how Positive must I be

How Positive Must I Be To Change My Mood?

Walking out of a coffee shop, my hands were full. 

The door opened up from someone walking in (with perfect timing I might add). They walked in first, but strangely, they didn’t hold the door open and I had to do the stop the door trick with my foot. I managed it okay, but man, I was pissed.

I thought to myself, damn, I don’t live in Philly anymore. 

This simple encounter bothered me. I let it infect me with negativity; my own reaction to this incident soured my mood and negatively affected my other interactions with others.

That’s the power of a negative interaction! 

So, how positive must I be to change my mood? 

Dr. John Gottman’s research at the University of Washington examined successful and unsuccessful marriages.

His initial study examined 95 newlywed couples across several years as he sought to find out predictors of divorce. Eventually, he completed over twelve longitudinal studies and 3,000 couples, even following one couple for over 20 years. He eventually predicted with over 90% accuracy marriages that would end in divorce. 10

He discovered an interesting thing about the communication between happy and unhappy couples.

Successful couples had a 5:1 positive to negative ratio during conflict.

In the most sacred relationships, the ones cherished and invested in the most, five positive experiences were needed to every one negative one.

That’s how positive must I be to change my own mood? 

Unsuccessful couples had a 0.8:1 positive to negative ratio of interactions. It was almost a ratio of 1:1. 

Why must it be 5:1?

Negative experiences simply carry greater weight than positive experiences. It’s why we remember the bad more than the good. A put-down of a spouse in front of others is much more hurtful than the warm feeling of a “nice shirt honey” compliment.  

The bad outweighs the good and it takes much more effort to correct a hurt. That’s also reason why it is easier to criticize than it is to compliment.

Anger is labor intensive. 

How positive must I be to change my own mood? If we are not positive with others in a 5:1 ratio, then a strange boomerang effect takes place.

We then become negative with ourselves.

Anger directed inward = depression. 

We give away what we possess in our mood, and if we give away our own negativity, then the negative spiral of negativity take place.

The simplest way to become positive with ourselves is to be positive to others. That’s the secret to mental toughness. 

If we are able to adopt the 5:1 principle with others, then we cannot but help ourselves as well.

No one can help someone else without also helping themselves.

How positive must I be depends on how bad you want to get out of the negative trap you’re in.

Positivity must be deliberate, and by design, because it does not happen by default.  Make it a goal to provide five positive comments, feedback, or interactions to overcome the negativity that occurred. 


dr rob bell speakerDr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. DRB & associates coach executives and professional athletes. Some clients have included three different winners on the PGA Tour, Indy Eleven, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens.