Negative emotions have their purpose. Positive emotions have their purpose. Today, let’s focus on the positive aspect of the emotional terrain that we navigate each day; let’s engage the power of positive thinking so we can live long, full lives.
“We can change our future by merely changing our attitude to the positive. Simple yet powerful!” – Zeenat Merchant Syal
Our quality of life vastly improves when we engage the power of positive thinking. The term “positive thinking” may sound nice, but it’s also an essential tool for growth, performance, relationships, and good health. In order to understand the benefits of positive emotions, it’s important to also note the role negative emotions play.
The Role of Negative Emotions
Negative emotions are closely tied to our instinctual safety. When faced with imminent danger, our brain shuts out much of the world around us so we become focused on this specific threat, be it a tiger or fast-moving vehicle.
This narrowed vision is vital to our survival, but the truth is that negative emotions can rule our day even when the object of fear shows up as an endless to-do list, a tight deadline, or a fight with our loved one — the stress we encounter on a daily basis usually isn’t a matter of life or death.
Your brain is programmed to respond to negative situations with a closed mind. If you were living in a jungle, this would be pretty helpful. If you’re reading this, chances are you have little reason to fear for your life at this very moment in time.
If you’re struggling to spot a glimmer of hope in your day, remember that there are logical reasons to look on the bright side.
The Power of Positive Thinking, 6 Real Benefits
Many of the following findings can be attributed to Barbara Fredrickson, a brilliant researcher in the field of positive psychology at the University of North Carolina. Her research has shed light on the role positive emotions play and their impact on work, relationships, happiness, and health.
1. Positive emotions broaden your perspective.
Just as negative emotions limit our focus, positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love allow us to see more possibilities in life. Positivity brings more options to the forefront, allowing curiosity and creativity to blossom.
As Dr. Fredrickson says, “Positivity doesn’t just change the contents of your mind… It widens the span of possibilities that you see.”
2. Positive emotions build skills.
Dr. Fredrickson’s “broaden and build” theory of positive emotions explains that positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life.
Emotions may be fleeting, but studies have proven that positive emotions help us develop resources useful later in life, skills that last much longer than the feelings that initiated them.
3. Positivity leads to success.
Numerous studies show that happy people are successful in marriage, friendship, income, work performance, health, and other main realms of life. Successful people are happy, and happy people are successful.
4. Positivity fosters healing.
In this study, positive emotion was linked to lower illness expression during rhinovirus infection (associated with the common cold). This study showed that positive emotion — specifically hope and curiosity — may play a protective role in the development of disease.
5. Positive people live longer.
In more than one study (like this one), positive emotion early in life was a strong indicator of longevity of life. It seems if you display a cheerful disposition, you’re more likely to live a long, full life.
6. Positive energy is attractive.
A genuine smile is a sign of true happiness, cooperation, and altruism (good intentions, kindness). Not only that, but a genuine smile — also known as a Duchenne smile — is attractive. Some researchers now believe that genuine smiles are not transient sparks of emotion but rather clear windows into a person’s core disposition.
If you want to learn more about the purpose of positive and negative emotions, check out Stella Grizont’s The Science of Happiness online course, or Barbara Fredrickson’s Positive Psychology course. Each presents practical positive psychology concepts that are easy to understand and really quite interesting.
- Do you believe in the power of positive thinking?
- What helps you smile, and why are you smiling today?
- Are you willing to widen your lens and embrace an optimistic view?
- How has playing and exploring positive possibilities helped you to build new resources for later on in life?
Please share your thoughts, insights, and experiences with me in the comments.
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