health and wellness

5 Ways to Broaden And Build Well-Being

May 30, 2024


Is there a way to prepare for hard times? What if we could keep life’s inevitable setbacks in perspective and recover more easily? 

Science supports a wonderful way to do this. Positive psychology researcher, Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, formulated the broaden-and-build theory. According to this theory, distinct positive emotions broaden our perspective and build coping skills, resilience, and well-being. If we cultivate more good moments, we can handle the bad ones better. The beneficial effects of positive emotions such as joy, interest, contentment, pride, and love linger. They help refuel us. This does not mean that negative emotions should be ignored or denied. On the contrary, experiencing positive emotions can empower us to navigate through tough times. They build a reserve and remind us of the possibility of better times ahead.

Positive emotions, such as gratitude, satisfaction, and joy, improve our emotional, mental, and physical health. They help us experience awe and remind us of the bigger picture. Uplifting experiences stimulate creativity, problem-solving skills, and a growth mindset. Their light carries us beyond momentary happiness. They serve as a reminder that we can feel good and grow again. Studies have shown that individuals who experience positive emotions on a regular basis tend to have better physical health, psychological well-being, and social relationships. These benefits can be attributed to the broaden-and-build theory, which suggests that cultivating positive emotions can lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying life.

Practical Applications Of The Broaden And Build Theory

By engaging in activities that elicit positive emotions, such as spending time in nature, listening to music, practicing mindfulness, or connecting with people through supportive relationships, we can broaden our thought-action repertoire, and build the foundation for a more fulfilling and successful life. This theory is applicable in various  settings including education, coaching, therapy, and workplace management. 

In education and coaching, the broaden-and-build theory has been used to create a positive learning environment in which students and clients are more likely to engage in positive behaviors to build their knowledge and skill sets. Research has shown that students who experience positive emotions while learning are more likely to retain information and perform better. 

In therapy, the broaden-and-build theory has been used to help people with depression and anxiety. By teaching these individuals how to cultivate positive emotions, therapists can help them build their emotional resources and cope with stressors more effectively. Studies have shown that interventions that focus on positive emotions can improve mental health outcomes

Similarly, in a positive work environment, employees are more likely to feel engaged in their work and build their professional skills. Studies have shown that positive emotions support increased job satisfaction, better work performance, and reduced burnout. 

The broaden-and-build theory has important applications in a variety of settings. By promoting positive emotions, we can build our personal resources and lead more fulfilling lives.

My approach to improving health and well-being rests on my Relief-5R plan and microboosts approach, where little steps add up to big results. My Relief-5R plan consists of refresh (whole nutrition), revitalize (powerful movement), recharge (restorative sleep), refresh (mindset development), and relate (relationship growth).

5 Practical Ways To Cultivate Positive Emotions

Clearly, positive emotions have a significant impact on our overall well-being, healthspan, and happiness. 

Here are five ways with practical microboosts to cultivate positive emotions:

  1. Gratitude Practice: Gratitude refers to the practice of being thankful for the good things in our lives. Research has shown that practicing gratitude can lead to increased positive emotions and well-being. To cultivate gratitude, you can follow my “concrete three” microboost by saying or listing a person, place, and thing that you are grateful for each day. Another great way to express gratitude is by sending a quick text, email, or thank you card to the people in your life.
  2. Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness meditation involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Practicing mindfulness meditation has been linked to increased positive emotions, such as joy and contentment. An easy microboost to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine is by using a free mindfulness app after work for five minutes to release the day and trigger positive emotions.
  3. Pro-Social Acts: Doing something kind for others can also enhance your positive emotions. Research has shown that performing acts of kindness leads to increased happiness and well-being. Kindness microboosts like holding the door for someone, smiling at a cashier, or helping a friend are easy ways to start.
  4. Physical Activity: Exercise has been linked to increased positive emotions, including happiness and joy. You can start by incorporating physical activity into your daily routine, such as walking or running. A simple microboost is adding a 10-minute outdoor walk to your day.
  5. Positive Social Interactions: Positive social interactions can also increase positive emotions. Spending time with friends and loved ones while engaging in enjoyable activities can lift your mood. A supportive phone call or in-person visit can boost your health and well-being.

By practicing any of these techniques, we can use the broaden-and-build theory to nurture an upward emotional spiral and better prepare for tough days!


About the Author

Saloni Sharma, MD, LAc, is double board-certified in pain management and rehabilitation medicine. She is the medical director and founder of the Orthopaedic Integrative Health Center, a popular speaker at Google, and an award-winning clinical assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. 

In her book, The Pain Solution: 5 Steps to Relieve and Prevent Back Pain, Muscle Pain, and Joint Pain Without Medication,Dr. Saloni Sharma offers a personalized and innovative five-step, anti-inflammatory health program built on what she calls “microboosts,” little steps that add up to big results. This unique approach empowers people to reduce excess inflammation, minimize pain, and develop a customized healthy living and aging plan.

Book Reference

Sharma, Saloni. The Pain Solution: 5 Steps to Relieve and Prevent Back Pain, Muscle Pain, and Joint Pain, Without Medication. New World Library, 2022.

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