I recently read the quote "promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate" on the Action for Happiness website.

The quote resonated with me and made me wonder what sort of world we might be living in if this were to occur.

For me, personally, when I read this quote I thought of a habit I started many years ago that relates to a criticism-to-compliment ratio.

Knowing the research around the powerful strength of positive emotions versus the deleterious effect of negative emotions, I decided I would increase the compliments I dished out on a daily basis.


I made a pact with myself that I would not write a letter of complaint, no matter how justified, unless I had built up a ratio of 3:1 compliment-to-complaint letters.

I looked for opportunities to put pen to paper and dish out the letters of compliments so that when I needed to I could write that letter of complaint.

Funnily enough, though, I now tend to dish out more letters of compliments than complaints.

It is a cycle of positivity really - firstly I feel good writing the letter, secondly I feel good thinking about the other person reading the letter and thirdly this makes me want to dish out more compliments.

Consequently, I tend to be on the look-out for things that go really well and this distracts me from focusing on those that go wrong.

I used to live next door to an underwear model (stay with me, fellas, this is going somewhere meaningful). Other than that she was extremely well put together, the thing I loved most about Tanya was her ability to make others feel good.

She was one of the biggest compliment givers I had met. In the street, she would say to women "wow that outfit really suits you, perfect colours for your complexion, you look amazing", at a bar she would talk to anyone who hit on her, often praising them for something they had said or done, and in the caf she owned she dished out regular compliments to staff and patrons.

It was lovely to be in her company and the feel-good emotions she generated were contagious.

Of course, there are times when we need to focus in on situations that are not going well and may be having a negative impact on our lives.

I firmly believe we should stand up for what we believe in, but for the sake of a successful and content life we will benefit far more from focusing our energy and attention on promoting what we love versus bashing what we hate.

The positive emotions generated from promoting what you love will put you in much greater stead to achieve positive outcomes in your life than what you would ever hope to achieve from a steady focus on bashing what you hate.

Positivity begets positivity and negativity begets negativity - so where do you want to be?

A registered psychologist with a masters in applied psychology, Wanganui mother-of-two Kristen Hamling is studying for a PhD in positive psychology at Auckland University of Technology.