Barbara Fredrickson and her colleagues have carried out a large number of laboratory studies on positive emotions. Their findings suggest that:
Positive emotions broaden your mind
When people were stimulated to experience positive emotions, as opposed to negative or neutral emotions, their minds opened up: their peripheral vision expanded so they could actually see more than they usually do. They also had more ideas and came up with better solutions to problems, they had a greater sense of 'oneness' with other people (they thought 'we' instead of 'me') and were more likely to reach out to help others.
Positive emotions help you build your best future
Over time, people who were encouraged to notice and develop their positive emotions showed an increase in psychological strengths such as optimism, acceptance of self and sense of purpose. Also, they showed an increase in good mental habits such as mindfulness and problem-solving. Their relationships also got stronger and aspects of their physical health improved.
Positive emotions help you bounce back from life’s challenges
When put into stressful situations, people who were encouraged to experience positive emotions returned to normal heart rate and blood pressure more quickly than those who were encouraged to experience neutral or negative emotions. This suggests that focusing on positive emotions during difficult times can help us recover more quickly.
Fredrickson, B. (2009) Positivity. Crown Publishers. New York.