Benefits of Positive Emotions
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Emotions Have Evolutionary Value
We know that negative emotions have an evolutionary value. For the most part, negative emotions are associated with some kind of experience fear, loss, and attack that signals the activation of our flight or fight response. When we experience negative emotions we have a feeling of aversion, which acts to activate and set us in motion to identify what is wrong and eliminate it. Negative emotions are related to behaviors and actions that are associated with a sensory alert that activates us to focus on "fight, flight or conserve."
Positive emotions also have an evolutionary advantage. They "broaden and build." Experiencing positive emotions increases our survival chances because positive emotions broaden our intellectual, physical, and social resources and build reserves for us to draw upon.
The presence of positive emotions increases our drive for exploration and discovery and provides the basis for positive social interactions. When we experience positive emotions, we become more tolerant, expansive, and creative. The more positive emotion we experience the more open to new ideas and new experiences we become.
Negative emotions narrow a persons perspective to deal only with the immediate threat. When negative emotions are experienced, our flight or fight response is activated and we withdraw, freeze, or protect. In contrast, when we experience positive emotions, we feel safe and engage in active, playful exploration, and discovery. Negative emotions contract and positive emotions expand.
Positive emotions form the experiential foundation for mentally healthy people. Positive emotions provide a foundation for growth and exploration and build the intellectual, social and physical capital for further growth and development.
When we experience negative emotions, they tell us to focus on what is wrong and eliminate it. When we experience positive emotions, however, we start looking for the virtues of what is happening. We become constructive, generous, un-defensive, and open to seeing possibilities.
Experiencing positive emotions makes available to us an entirely different way of thinking from a negative mood. A negative mood helps us detect threats in our environment and focus our attention on protection. A positive mood moves us into growth and development, exploration and discovery.
The Three Principles of Positive Emotions
1. Positive Emotions Build Resources and Capital for the Future
2. Positive Emotions Create an Upward Spiral
3. Positive Emotions are Important
Positive Emotions Are Associated with More Successful Interactions in the World
Experiencing positive emotions brings more successful interactions with the world. Developing the art and skill of experiencing more positive emotions will build more friendships, stronger love, better physical health, and more mastery and successful interactions in the world. Growth, positive development, and creative and successful interactions in the world (i.e. mental health) may have their foundations in the experience of positive emotions.
Happy People Are More Effective and Successful in the World
Happy people view themselves as more successful in the world. Happy people think that they have more skill than others think they do. Happy people remember more good events than actually happened and forget more of the bad events that happened Happy people see success as lasting, personal and pervasive and failure as impersonal, temporary and specific.
Happy people may lose a bit of realism but this does not lock them into ineffective functioning. Happy people are more likely to switch tactics when involved in a task that appears to be failing In the normal course of events, happy people rely on their tried and true positive past experiences while less happy people are more skeptical. However, when events are threatening, happy people, more readily than less happy people, switch tactics and adopt a skeptical and analytical frame of mind. Happy people seem to deal better with adversity.
Happier people are markedly more satisfied with their jobs than less happy people. More happiness actually causes more productivity and results in higher income. Happiness also makes gainful employment and higher income more likely. Adults and children who are put in a good mood select higher goals, perform better, and persist longer on a variety of laboratory tasks, such as solving anagrams.
Happy People Are Healthier
Positive emotions result in better physical health. Happy people spend more time playing. Playing has distinct survival benefits and is associated with greater creativity, muscle, and cardiovascular fitness. Positive emotions also predict health and longevity and protect people from the wear and tear of aging. Positive emotions strongly predict who lives longer, who dies earlier and who will become disabled. Happy people seek out and make use of more health risk information. Happy people have better health habits, lower blood pressure, and stronger immune systems than less happy people. They endure pain better and take more health and safety precautions when threatened. Positive emotions are a "prolonger of life and improver of health."
Happy People Are More Connected With Others
The expression of positive emotions results in more secure relationships. Very happy people differ markedly from average people and from unhappy people in one principle way - a rich and fulfilling social life. Happy people have more close and casual friends, are more likely to be married, and are more involved in group activities than unhappy people. Happy people are also more altruistic. When we are in a good mood we are less focused on ourselves, we like others more and we want to be kinder and share our good fortune more with others. However, when we are experiencing negative emotions we become distrustful, turn inward and become defensive about our own needs.
Focusing on Positive Emotions
Positive emotions undo negative emotions and reduce the negative physical and psychological stresses of negative experiences. Negative emotions tell you that you are facing a win-loss encounter and need to take steps to engage with the obstacles. Positive emotions tell you that you are in a potential win-win situation. Positive emotions guide you to be more expansive, tolerant, and creative so that you can maximize the social, intellectual, and physical benefits of the situation.
It is important to generate and build the experience of positive affective states rather than simply extinguishing negative emotions. Positive affective states become the fuel and the raw material for experiencing more growth and development, more exploration and discovery, more mastery and successful interactions in the world, and building, developing, using and leveraging our strengths.
You can dedicate this month to recognizing the importance of building a core motion towards happiness. You will broaden, build and become more successful in your world (whatever success means for you). Seek to align yourself with the wisdom expressed by the Dali Lama -
"I believe that the very purpose
of our life is to seek happiness.
Are You Experiencing Positive Emotions?
If you answered "no" to any of the above, take steps to develop more positive emotions in your life.
Contact me to discuss coaching and consulting options for living a happier life. I can design an individual program aimed at leveraging your resources for bringing more positive emotions into your life and coach you in the program's implementation. Schedule a service appointment to pinpoint positive emotions that need buffing up. Learn what are your biggest obstacles to increasing your positive emotions and what resources you can leverage to experience more positive emotions. Call 434-263-4669 or e-mail now.
© Copyright 1997 - 2008 by Mary Ann Copson and Evenstar. All rights reserved.
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