The 3:1 ratio

The ideal ratio of positive to negative emotions for long-lasting wellbeing

We all have positive and negative emotions. We would like to banish the negative ones in order to feel good. However, negative emotions are part of life and are just as important. If we strive for a deeply positive attitude towards life, the ratio between positive and negative feelings is crucial.

50:50 – equal numbers of positive and negative feelings – that is not enough.

Even a ratio of 2:1 is still too little, a ratio of 3:1 is needed.

That means, for every 1 emotionally depressing experience, there should be 3 positive experiences that lift us up again. Thus we succeed in a positive attitude towards life and long-lasting wellbeing (see Barbara Fredrickson, 2011).

Be sure to actually feel the positive feelings and not fake them for yourself or your body.

Be aware that we cognitively create our feeling in the emotion itself through our evaluation of a situation.

Prof. Barbara Fredrickson is one of the leading researchers in positive psychology and has developed an online tool that allows us to visualise our individual ratio. Pick one method here that appeals to you with which you can increase your positive ratio, e.g.:

  • 3 things I am thankful for
  • 3 highlights of the day
  • Visualisation
  • What I love
  • Metta-meditation

…and practice it regularly. Even a few minutes a day have great impact.