We all know that it feels good to have positive emotions, but did you know that positive emotions also contribute to creativity, better health, stronger relationships, and more resiliency? Barbara Fredrickson is the leading researcher in the field of positive emotions and her work has allowed us to understand how important positive emotions are for well-being.
The Broaden and Build Theory
Fredrickson’s research recognizes that positive emotions, including joy, interest, contentment, pride, and love, broaden our thought-action repertoires and build our resources. They allow us to have a greater array of creative and flexible thoughts and actions. On the other hand, negative emotions narrow our thought-action repertoires, which cause us to act in a particular way (e.g. attack, escape). In a dangerous situation, a narrowed thought-action repertoire promotes quick action, which has immediate benefits for survival. In a situation that isn’t life or death, broad thinking is most certainly more productive.
How Do Positive Emotions Build Resources?
Our positive emotions broaden our array of thoughts and actions, which helps build our intellectual, psychological, and social resources (Fredrickson, 2001).
- Joy: creates the urge to play, push the limits, and be creative. This helps build social skills and connections with others.
- Interest: creates the urge to explore, take in new information and experiences, and expand the self. By learning new information, you are building internal resources.
- Contentment: creates the urge to savor current life circumstances, building psychological resources.
- Pride: creates the urge to share achievements with others and strive for greater achievements in the future. This builds psychological as well as external resources.
- Love: creates recurring cycles of urges to play with, explore, and savor experiences with loved ones, building social resources and strengthening connections with others.
How Do Positive Emotions Promote Cardiovascular Health?
Experiencing positive emotions after a high-activation negative emotion (i.e., one that causes your heartbeat to increase) promotes cardiovascular recovery quicker than neutral or negative emotions (Fredrickson et al., 2000). Positive emotions seem to be able to undo the cardiovascular aftereffects experienced after negative emotions. This allows us to calm down more quickly, reduce stress on our bodies, and perhaps take purposeful action and handle a situation more effectively.
How Do Positive Emotions Promote Resiliency?
Because positive emotions help build our resources and increase creative and flexible thinking, they can increase our coping resources in the face of adversity. Research shows that individuals who experience more positive emotions compared to others became more resilient over time because they had more coping skills (Fredrickson & Joiner, 2002). Additionally, enhanced coping skills predicted more positive emotions over time. Thus, the relationship is reciprocal and creates an upward spiral of positive emotions and wellbeing over time.
How Can We Increase Positive Emotions?
Since positive emotions are beneficial for so many areas of our lives, it’s pertinent to make sure we experience them in abundance.
Here are some ideas to increase positive emotions everyday:
- Cultivate a gratitude journal– look for the positive in life, even in negative situations
- Practice mindfulness– notice negative emotions without reacting to them and letting them take over
- Do small acts of kindness
- Reframe negative thoughts and emotions– identify thinking traps and errors in logic (e.g., catastrophizing, black and white thinking, should statements, etc.)
TLC-VR is here to assist you in increasing your positive emotions. With our psychoeducational groups, trained psychologists will teach empirically supported methods to help you become happier, healthier, and more resilient.
Fredrickson B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology. The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. The American psychologist, 56(3), 218–226.
Fredrickson, B. L., & Joiner, T. (2002). Positive emotions trigger upward spirals toward emotional well-being. Psychological science, 13(2), 172-175.
Fredrickson, B. L., Mancuso, R. A., Branigan, C., & Tugade, M. M. (2000). The undoing effect of positive emotions. Motivation and emotion, 24(4), 237-258.