Why Should I Be Happy?

Regular readers know that I have taken a Positive Psychology course recently offered by Northwestern Memorial Hospital. I wanted to share some of the final class with you.

The following is excerpted from an abstract (say that five times fast) from a research report published in Psychological Science on how positive emotions trigger upward spirals toward emotional well-being. The authors are Barbara L. Frederickson and Thomas Joiner.

It feels good to be happy. But is that the only reason we should try to be happy? The authors say that besides the immediate experience of happiness, positive emotions raise the likelihood that one will feel good in the future. That positive emotions trigger upward spirals of enhanced emotional well-being.


Frederickson created this new perspective on positive emotions in her broaden-and-build theory which posits that unlike negative emotions which narrow people’s thought-action repertoires, positive emotions broaden people’s thought-action repertoires, encouraging them to discover novel lines of thought or action. “Joy, for instance, creates the urge to play, interest creates the urge to explore, and so on. As individuals discover new ideas and actions, they build their physical, intellectual, social and pyschological resources.” (Emphasis mine.)

In addition, these broadened mind-sets increase personal resources.

“As individuals discover new ideas and actions, they build their physical, intellectual, social and psychological resources. Play, for instance, builds physical, socio-emotional and intellectual skills and fuels brain development. Similarly, exploration increases knowledge and psychological complexity. ”

“Key to our proposal that positive emotions trigger upward spirals is the proposition that positive emotions broaden attention and cognition.”

Frederickson also wrote the book Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity and Thrive. It is available on Amazon.

I own the book and recommend it. Having integrated a number of the Positive Psychology concepts into my life, I can attest to their broadening and building effects.

Tony

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Filed under general well-being, happiness, Positive Psychology, positivity

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