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on 8 May 2009
Barbara Frederickson, Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina, and a pioneer of positive psychology, specializes in research on positive emotions and human flourishing. She is best-known for her so-called broaden-and build theory of positive emotions.

This book describes in an accessible and captivating way what the research by her and her colleagues has taught her about what positivity is and what is does. In her explanation of what positivity is, she mentions ten forms of positivity: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. As to what positivity does, maybe it is best to start with six facts she mentions about positivity: 1) positivity feels good, 2) positivity changes how your mind works, 3) positivity transforms your future, 4) positivity puts the brakes on negativity, 5) positivity obeys a tipping point, 6) you can increase your positivity. A briefer way of describing what positivity amounts to is that it opens your mind and helps you get on a positive trajectory, an upward spiral. In other words: it makes you flourish. Flourishing is more than being happy. In Barbara Frederickson's words: "Flourishing goes beyond happiness, or satisfaction with life. True, people who flourish are happy. But that's not the half of it. Beyond feeling good, they're also doing good -adding value to the world. People who flourish are highly engaged with their families, work, and communities."

But that is not the whole story. The effects of positivity are not simple and linear. Rather, they are subtle and non-linear. Human flourishing works like a nonlinear dynamic system. In nonlinear systems, there are one or more tipping points at which the properties of the system can suddenly change dramatically. An example of such a non-linear system with a tipping point is how ice melts at zero degrees Celsius. Consultant and researcher Marcial Losada has helped Barbara Frederickson uncover a tipping point in the positivity ratio. The positivity ratio is the ratio of people's experiences of positive to negative emotions. Frederickson's and Losada's research show that there is a tipping point above which flourishing starts and below which it doesn't. This positivity ratio tipping point is 3-1. When there are three times or more as many positive experiences than negative ones, flourishing will start with all of its beneficial consequences. There also turns out to be a second tipping point, by the way, of 11-1, which is the upper bound of flourishing. Above this upper bound it seems that there is too much positivity. In other words, there will always remain a useful role for some negativity. Frederickson has found that most people have more positive than negative experiences but are below the 3-1 tipping point. Fortunately, there are many known ways to raise your positivity (many of them are described in the book) so that flourishing is attainable for anyone.

I can hardly say how impressed I am with this book. This book presents the best that positive psychology has to offer. The writing is very clear and pleasant. At the same time, everything that is being written is linked to scientific findings (which are mentioned explicitly). My suggestion is: do yourself a favor and buy yourself this book.
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on 17 September 2013
I read this book (pub 2009) immediately after Seligman's "Authentic Happiness" (pub 2003) because Fredrickson is widely as a leading contributor in the field of positive psychology. Yet despite all my positive expectations, I must say that this particular book is a huge let-down and vastly inferior to Seligman's work.

As my review title indicates, this book is littered with personal anecdotes and self-congratulation as a scholar, wife and mother. While anecdotes are routine tools in the self-help literature used to bring home a difficult point to a non-expert reader, in Fredrickson's case it appears to be merely an opportunity for more self-revelation which does not add anything to our understanding of the theory under discussion. It only underlines once more the fact that she gained a lot of notoriety early on in an emerging field.

Even worse is the constant name-dropping about 'my brilliant doctoral student' who is now so-and-son at university X or Y. Please! Just quote the experiment without all the reflected glory of having participated in training the researcher. Similarly, the repeated mentions of grants received and awards from foundations leave the reader feeling nauseous. Please, just report the work and its results without all the personal aggrandizement.

Leaving aside the distasteful tone of this book, much of the theory tested in the many experiments reported is NOT NEW. Any innovation lies in regarding the results with a different eye related, of course, to positivity. Thus, for example, the discussion about a colleague's exploration of business teams' social interactions in ch. 7 is described without any acknowledgement of the fact that Interaction Process Analysis (IPA) was developed and published by Bales in 1950. It was already widely used in the 1970s to train MBA students in how to participate in or lead successful business meetings.

