New research shows a connection between the basic feelings you have about the world and your character traits.
Posted in , Jul 18, 2022
Safe, inviting, hopeful—these are the ways someone with a positive life outlook might describe the world they live in. Daily stressors and worrying world events can feel troubling, and they should. But at a primal level, positive thinkers have a basic optimism about the possibilities for the future.
“Primal” is the key word from the findings of a new study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology. The researchers studied the connection between primal beliefs and character and personality traits.
Those with positive “primals” (short for “primal world beliefs”) describe the world as “good, enticing or interesting” and are more likely, according to the study, to display positive character strengths like hope, gratitude and curiosity.
Primals are organized into a hierarchy, from most to least abstract. The most general primal is simply to see the world as “good.” From there, secondary primals include seeing the world as safe, enticing and alive. And tertiary primals include seeing the world as stable, just, funny and worth exploring.
The study’s authors point out that research on this connection is a relatively new field within positive psychology—and that understanding it better can help support people who seek to cultivate positive thoughts and behaviors in their lives. This includes the quest for “post-traumatic growth following the Covid-19 pandemic,” the authors write.
And importantly, despite the hard-wired sound of the word “primal,” we can adjust our primal attitudes—and by extension, improve our positive character traits.
“Everybody can see some degree of beauty in the world, but some may believe that this beauty is confined to treasured places or memories,” lead author Alexander Stahlmann of the University of Zurich told Forbes magazine. “Developing positive primals means gradually extending confined beliefs to the whole world. This development may be achieved through anything that helps people realize that beauty is all around them and always has been there, no matter the historical period or what the future may hold.”
I hope this insight inspires you to think today about how you might expand your connection with the beauty of the world. If it’s hard to connect with something positive, that’s ok. Bring your thoughts inward, toward a micro-joy that feels real and meaningful to you, even if it’s a photograph of a fun experience you shared with someone you love or a single flower in a garden you walk by today. Learn something. Admire something. Notice something.
When you do, you’ll be encouraging your mind in a primally positive direction. From there, you’ll be ready to keep going—and keep growing.