Does Your Weekend Exhaust You?

Do you feel exhausted after the weekend? The allure of pleasant, in the moment, and easy activities is powerful. After a long week, it’s hard to resist a bowl of potato chips, a remote control, and a widescreen. However, as tempting as it sounds to lounge around in your PJs all weekend, the trick to fulfilling and restorative downtime is to do stuff. Many of us waste our leisure time in passive activities like watching TV and scrolling through social media but, as research clearly demonstrates, engaging in physically or psychologically demanding activities is far more satisfying. The strange thing is that most of us are aware of this fact and yet cannot help ourselves from turning into couch potatoes on the weekend. A study entitled The Paradox of Happiness: Why are we not doing what makes us happy?, found that the main obstacle separating us doing things that actually bring lasting happiness is that we perceive them as intimidating. The key then is to make more effortful but satisfying activities seem just a little less daunting. For example, you could put your workout clothes out the night before so that when you wake up, that extra step of finding your jog bra is already taken care of. Another strategy is to schedule activities, especially with a friend. If you are already committed and it is on your calendar, you are more likely to follow through. Don’t just slide into your weekend, decide what you want to do in advance and do it. 

Lean Into Your Mistakes

For many of us, rationalizing what went wrong in the wake of a failure or disappointment is a common response. It protects us from dealing with unpleasant emotions and feeling badly about ourselves. A student gets a C on a paper and dismisses the bad grade as not mattering that much. An employee receives negative feedback on a presentation and blames the client and convinces themselves they will do better next time. These self-protective measures enable us to get over the disappointment and to move on. According to new research, we may be getting it all wrong. In fact, the best way to learn from a setback may be to feel the pain. In the study entitled, Emotions Know Best: The Advantage of Emotional versus Cognitive Responses to Failure, participants were asked to complete a simple task. If they succeeded, they were told they could win a cash prize. One group was told to imagine focusing on their emotional response to winning or losing. The other half was instructed to take a more cognitive approach and to focus on their thoughts about winning or losing. The task was rigged so that they all failed. Both groups were then asked to complete a second task. The group that had been asked to embrace their negative emotions exerted 25% more effort than the other group. The researchers believe that reflecting on the failure and the accompanying unpleasant feelings enabled them to learn from their mistakes. It’s counterintuitive and defies conventional wisdom. From childhood, we are told not to dwell on mistakes and to move on but as the study shows, leapfrogging over messy unhappy feelings may not be the best strategy. If we want to learn from our mistakes at school, at work and in relationships, we need to lean into them.

What Good Are Positive Emotions?

Pleasure makes us feel good. So do positive emotions. So what is the difference between the two, especially when it comes to experiencing them in our romantic relationships? To help answer that question let’s take a sneak peak for a moment at the relationships of two couples profiled in Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts. First let’s look at “Sean” and “Rachel":      Sean, a talented rock musician, found fame at a relatively young age when he landed a lucrative recording contract. Thrust into the limelight, he began frequenting five-star restaurants, trendy nightclubs, and industry parties. He reveled in the fun and new friends he met including Rachel who soon became his wife. Together, they lived large. Most nights they painted the town red, and on the rare occasion they stayed in, they’d host wild parties in their home. Everyone talked about what a fun couple they were. One day Sean’s record label dropped him. The funding suddenly stopped. And so did the fun. Rachel and Sean drifted apart and their marriage ended. Everyone wondered what had happened to this fun couple? Sean and Rachel’s marriage was predominantly based on pleasure. While they enjoyed many good times together those moments were mainly focused on fun. When the fun ended there was nothing left to keep the marriage together. (See One Question That May Determine Whether Your Love Will Last.)  Now, let’s take a look “Sam and “Beth":      Sam is an incredibly cheerful and positive person. His wife Beth and his friends regularly remark what an upbeat person he is and a joy to be around. Regardless of any setbacks he encounters in his personal or professional life, he handles them with grace, wit, and a winning attitude. His positivity rubs off on everyone in his surroundings. People naturally can’t help wanting to be in his company, especially Beth. His positivity is in large part what initially attracted her to Sam. And it has inspired her to become better herself. Rather than focusing on fun, they focus on using their positivity to become better together and make a positive impact on the world. While they share many pleasurable moments together, fun is not the foundation of their marriage. Instead, shared values and positive emotions is at the core of their relationship and is what has sustained their marriage for over 25 years. What is the difference between Sean and Rachel’s relationship that was based on pleasure, and Sam and Beth’s relationships that’s still going strong 25 years later?

Aren’t pleasure and positive emotions the same thing? After all, they both make us feel good and we actively seek to experience them individually and with our partner.

Although pleasure and positive emotions are similar they are different in significant ways and can lead to very different relational outcomes.

Positive emotions help strengthen bonds; too much pleasure often leads to their demise.

According to research by leading emotion scientist Barbara Fredrickson, pleasure tends to narrow our attention and draws us inward to our own personal desires and needs.  It results in immediate rewards that are usually short-lived. For example, think of the pleasures of drinking a full-bodied fine red wine, eating a rich piece of velvety dark chocolate or relaxing in a soothing, warm bath. These pleasurable experiences draw our attention to the immediate physical sensations: The complex notes of the wine, the taste and texture of the chocolate, and the warmth of the water against our skin.

In contrast to pleasure, positive emotions draw us outward. They broaden our attention and open our hearts and minds to possibilities.

As we mentioned in our previous post, those who experience more positive emotions tend to be more optimistic, resilient and accepting. Positive emotions enable us to reach out and connect with others, and forge stronger bonds. When experiencing positive emotions such as curiosity, awe and gratitude, for example, we are more creative and are able to come up with solutions to problems rather than when we are solely focusing on pleasure. We can understand how this openness can help us in our relationships.

