The Positive Cognitive Triad: 3 Traits for a Happy Life

Some people seem to be unfailingly upbeat, no matter what life throws their way. Ever wonder what the outlook on life is that all these people have in common?

One answer that’s been proposed is what psychologists call the positive cognitive triad. These are three traits that, together, make for a more positive approach to life. Some researchers have suggested that these traits are especially closely linked to mental health.

The first has to do with how we see ourselves. People with high self-esteem have a positive view of themselves and a sense of self-worth.

Next is how people view the world around them. This side of the positive cognitive triad has to do with whether people see the world they live in as basically a good place.

The final piece is about how people see the future. People with a more positive outlook in this area tend to be optimistic and hopeful.

The researchers who put forward the idea of the positive cognitive triad surveyed these traits in over a thousand college students in Hong Kong. They found that people who scored high on the traits were more resilient, had higher levels of life satisfaction, and had lower levels of depression. Moreover, these traits appeared to partly explain the link between resilience and life satisfaction.

More recently, these findings were replicated in a group of 198 American participants. Once again, in a different cultural setting, it turned out that this triple threat of positivity was partly responsible for the relationship between resilience and wellbeing.

The takeaway is that having a positive view of one’s self, the world, and the future seems to go hand-in-hand both with being more resilient and with leading a satisfying life. Fittingly, then, the researchers who published the replication study have decided to take an upbeat view of the potential their discoveries hold for the future, pointing out the possibility of “developing interventions targeting the positive cognitive triad” and therefore increasing people’s psychological wellbeing.

Image: Flickr/Bina