Promote Positive Emotions

Positive Emotions

Help Students do What They Love

"Human lives are governed by the desire to experience joy." - Susan Engel1

Just like exercise is important for our physical health, experiencing positive emotions like joy, gratitude, inspiration and pride are important for taking care of our mental health.2

How? As a mental health promoter, create experiences that bring about positive emotions during the day (classroom, cafeteria, recess, & after-school). Help students explore and find activities that they love to do whether it is reading, math, helping others, art, music, or being physically active! When people engage in what they love to do, they feel good emotionally.

Why? Experiencing positive emotions on a regular basis has been shown to.2,3

  • promote an 'upward spiral' of feeling good
  • reduce negative feelings
  • build resilience in the face of challenges
  • increase the desire to participate more in the enjoyable activity and master it.

In addition to joy, there are many other positive emotions (see picture on right) that help us feel good emotionally. Help young people recognize and experience these!

Small moments can make big differences in how children feel and function! Moments of positive emotions can be subtle or fleeting, but can be powerful 'nutrients' in helping young people be mentally healthy. Young people need a lot of these positive moments throughout the day to help them thrive.How much is enough? Overall, people need to experience more positive emotions than negative ones in a 3-to-1 ratio throughout the day.2

Simple suggestions:

  • Observe the children/youth that you have close contact with. For each person, ask yourself, 'does he/she experience more positive emotions vs. negative emotions throughout the day'? What is their positivity ratio? Reach out to those who experience more negative emotions and come up with ways to increase their positive emotions.
  • Help create experiences in the classroom and other school environments that bring about positive emotions. Think about implementing the Comfortable Cafeteria or Refreshing Recess programs to help children/youth enjoy lunch and recess.
  • Help children/youth identify activities that result in joy or other positive emotions and encourage them to do these activities when they are not feeling well emotionally.

1 Engel, S. (2015). Joy: A subject schools lack. The Atlantic. Retrieved from
2 Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive. New York: Crown Publishing Group.
3 Cohn, M. A., Fredrickson, B. L., Brown, S. L., Mikels, J. A., & Conway, A. M. (2009). Happiness unpacked: Positive emotions increase life satisfaction by building resilience. Emotion, 9(3), 361−368.

Website: Actions for Happiness – see 'Take a Positive Approach' at