“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” As we know it takes much more than some fresh fruit to help you pass your next physical exam. With poor health on the rise in our country, now is the best time to take a look at what we can do to help ourselves be healthy and happy.
An increasing number of people are suffering from anxiety, depression, heart disease, and other illnesses.
But Psychologists are finding that positive emotions can help trigger actions that are beneficial to our health, and can increase our intellectual and social skills. Experiencing positive emotions can also result in a reversal of the effects of negative emotions we have experienced in our past, especially helpful for those suffering from depression.
In her article What Good Are Positive Emotions? Dr. Barbara L. Frederickson, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discusses the importance of positive emotions and connects such emotions with positive changes in human behavior.
Published in the Review of General Psychology, the article focuses on the positive emotions of joy, interest, contentment, and love. Dr Frederickson writes that positive emotions can broaden the scope of attention, cognition, and action. She also discusses that these emotions build physical, intellectual, and social resources.
In a psychological experiment cited in Dr Frederickson’s article, it is found that “Positive emotions, elicited by films or marked by smiles, sped recovery from the cardiovascular aftereffects of fear, anxiety, and sadness…If positive emotions can serve to undo the lingering cardiovascular reactivity sparked by negative emotions, positive emotions may also interrupt or cut short the damaging impact that this reactivity has on the cardiovascular system. Indirect evidence for the health benefits of positive emotions comes from studies in behavioral medicine that have documented the effectiveness of relaxation therapies for treating cardiovascular disorders.”
Dr Frederickson describes joy as a result of a safe and familiar environment, accomplishments, or progress toward specific goals in an individual’s life. She also discusses how joy leads to play and points to the positive effects this can have on people.
“Joy, then, not only broadens an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoire through the urge to play, but also, over time and as a product of recurrent play, joy can have the incidental effect of building an individual’s physical, intellectual, and social skills.”
This type of positive emotion is beneficial to society, especially to children. Children often turn to play time as a form of entertainment, but it also serves to broaden their skills and can help them become happy, productive members of society in the future. I feel that joy is one of the most important positive emotions for children and it can help them build their social, physical, and intellectual skills, in turn helping them build confidence. Educating our children is a top priority, and these positive emotions are important in helping children develop and succeed in their academic and social lives.
Dr Frederickson says interest, like joy, is sparked by safe situations or new situations that hold some type of mystery or change. Interest is often followed by the act of exploration, which can lead to an educational and fulfilling experience. Dr Frederickson says that interest can be a catalyst to personal growth, creativity, and intelligence.
“Interest, then, not only broadens an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoire as the individual is enticed to explore, but over time and as a product of sustained exploration, interest also builds the individual’s store of knowledge.”
Interest is also beneficial for children by sparking curiosity and the desire learn about the world around them. Students as well as people working in creative jobs can also benefit from the positive emotion of interest. Being interested and exploring new situations helps people learn and grow as individuals, resulting in smart, creative, enthusiastic members of society.
Dr Frederickson cites the work of other psychologists in order to support her assertions about positive emotions, such as contentment.
“Contentment, according to this analysis, creates the urge to savor and integrate recent
events and experiences creating a new self and a new world view. These links to integration, receptiveness, and increasing self complexity characterize contentment as an emotion that broadens individuals’ momentary thought-action repertoires and builds their personal resources.”
The feeling of contentment allows people to live in the moment and feel good about their recent life experiences. It can be a great break from the exhausting negative emotions that most people tend to focus on, such as stress, worry, anxiety, anger, or sadness. Positive emotions such as contentment are a reminder of the moments in life that deserve to be savored.
Dr Frederickson talks about love as encompassing the other positive emotions and notes that love relationships can vary, from romantic, friendship, family etc.
“In this sense, love and the various positive emotions experienced in love relationships (i.e., interest, joy, and contentment) build and solidify an individual’s social resources.”
Love can be complicated and many times can be linked to negative emotions. On the other hand, love is one of the most important and universal emotions felt by humans. This shows the significance of love and the potential it has to unite people from all walks of life and help them build strong social bonds.