benefits of positivity - whole30 chicken chili

Broaden-and-Build, the Benefits of Positivity, and a Whole30 Chicken Chili

I would consider one of my strengths to be my ability to both formulate and execute a plan.  I LOVE planning – everything from meal plans to barre choreography, from vacations to my wedding, and everything in between.  I would consider one of my weaknesses to be my strong distaste for not knowing what to expect.  I’m not great at “going with the flow” and just seeing what happens when it happens.  In fact, “not great” hardly scratches the surface.  I loathe being in the dark and thus ill-prepared for anything of importance.  Thus the logistics of moving and such a big transition have my anxiety levels above optimum at the moment.  I am STRESSED.  And it’s shocking to me the extent to which I seem to be “forgetting” some of the truths I have learned and habits I have built over the past few years in light of this.  Things seem to be much more arduous when I’m overwhelmed, but I know that dragging my feet on getting them going isn’t going to help anything.  And just as unhelpful is relentlessly catastrophizing and worrying about things that I just cannot know at this point.  Therefore, I simply had to make time this week to review some of the most important principles that I learned throughout my Happiness Project including the benefits of positivity and the broaden-and-build theory by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson.

According to this leading researcher in positive psychology, there are 10 unique forms of positive emotions including:  amusement, awe, gratitude, hope, inspiration, interest, joy, love, pride, and serenity.  Her work has been largely centered around the study of how these various emotions impact us and the benefits of positivity overall.  In her book Positivity, Fredrickson makes the case for how we can and should create a life of more flourishing by leveraging upward spirals – since positive emotions beget positive emotions. With her broaden-and-build theory, she argues that they “open us, literally change the boundaries of our minds and our hearts and change our outlook on our environment… our world expands.”  Throughout various trials, her research shows that with even very simple positive emotion inductions (smiling at someone, showing them a “joyful image,” or giving them a small gift or gesture), participants perform better on academic or professional tasks. When we experience positive emotion, we become more creative, more resilient, and we see more possibilities by being better able to take a step back and consider the array of options which are available for us.

Furthermore, Fredrickson’s work confirms Matthew 13:12, “whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”  She says that “the psychological broadening sparked by one positive emotion can increase an individual’s receptiveness to subsequent pleasant or meaningful events, increasing the odds that the individual will find positive meaning in these subsequent events and experience additional positive emotions.”   It’s very similar to the case for optimism.  The broaden-and-build theory argues “…relative to times when you feel negative and rejecting (or even neutral), you learn more when you feel upbeat and interested and are acting on your curiosity.  That’s because negativity – and even neutrality – holds you back.  Negativity and neutrality constrain your experience of the world.  In consequence, they also constrain your knowledge of the world.  Positivity does just the opposite.  It draws you out to explore, to mix it up with the world in unexpected ways.” We can then discover and build new skills, create more connections, integrate things that we know and better ways of being.

Although I think sometimes my generation has gone a bit far on the side of #selfcare (in some cases to the extremes of self-indulgence), I do think that taking time to facilitate positive emotions is worth its weight in gold given the benefits of positivity.   I tend to like to bury deeper into my work in seasons of stress and plow through any obstacles full steam ahead, but I know that I need to make sure I give myself healthy treats, time to do fun or relaxing things, or connect with others.  So I’ll do that starting today by making time for my own workout, spending time with my people, and treating myself to a cozy night in wrapped up in the covers with a good book after a big bowl of warm and delicious Whole30 Chicken Chili!  Because for me a healthy soup on a cold day like today is a much needed scoop of positive emotion in and of itself.

benefits of positivity - whole30 chicken chili

benefits of positivity - whole30 chicken chili

benefits of positivity - whole30 chicken chili

Whole30 Chicken Chili

Serves: 4

  • Chicken Breasts 4 each
  • Large Sweet Potato, Diced into 1"x1" chunks 1 each
  • Bone Broth or Chicken Stock 2 cups (475 ml)
  • Jalapeno/Green Chili, Minced .5 each
  • Red Jalapeno/Chili, Minced 1 each
  • Medium Yellow Onion, Diced 1 each
  • Garlic Cloves, Minced 5 each
  • Cumin 2 TBSP
  • Chili Powder 1 TSP
  • Oregano 1 TSP
  • Sea Salt 1 TSP
  • Black Pepper .5 TSP
  • Full Fat Coconut Milk .5 cup (120 ml)
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • Avocado or Cilantro/Coriander optional as garnish
  1. Add the chicken, sweet potato, broth, peppers, onion, garlic and all spices to the slow cooker/crockpot and cook on high for 3 hours.
  2. Then shred the chicken in the slow cooker using two forks.
  3. Add the coconut milk and lime juice and cook for another 30 minutes on high.
  4. Top with avocado and/or cilantro/coriander leaf as desired and enjoy a big bowl of warmth!
  5. This is an excellent make ahead/meal prep option as well!


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