Benefits of Positive Emotions
Hello! Today I will be discussing positive psychology, how to change your mindset and the benefits of doing so. Most of the ideas discussed in this post come from Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s book Positivity, which is an excellent read and I highly recommend it.
You can think of positive emotions as nutrients for our bodies, we need lots and we need to experience them often.
Dr. Fredrickson discusses something called the broaden-and-build Theory. This is when these positive emotions that we experience open up opportunities for us. Dr. Fredrickson uses the example of joy which is often the result of playing and it leads to approaching behavior. Children build important skills through playing, developing their physical, intellectual and social abilities. While interest can stimulate exploration, which can lead to knowledge and personal growth. These created feelings of contentment can allow people to enlarge their view of themselves and the world leading to better social relations, skills, and creating a desire for knowledge.
“The broaden-and-build theory describes the forms of positive emotions in terms of broaden thought-action repertories, and describes their function in terms of building enduring personal experience”. Positive emotions allow you to build personal resources. It is also discussed that positive emotions fuel psychological resiliency giving one the ability to “bounce back” from stressful situations. Just as negative emotions (stress, anxiety) can cause physical side effects, positive emotions can fuel psychological and physical well-being. Studies have shown that people who experience positive emotions are more likely to develop long-term plans and goals. Having these plans and goals in place leads to greater success and once again, psychological well-being.
Over time the effects of positive emotions should accumulate and compound “the broadened attention and cognition triggered by earlier experiences of positive emotion should facilitate coping with adversity, and this improved coping should predict future experiences of positive emotions”. As this cycle continues, people build their psychological reliance and enhance their emotional well-being.
So now let’s talk about how you can increase the amount of positive emotions you experience in a day. The 10 forms of positivity consist of: joy, gratitude, serenity, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration and love. Now you can spend some time remembering when you felt each one of these emotions, write down what you were doing, who you were with, and any extra details you remember. Do this for each of the 10 emotions.
Once recognizing the experiences that yield positive emotions for you, you can prioritize your positivity. Try to incorporate a few of these activities into your daily life and begin to repeat the benefits.
I few things to think about..
It is important when experiencing some positive emotions to claim that moment. When you find yourself in a special moment, stop and soak it all up.
The brain is more malleable that you would think. So, replacing your negative thoughts with positive ones can have a profound effect. The new reoccurring thoughts produce groovelike synaptic pathways essentially changing you thought patterns.
Negative and positive emotions both seem to work in a spiraling motion, creating either an upward or downward spiral. There have been many studies on depression and downward spiraling, this is when the depressed mood and pessimistic thinking feed off each other in a sense and leads to worse moods and negative thoughts. Dr. Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory suggest a complementary upward spiral where positive emotions and the expanded thinking influence one another and lead to increases in emotional well-being. Also, these positive emotions may trigger an upward spiral by “building resilience and influencing the ways that people cope with adversity”.
Positive emotions not only make you feel good in the present, but through broadening thinking and creating the ability to build resources, positive emotions increase the likelihood that you will feel good in the future as well. Reading the works of Dr. Fredrickson was very inspiring and I love that these concepts are research and clinical studied based.
Now test it out for yourself, savor your positive experiences and enjoy that upward spiral!
Fredrickson, B. (2001). The role of positive emotions in Positive Psychology: The broaden and build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist. 56(3).
Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Top-notch research reveals the upward spiral that will change your life. New York, NY: Harmony