Positive Psychology Expert Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D., Meredith College’s 2018 Woman of Achievement, accepted her award and presented a public lecture on February 20.
Meredith College President Jo Allen presented Fredrickson with the award in recognition of her work in the field of positive psychology. Allen said that Fredrickson’s work has informed the College’s StrongPoints program, a four-year plan in which each Meredith student participates.
“StrongPoints calls on students to build on their individual strengths, and includes a focus on positivity that reveals the impact of believing in oneself,” Allen said.
Fredrickson’s lecture, “Why Prioritize Positivity?” explored what positivity is and why this mindset is important.
“Positivity is not always a ‘jump for joy’ form,” Fredrickson said. “There are also quieter moments when you feel grateful or at peace.”
Among the most highly cited and influential scholars in psychology, Fredrickson is Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab (a.k.a. PEP Lab) at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“Thinking about positivity for an hour can seem misplaced because of the turbulent times we are living in,” Fredrickson said. “The only path out of despair is to bring in positivity and to bring in hope. This means taking a clear-eyed look at challenges while also yearning for something better.”
According to Fredrickson, her work and other research has shown there are numerous health benefits to positivity. Among these are stronger resilience, improved heart health, and increased immunity.
Prioritizing positivity also changes how a person’s brain works. “Positivity broadens awareness. Our minds open with the presence of positive emotions,” Fredrickson said. “Positivity opens up more creativity, which helps us come up with novel solutions.”
In summary, Fredrickson recommends being mindful about positivity.
“Rethink the value of everyday interactions,” she said. “You can change your orientation toward every interaction as an opportunity for positive connection.”
Established in 2007, Meredith College’s Woman of Achievement Award recognizes women who are inspirational role models. Previous recipients include former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker, journalist Judy Woodruff, Tony Award-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp, and N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. The Woman of Achievement event is part of The Presidential Lecture Series at Meredith College.