1. The Power of Positive Emotions

    March 23, 2014

    The Power of Positive Emotions

    by Daniela Aneis

    We all know the experience of positive emotions make us feel good with ourselves and others. But could they have another function other than just that? Evolutionary speaking, what are positive emotions for?

    Up until recently, research has been extensive on the so-called negative emotions and their role in evolution. It is posited that negative emotions were key in survival, where the “fight or flight” mechanism was crucial to our species endurance. The stress induced when facing a large animal where a decision had to be made if it dangerous or “potential food”, made our ancestors react, propelling them to action.

     

     But what about positive emotions? What good are they for?

     

    In 1998, researcher Barbara Fredrickson proposed the Broaden-and-built model of positive emotions. Feeling that research wasn’t paying enough attention to the role of positive emotions in human life, she set out to find out why we need positive emotions as much as the negative ones. She suggested that positive emotions broaden our scope of action-thinking and have a major role in physical, cognitive and social resources.

    Mainly, positive emotions are essential resources in resilience, serving as reserves to help us cope with adversity and promote health and well-being. Her research suggests that the more positive emotions people experience throughout their day and their lives, the faster they can react when faced with negative emotions.

    One of her most fascinating discoveries has to do with the fact that positive emotions can counteract the effects of negative ones. Meaning that the prolonged effects of negative emotions on cardiovascular diseases and cancer, for instance, can be counteracted with the experience of positive emotions. So if you lead an extremely stressful life, you might want to consider balancing the odds in your everyday life by introducing space for positive emotions.

     

    Are people who experience positive emotions at a greater level different from the rest of us?

     

    Not quite. People who experience positive emotions at a great level tend to pay a great deal of attention to positive emotions, and their reserves of positive emotions function as an upward spiral of positivity (Fredrickson, 2001). Consciously or unconsciously, positive emotions seekers tend to find positive emotions even in neutral situations and view the negative ones as part of a necessary personal growth (Diener & Biwas-Diener, 2008).

     

    Are people who experience more positive emotions happier?

     

    In his 2002 book Authentic Happiness, the “father” of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman states that happiness (or well-being is now the correct term to use) can be achieved through:

    • The seeking of pleasure;
    • The seeking of engagement activities;
    • The search for meaning in life.

    In a research done in 2005, researchers Peterson, Park and Seligman set out to answer what makes a full life so different from the empty life? Mainly they were interested in knowing whether the experience of positive emotions through pleasure, engagement or meaning contributed to a sense of greater well-being and life satisfaction and if those 3 experiences were any different between themselves. They found evidence that all 3 types of positive experiences where key in building up a sense of general well-being and higher levels of life satisfaction. However the 3 types of experiences seemed to have no difference between themselves.

    Nonetheless, the authors still state that a life of eudemonia – the search for personal improvement and fulfillment – versus a life of hedonism – a constant seek for pleasure may result in a more enduring happiness. The idea that a life based on the search for meaning entails a happier life finds resonance in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy theory, where the key to leading a full life is a meaningful one.

     

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/70194213@N00/7161763179


  2. How To Find Meaning In Your Day To Day Life

    August 31, 2013

    In search for meaning

    by Amanda O’Donnell

     

    Maybe when it comes to meaningful life you’re already set and have your goals defined. Maybe you have several things you’re working towards long term that you know will eventually bring you great life satisfaction. Maybe you’re raising kids and providing for a family. Maybe you have two years until that big promotion, or five until retirement. Maybe… Regardless if you’re lucky enough to have definite direction, playing out your daily life can be disheartening. Reminding yourself of your eventual accomplishments or the future enjoyment you’ll take from your life can get less and less easy. Your mind wanders, fills with doubt. What if this isn’t worth it? What if you never make it to the part of your life you’ve worked for? What if you’re wasting the right now?

    Finding solace in the everyday life can offer you relief from what can sometimes feel like the mundane passing of days and tasks. Here are some simple steps in the direction of your personal fulfillment.

     

    Remind Yourself Of Your Good Fortune

     

    Create a schedule or some system of expressing appreciation and thankfulness that best works for you. For instance set aside five minutes three times a day to sit and ruminate about the good things in your life. If your mind wanders and a good thing leads you to a less good thing and then a bad, refocus. Allow one good thing to lead to another good thing. Fifteen minutes a day might not seem long at all, but you’d be surprised about how many things you can give thanks for within a five minute of meditation. If you’re more comfortable writing the things down then do so. If you feel that actually saying the things aloud would mean a little more to you, then give yourself time in the morning to hear yourself say them. What might feel silly at first can really develop into a regular pattern of thought. Focusing your thought flow into a purely positive, appreciative stream (even if only for a few minutes) can make you more likely to naturally return to those thoughts later. You’ll find yourself thinking more positively about your life and situation, even when your five minutes are up!

     

    Make An Effort To Go Out Of Your Way

     

    Time and time again it’s been proven that people experience another level of fulfillment when helping others. It’s repeated back at us so often it’s become easy to write off this advice as cliched or empty. If you can’t see yourself taking all that much from an afternoon at the soup kitchen, then don’t spend an afternoon there. Sit down and really ask yourself what causes, groups of people or situations you have a vested interest in, and then think about what you could do to help. If you’re truly interested in the cause you’re helping, you’re more likely to know better how to help! And if you find yourself drawing up blank, then take it upon yourself to find something you have a passion for and make yourself of use. However, don’t think that helping people need always mean signing a volunteer list or setting aside three hours to hand out fliers on Saturdays. There are all sorts of ways you can lend a hand in your day to day life; take advantage of them! Bring a coworker coffee, hold the door open, ask someone who looks down how they’re feeling and offer an ear. When you start training yourself to consider others in various situations you’ll find yourself less focused on your own issues or dissatisfaction.

     

    Challenge Yourself

     

    Often feeling dissatisfied with your life or situation can just be a response to boredom. It makes complete sense. As your brain adjusts to the routine of your life and comes to expect certain daily things, the less stimulation you experience and the less chance for experiencing positive feelings! Some of the best feelings come from true accomplishment: setting out to do things we’re not entirely capable we can do and then doing them. You can challenge yourself and offer yourself these experiences in or outside of your daily routine. For instance, set personal goals for yourself in your daily work or at home. Assign yourself to create something. You haven’t read about something before? Do so! Set physical feats. Take weekend trips to places you haven’t been and do things you haven’t done and (better yet) are maybe afraid to do. Give yourself every opportunity to take something from your life and from each day.

     

    Author Bio: Amanda O’Donnell is a freelance writer for Zimmet Vein and Dermatology.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/76029035@N02/6829334723