying? Why should we appreciate a colleague’s great work rather than talk shit about our boss’s silly presentation? Why should we take the risk and try something new when we already have a decent life? …

We can have much more positivity in our lives if want to. Positive emotions are very easy to capture. Yet, or just because of that, we don’t bother to let negativity take so much space in our lives.

How to have more positive emotions

There’re various ways to invoke positive emotions – too many to be exhaustively listed here. And what works for others might not work for you too. Hence, we just have to try out and see what helps us to add more positive vibes to our lives.

Thanks to all the books and articles I read, videos I watched, and other media I consumed, I found a few simple methods, which I want to share with you:

First, to deal with the fear of rejection, I needed to learn that honesty always pays off in the long-term. There might be people who will talk me down for opening up or sharing my true thoughts, however, much more often I’m rewarded for being open and genuine. Therefore, I decided for myself to always tell the truth when I’m asked for my opinion. I don’t impose my opinion on anyone, but when asked, I’m genuinely honest.

That also implies that I’m not afraid to be myself. It was very difficult for me to expose my weaknesses, failures, or silly habits when I was used to not tell the truth when asked. Today, I know that I’ll have so much more to laugh, appreciate, love, adore, marvel at, … if I’m not scared of being myself.

I know it’s easier said than done. Yet, you can start by making it a habit to answer questions as genuine as you can and slowly get used to opening up.

Second, I try to appreciate people as much as I can. Whenever I spot an opportunity to praise a friend or colleague, I just write a quick message or express my appreciation personally. If I’m not able to do it at the very moment, I write a reminder so that I don’t forget it.

Appreciating the work of others requires you to be more conscious and attentive. Most often, it’s not that we forget to appreciate someone but that we aren’t witnessing an opportunity to do so. We simply don’t make enough effort to sense the micro achievements and little favors of the people surrounding us.

Third, make it a habit to always have a smile on your face. I cannot tell you why but simply faking a smile will make you instantly feel better. Moreover, having a smile on your face will infect others to feel better as well – and having happy people around you will rather help you to feel more positivity than not having them around you, right?

In my opinion, an abundance of positive emotions requires you to adopt the right mindset. It’s not something that just happens to you but something you decide for. You need to make a decision to give negativity less space and go the extra mile to ban it consciously. Make the decision to stop gossiping. Make the decision to see the glass half-full. Make the decision to practice gratitude.

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