Further, positive emotions aren’t just good for us in the moment; they also have long-term effects. 

While emotional states are fleeting, Fredrickson’s groundbreaking research found positive emotions build psychological and social resources for the future. They can help us get to know the world and others in new ways.  For example, when we are feeling curious or joyful, we tend to be more playful and creative with a desire to explore the world and learn more about our loved ones. This openness to experience and the knowledge we gain is advantageous as we encounter new situations and challenges in our individual and relational lives. In order to build more satisfying and sustainable relationships, we might try practicing building more positive emotions in our daily lives rather than just seeking the immediate (and fleeting) gratification of pure pleasure. ************************************ This article was adapted from Suzie and James’s Psychology Today “Happy Together” blogHappy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts, written by positive psychology experts and husband-and-wife team Suzann Pileggi Pawelski and James Pawelski, is the first book on using the principles of positive psychology to create thriving romantic relationships. James O. Pawelski, PhD, is Professor of Practice and Director of Education in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Suzann (“Suzie”) Pileggi Pawelski has a Master of Applied Positive Psychology degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a freelance writer and well-being consultant specializing in the science of happiness and its effects on health and relationships.

Ana Flores

A passionate leader, and advocate for portraying Latina women in a positive light, Ana Flores is both founder and CEO of #WeAllGrow Latina Network, the first and largest community of Latina digital influencers.

How To Take Criticism Like A Pro

We humans are really good at dwelling on stuff that make us feel bad. This negativity bias was helpful to our ancestors when survival depended on avoiding distress, danger and discomfort. It helps explain why criticism stings so much and why a negative comment eclipses anything positive. Just because we are hardwired to be sensitive doesn’t mean that we have to take everything so personally. One of the best strategies to defang the sting of criticism is to dissect it. Recognize that the negative comment is about something specific and not an indictment of you as a human being. If your manager thought your presentation wasn’t good enough, it does not mean that you are not enough. You are not your presentation. When you separate the comment from yourself you gain perspective and will be more open to actually hearing what the other person has to say.

Are Other People’s Selfies Making You Sad?

“Stop comparing yourself to everyone else.” It’s something mothers say all the time and yet it may be something we are hardwired to do. In the 1950s, Leon Festinger formulated what he called “social comparison theory”—it is a theory predicated on the idea that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we measure up to others. In other words, in the absence of objective means of evaluation, we are constantly evaluating ourselves—our intelligence, our attractiveness, wealth, success etc.—in reference to those around us. According to the theory, people prefer to compare themselves with others who are similar to them. After all, what would be the point of a novice pianist comparing themselves to Beethoven? There are upsides to social comparison. Students may feel more competent and confident when they compare themselves to other students who didn’t do as well on a biology test. It can also be a source of motivation—for example a runner may want to emulate the performance of a fellow runner who beats them by a tenth of a second. Likewise, comparisons can make us more grateful for what we have and put disappointments and hardships in perspective. The thought, “Perhaps I don’t have it so bad, after all” often comes to mind when we think of others who are less fortunate. This tends to ring true when we stop and think about the natural disasters affecting so many people across the United States and beyond right now.  That said, there are many downsides to social comparison. Research suggests that unhappy people make more frequent social comparisons than happy people and it makes them feel worse whereas happy people are less affected by it. The tendency to seek social comparison is correlated with low self-esteem and depression. Comparing ourselves to others may be in our DNA but the context and comparisons have changed dramatically with social media. Rather than making comparisons to people who are in the same boat as we are, we now have a global landscape to draw from. Research explains:

As people are increasingly relying on social networking sites for a variety of everyday tasks, they risk overexposure to upward social comparison information that may have a cumulative detrimental impact on wellbeing. Moreover, as prior research has show that people with low self-esteem often use social networking sites to express themselves in what they perceive to be a safe environment, this may result in a vicious cycle of using social networking sites to receive social support but therein exposing themselves to upward social comparison information—impairing self-esteem and restarting the cycle.

Mass media is one of the commanding influences today for social comparison and studies show it takes a toll on our wellbeing:

Research has found that women who report frequently comparing themselves to other women, especially women in the media, are more likely to show signs of negative mood and body image disturbance (Schooler et al., 2004). Tiggemann and Mcgill (2004) found that women participants’ brief exposure to media images of females led to increased levels of body dissatisfaction and weight anxiety. 

In fact, 70 percent of women feel depressed after looking at a woman’s fashion magazine for just three minutes!  Looking at images of friends’ “perfect lives” on social media has been shown to have a similar effect. Amazing parties, fabulous photos of people having a ball without us, and picture perfect images of a stress-free life can trigger resentment, envy and low self-esteem. We forget that these pictures are highly curated to portray life at its best—the in-between, non-Photoshopped moments when the kids are melting down while the souffle deflates rarely make the social media cut. The important thing to keep in mind is that these images are not reality. Studies show that when images are viewed with this in mind and with an understanding that the images represent a fantasy, they have less of a negative effect and can even improve mood. As one saying goes:

“You will never look like the girl in the magazine. The girl in the magazine doesn’t even look like the girl in the magazine.”

Bottom line: Enjoy these images for the fantasy, the beauty, the inspiration and the creativity. Remember that they have nothing to do with reality.

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Ana Flores


A passionate leader, and advocate for portraying Latina women in a positive light, Ana Flores is both founder and CEO of #WeAllGrow Latina Network, the first and largest community of Latina digital influencers.

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