In the past the focus with work stress was on reducing negative emotions rather than building resilience and using the protective impact of positive emotions (Richman et al., 2005). New research highlights the significant benefits of maintaining a positive outlook in life.
Some examples of the benefits of positive emotions include:
– Feeling hopeful has been shown to delay or even prevent the development of disease.
– Increased curiosity levels have been linked to lowered risk of hypertension and diabetes.
Even using language that reflects positive emotions also has a positive impact on people. A study of the published writings of famous deceased psychologists showed that those writers using more words referring to active positive emotions (such as energetic, vigorous, alert, lively, stimulated) lived longer than those writers who used more negative words (Pressman & Cohen, 2012).
Research suggests that positive emotions work to ‘broaden and build’ through promoting flexible thinking and problem-solving (Isen, 2000; Fedrickson, 2001). In a recent study, researchers fostered positive emotions in participants who were working on mundane, repetitive tasks by offering them sweets. The positive emotions this offering generated increased motivational levels and enjoyment. Furthermore participants were able to sustain their level of performance (Isen & Reeeve, 2005).
The verdict seems to be that those who experience frequent positive emotions are more satisfied with life not simply because they are enjoying themselves, but because they have built effective strategies that help them deal more effectively with set-backs (Cohn et al., 2009).
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