Unlike Seligman, Fredrickson does spend some time discussing positivity inside marriage (building on Gottman). I was hopeful of some new insights here but see that Fredrickson falls into the trap of identifying only two simplistic categories of marriage: those that live "happily ever after" or those that "dissolve." Perhaps more engagement with real people through clinical practice of psychology and less time spent in the lab would reveal to the author that this dichotomous categorization is far from depicting the realities of marriage. Thus, I found yet another chapter to be of little value.

Perhaps most annoying is the blatant repetition of materials in chs. 9 through 12. Did the author just run out of ideas? Or did the publisher insist on a certain number of pages to be written for the manuscript? How many ways can one explain the same theory or present the same "toolkit?"?

In conclusion, I found this book irritating in the extreme and only granted a 2-star rating in recognition of the scholarly attempt to collate a basis of research in the first half of the book. Fredrickson is most probably at her best writing for scholarly journal publication, certainly not for mass market consumption.
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on 7 April 2009
Oooops.Poor Barbera's maths has unfortunatly just been 'outed' as rubbish.Never mind.The book still works I suppose as a generic self help book but any claims to scientific validity are mistaken unfortunatly.
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on 14 May 2010
this is really groundbreaking. In response to the negative comment: enhancing your positive emotions is hard work, but so is exercising your muscles. You would need to go to the gym regularly and measure your progress. Same applies to positivity. YOu apply some methods of increasing your positive affect, there are days when it's harder to do them, but you plough through it all the same. And then you measure your positivity ratio by completing an online questionnaire.
I thought the book was excellent and i would highly recommend it to anyone. Incl those serious people who are not into self-help but want to find different ways of improving their employees work. check out if your team performs to their full potential (Fredrickson and Losada part of the book)
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on 9 January 2010
Normally I would not be attracted to a book with a title like this as there are so many 'pop psychology' books of this nature, with their sickly sweet, sugary anecdotes but I was especially interested to read this book because of the combination of its basis in empirical evidence and readability. I must admit that while it was interesting to find out about the positivity ratio, I did not find the personal anecdotes compelling at all. The book might work for protected, middle (or upper) class Americans who are living the good life and whose positivity ratio is rarely challenged but I have serious concerns about its applicability to real life situations. It just read like another 'pop psychology book' to me; too much chicken soup and apple pie.
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on 25 February 2009
For these familiar with the work and research of B. Fredrickson, this is a book that describes with simple words all her research findings. But, there is more to it. Dr. Fredrickson, shows an ability to write and inspire us also. She discloses personal information that she connects with her work and conclusions in a very meaningful way. For these that do not Know at all her work- you must read it because it is an uplifting book based on groundbreaking research- very rare combination indeed!
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on 9 December 2014
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to make improvements to their mental and emotion well being.

I have read this book twice now, feel so much more optimistic and hopeful taking the advice, applying to my life. Having spent years struggling with confidence issues and finding different ways to improve slowly this book has added a few more tools to add to my happiness bank lol.

All the best for the future.
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on 21 August 2011
I have been depressed for last 3-4 years. I was seeing a pshycologyst for 5-6 monhts (he was amazing but the therapy did not really meat my expectations (I am more like "know the logic of the problem and solve it" person) I read so many overcoming etc books. However Dr. Fredickson's book was the most helpful thing with my depression, negativity, rumination.
I really hope Dr. Fredickson would see this review and know that I am so grateful that she wrote this book. I used to daydream everyday for hours, living in a world that did not exists. I used to cry every night, ruminate every morning! After reading the "positivity book" I started to meditate and my daydreams has stopped. I live the moment better and appreciate the world around me so much more. Also my rumination is so much less now. I am going to read the book one more time.

Thank you so much for writing a book with your heart Dr. Fredickson. It felt like I was listening a friend. I wish you every sucsess in your life.
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on 5 March 2015
This book has filled in so many of the missing pieces for me, ive been meditating for years now and its so easy just to go through the motions and not really focus on the powerful feelings of positivity.
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on 17 November 2016
Much satisfied with the book's quality.
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