Positive emotions and an inflatable skeleton

By Ruth Sheard

Positive Psychology research informs us that by actively making choices to generate positive emotions like wonder, joy, happiness and love, we have the potential to boost our health and resilience.

What makes you smile, take a deep breath and laugh out loud? I am curious to know.

I love singing … walking into the wind … remembering the view from the Eiffel Tower … looking forward to swimming in transparent, turquoise sea.

What comes to mind for you?

Would we share enjoyment at seeing a Labrador puppy galloping towards a bright red ball and tripping over his paws in excited haste? Or be united in our pleasure of choosing favourite flavours at the best ice cream parlour in town?

Positive emotions can be soothing, calming, exciting and stimulate the release of endorphins, opiates, oxytocin which make me more inclined to move towards the object of my intention. Negative emotions I interpret as those emotional processes that affect the release of disproportional amounts of adrenaline and cortisol and stimulate the fight flight stress response in the body, which means that I am more likely to move away from the object of my intention.

So how do you generate positive emotions in your daily life? And what is my story about an inflatable skeleton?

It’s a story, of a time when a helium balloon, generated such fun and so many positive emotions for me, my family and friends.

At work in Paris at a September trade show, our team befriended another team, presenting their balloon collection. Their stand was festooned with inflated shapes of all colours and sizes and whilst packing up we were gifted balloons as parting gifts. I was given an inflatable skeleton! It was my size and I liked him from the start.

Once back at the office I tethered him by his ribbon to my desk and then for the homeward journey he was of course, safety belt strapped for the drive!

My family were happy to see me again and delighted to meet Mr Skeleton. We had never seen such a visitor at the farm. He was admired, floated around house and garden until he came to rest, standing up, inside the lounge window looking out at passers-by.

Next morning, sleepy eyed, I pulled back the shower curtain to find … Mr Skeleton in all his tallness! What next? The fun continued as he was hidden behind other doors ready for the next surprise encounter!  

Our accountant needed to fetch some papers from the farm, so in our absence, we arranged to leave them in an outbuilding we had converted into a little pub. Ducking under the doorway lintel, in the dim light, Pascal found the papers safely placed on the little round table but suddenly jumped … “Whaou!” … as he saw a figure in the gloom sitting stock-still, a silent witness!

Halloween was now in sight on the calendar so we decided, in honour of our visitor, to arrange a party. The thing was, that with the passing weeks, even though we had added a little air to mix with the helium, Mr Skeleton was becoming more and more unsteady on his feet. Would he make the party?

Invitations were accepted, costumes were created and with Halloween our friends arrived inside to find orange pumpkins with flickering smiles, bright coloured paper lanterns strung from beam to beam, white cobwebs and furry black spiders. With a clap of the hands the spiders dropped down on long threads and then climbed up with a mechanical whir. The children were laughing already …

We were six families all dressed up to share spooky food, drink and chatter. We danced around to the notes of The Specials singing “This town … is coming like a ghost town”. And above us all, watching on … was Mr Skeleton suspended across the beams hanging on for dear life! He made it! … to the party he had instigated … in all his inflatable fun!

I am sure you have times you remember with fondness which generate a smile, an inner warm glow or a calm sureness.

To boost your health and resilience, I hope you will make time … to shuffle around in your pack of good memories and deal yourself a good hand of positive emotions!

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