Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Five-to-One Ratio (At Least)

On Friday I got the May issue of The Sun, my favorite literary magazine. I always look forward to reading it - besides the excellent writing, it is published in Chapel Hill, where I met and fell in love with my husband, and he worked for it for a while, too, so it will always be dear to me. Even when I cut out every other "expendable" item from our spending, the Sun subscription stays.

This month the interview is with Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist who works at UNC-Chapel Hill and studies my favorite field, positive psychology. Her newest book is titled Positivity and discusses the findings of her research that show that there is a mathematical formula by which success (in terms of production in a business sense, or feeling happy in a more personal sense) can be predicted by the number of positive events to negative ones. The "tipping point" where good things start to happen occurs at a ratio of three to one.

I think this finding can tell us a lot about life - how to perceive it and how to live it with great satisfaction. She states, "If we're aware of the tipping point ratio, it could make a big difference in how we choose to live our lives." There are always going to be negative events in our lives, and we may not be able to *do* anything about them. But we always have the ability to increase the positive events in our lives by focusing our attention on what makes us feel good.

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our 11th anniversary, but we didn't celebrate it in the way we had planned (brunch at our favorite outdoor cafe) because he was held up at the annual Democratic county convention. When he called with the news that he wouldn't make our date I was upset. After about 90 seconds of feeling angry and resentful, I realized that I had a choice: I could continue to feel bad, bemoaning the fact that I couldn't do the thing I wanted to do, or I could think of something else I'd like to do.

Besides spending time with my husband I was looking forward to ordering my favorite sandwich from this particular cafe - a BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato) - so when I went to the market I got the ingredients to make my own. (It was delicious!) I also was looking forward to spending time outside on a beautiful day with a dear friend. So I called another dear friend and we took a walk in a gorgeous neighborhood I didn't know existed - after living in my town for 11 years, I felt like I was walking in a quaint, foreign village where every street is tree-lined and bursting with flowers.

When my husband got home we enjoyed a lovely meal on our back porch with our son. Young son ate a few bites and then spent the rest of our meal showing us all his new "tricks" he has developed on his play set. It turned out to be a perfect celebration of our anniversary - with dinner and a show!

I don't have a recent picture of us all together, but I dug up this one from last Fall. To me it is a wonderful testament to our marriage - one filled with so much positivity I think it is off the charts. (The title for this post is from Dr. Fredrickson's finding that solid marriages share at least a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative emotions.)

This week I'm rejoicing in my wonderful husband and the flourishing marriage and family we have created.


Angela Barton said...

Hey Stacey-
Congratulations on 11 happy years, and your ability to turn your disappointment around almost instantly.

I'm going to take your recommendation on The Sun. I haven't read that one. My favorites are probably The Missouri Review, and sometimes McSweeney's.

FOO said...

Thanks, Angela!

You can usually find The Sun in most libraries and I think you can read some of it online, too - so definitely check it out!

It's not for everyone - every month they publish letters from readers saying they are cancelling their subscriptions because they've had it with the negativity, or the liberal bias, or *something*. I've read it for almost 15 years now and the writing and the readers' rants continue to delight me. :)

Angela Barton said...

I'll probably like it- I love negativity and liberal bias :)

Julie said...

Hello, congratulations on your anniversary! My husband and I will have our 14th in 2 months. Your "dinner and a show" sound great to me! Every year, my mother-in-law sends us a check for our anniversary and then later asks us how our date went. I always laugh and ask my husband, who does she think is babysitting our son? She knows we don't have a babysitter and she never offers to babysit him herself. (She's babysat him maybe 3 times in almost 8 years.) But we are happy to stay home with our son, we do something together and celebrate the family we have created, much like you did. The check goes for something we all need, not a fancy night out.
P.S. I'm the one who emailed you about unschooling a month or so ago and you helped me with ideas and tips. Thanks again!

FOO said...

@Julie- Hi! I'm so glad you left a message! I've been thinking about you! I will send you an email to that effect right now!