Hopeful, joyful, peaceful, playful, thankful—these five words are written on the faces of different envelopes to create the five “-ful” envelopes.
According to Barbara Frederickson (and other positive psychologists), these five emotions are among those that contribute to happiness, subjective well-being, and flourishing.
This structured sharing activity helps participants discover how to increase the frequency and intensity of these emotions. This is the first step to increase one's happiness.
To increase the frequency and intensity of positive emotions in your life.
10 to 40 participants divided into 3 to 5 teams.
- Five “-ful” envelopes. Write a positive emotion on the front of each envelope:
- Response cards. Four index cards for each team.
Tables arranged in a roughly circular format with chairs around each table.
Organize the participants. Divide the participants into five teams of two to eight members. Teams should be approximately the same size.
Review the five positive emotions. Clarify each emotion. Ask participants to give synonyms and examples of each emotion. Here are some suggestions:
Synonyms: assured, auspicious, confident, encouraged, optimistic, promising, sanguine, trusting, upbeat.
Examples: You are convinced that this activity is going to be extremely interesting and your team is going to win.
You just participated in a performance review and you are confident that your manager is going to promote you to a higher-paying job.
Synonyms: happy, cheerful, delighted, ecstatic, elated, glad, jubilant, merry.
Examples: Your friends gave you a big surprise birthday party.
You gave birth to a healthy baby.
Synonyms: calm, centered, collected, content, serene, mellow, quiet, tranquil.
Examples: You take a nap on a deck chair in the shade of an umbrella, listening to the sound of the ocean and the twittering of birds.
You are sitting in front of a fireplace sipping a glass of eggnog while your dog is sleeping at your feet.
Synonyms: amused, fun-loving, antic, comical, elfish, frisky, impish, joking, light- hearted, mischievous
Examples: You play Candyland with a 5-year old girl.
You share “knock-knock” jokes with your nephew.
Synonyms: appreciative, indebted, obliged, grateful.
Examples: A customer service representative listens to your complaint and you receive a replacement laptop computer the next day.
Your neighbor brings you a tasty casserole after hearing that your child is sick.
Explain the task. Announce that the activity requires teams to brainstorm ideas for increasing both the frequency and the intensity of each of these positive feelings. These ideas should apply to everyday activities at work and at home.
Distribute the supplies. Give one “-ful” envelope and four index cards to each team.
Conduct the first round. Ask team members to discuss the positive emotion on the envelope and to generate ideas for experiencing this emotion more frequently and more strongly. Tell team members to write short sentences explaining easy-to-apply suggestions on one index card. Announce a time limit of 3 minutes and encourage the teams to work rapidly. Explain that the teams' response cards will be evaluated in terms of both the number and the quality of the suggestions.
Conclude the first round. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle and announce the end of the first round. Ask each team to place its response card (the index card with the suggestions) inside the envelope and pass the envelope, unsealed, to the next team. Warn the teams not to open the envelope they receive.
Conduct the second round. Ask teams to review the positive emotion on the envelope they received, but not to look at the suggestions on the response card inside. Tell the teams to repeat the earlier procedure and list suggestions on a new response card for achieving this positive emotion more frequently and more intensely. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle and ask teams to place the response card inside the envelope and pass it to the next team.
Conduct more rounds. Conduct two more rounds of the game using the same procedure.
Conduct the synthesis round. Start the fifth round just as you did the previous rounds. However, tell teams that they do not have to write any more suggestions for achieving the positive emotion identified. Instead, teams must select the top five suggestions from among the response cards inside the envelope. They do this by reviewing the individual suggestions on each response card and selecting the ones that can be easily applied to produce significant results. It does not matter if some of these suggestions are found on more than one card. Announce a 5-minute time limit for completing this task.
Present the results. At the end of the time limit, check on the teams to ensure they have selected the top five suggestions for increasing the positive emotion on their envelope. Select a team at random to present its selections. Repeat the procedure with the other teams.
Conduct a debriefing discussion to add value to the activity. Here are some suggested questions:
What are the interesting patterns among different sets of suggestions?
Can you find similarities among the suggestions for increasing different positive emotions?
Which positive emotion was the most difficult one for you to come up with suggestions? Which one was the easiest? Why?
Reflect on your work environment. Which suggestions could you implement immediately?
Too few participants? Conduct this activity as an individual game: Give a “-ful” envelope to each participant and ask her to write suggestions on the response card and to work through the steps.
Not enough time? Stop the activity after the second round. Ask teams to pass the envelopes one more time and proceed immediately to the synthesis round.
Ample time? Give more time for writing the response cards and for synthesizing them.