Triggers are actions or situations that elicit an emotional response. While they are typically associated with negative responses, a person can also have positive triggers.

A person can experience different types of triggers, including external and internal.

People often associate triggers with negative stressors that cause a symptomatic reaction due to a mental health condition. However, many do not realize that they can also experience positive triggers. These are external or internal stimuli that bring about a positive reaction, emotion, or feeling.

This article further explains positive triggers. It also provides examples of positive triggers and their effects and how an individual can use these positive triggers.

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines triggers as an action or situation that can cause an adverse emotional reaction. NAMI continues by saying that in the context of mental illness, this often refers to anything that causes or worsens a person’s symptoms.

This is often the standard viewpoint on triggers. However, triggers do not always have to be a negative aspect of a person’s life.

Dr. Menije Boduryan-Turner, a licensed psychologist and founder of Embracing You Therapy in California, discussed positive triggers with Medical New Today.

Dr. Menije defines positive triggers in the following way: “Triggers are anything in our external world that can elicit a reaction in us. These can be places, people, objects, or any visual stimuli such as music, pictures, or a movie. Positive Triggers are any of these stimuli that bring forward a positive feeling in us, such as confidence, joy, gratitude, and hopefulness.”

She continues by explaining how objects can become triggers due to our experiences. “Based on the theory of classical conditioning, it is believed that all objects are neutral. However, through our experiences, they either get paired with a positive feeling or a negative one.”

Read about triggers and PTSD.

NAMI states that triggers are individualized. This means they can vary from person to person.

Dr. Menije lists some examples of positive triggers:

  • favorite song
  • pictures
  • movies
  • hobbies
  • favorite moments

Further examples of triggers

“A shirt I wore to a job interview that I later was offered now has become my favorite shirt because it is paired with the day I got my dream job. In contrast, if, let’s say, I got into a car accident the day I wore that black shirt, it now becomes a negative trigger because it reminds me how scared and afraid I was. Every time I see that shirt, I think of the car accident, hence acting as a negative trigger.”

— Dr. Menije

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Anything that makes a person feel joy, confidence, gratitude, and hope can become a positive trigger.

According to a 2011 article, the balance of a person’s positive and negative emotions can help predict their judgment of their overall well-being. It goes on to say that positive emotions not only exist in the present but can flourish over time. This can lead to improved overall well-being in the long term.

Dr. Menije expands on this idea and how positive triggers can affect a person. “Positive triggers can be a great coping skill to manage depression, anxiety, worry, or even anger. Since we can’t be anxious and happy at the same time, we can use positive triggers to get us out of a difficult emotion or help us get unstuck.”

Effects of positive triggers

“Going for a walk is a positive trigger because we know that we can go for a walk and allow nature to ground us; we can come back to the task at hand with more clarity or optimism.”

— Dr. Menije

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Learn more about emotional well-being.

A 2017 study found a positive loop associated with positive activities, kindness, and a person’s well-being. The study found that people who engaged in positive activities had higher levels of prosocial effort and improved well-being. It also found that those who participated in gratitude activities reported greater elevation in well-being and prosocial effort.

This shows that positive activities, or triggers, can improve a person’s overall well-being.

Dr. Menije says there are two ways a person can use positive triggers in their life.

“One of them is what we call a scheduled routine. For example, in your morning routine, you decide to engage in meditation and/or journaling with positive affirmations; these will act as positive triggers and help to get your day started on a good note. You are more likely to start your day from a place of confidence, inner peace, and optimism after engaging in these positive activities,” she explained.

She continues by describing the second use for positive triggers. “The second way to use positive triggers is throughout the day when you notice yourself having intense negative and/or uncomfortable emotions. Be advised that this requires you to be mindful of any shift in your emotions and catch them when they are becoming intense or heavier.

For example, while driving, once you notice your mind ruminating and you are getting anxious about a meeting you are driving to, by noticing the increase in anxiety, you can then pause and decide to play your favorite song, which would be the positive trigger, to shift your emotions.”

The following section lists some questions people often ask about positive triggers.

How do you create a positive trigger?

“Look for any moment in time when you are feeling grounded, relaxed, inner peace, and joyful, whether that’s when you are on the couch resting, going for a hike, or having dinner with a group of friends. It will become your new positive trigger,” explained Dr. Menije.

“How a person can create positive triggers. We have many positive triggers throughout the days, but unfortunately, they go unnoticed due to our stress levels. Our stress and anxiety can hijack us from the present moment and miss out on any spontaneous, positive triggers.”

What are positive and negative triggers?

“Simply put, triggers are any stimulus that can elicit positive or negative emotions in us. For example, after a breakup, the favorite restaurant you and your ex once loved and acted as a positive trigger now has become a negative one,” said Dr. Menije.

Mental health resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and resources on mental health and well-being.

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Triggers are any stimuli that bring about an emotional response in a person. These are often associated with negative reactions due to mental health conditions.

However, a person can also experience positive triggers. These are moments, objects, and images that elicit positive emotions, such as confidence, joy, and hope.

A person can create positive triggers by paying attention to the times when they feel positive emotions and noting what they are doing at the time. They can then use these positive triggers to help cope during times when they feel anxious or depressed.