Excuse me while I geek out a little, but all this research is just too good not to share!
Emotions have long been assumedto play a role in the prevention and development of disease. Various studies (Richman, et al., 2005) have proven that “chronically high levels of negative emotions…are associated with adverse health behaviors”, as well as can narrow attention through constricting blood flow and increase in cardiovascular reactivity (Fredrickson, 2001). When prolonged, these negative emotions can produce serious problems.
Imagine being angry all the time. How tiring would that be? In my previous entry (EMOTION: An embodied experience) I talk about the effects of emotions when we experience positive (or negative events) and how that makes us feel physically. Here, the research tells us that each time we feel our blood boil and our eyebrows come too close for our own comfort, our heart is actually pumping faster and our blood pressure rises by a significant amount. Therefore when you’re always in a slump, science is telling you that it’s time to find ways to cheer up!
A lady named Barbara Fredrickson preaches that positive emotions can “undo negatives” (2001). She also says that “certain discrete positive emotions – including joy, interest, contentment, pride, and love - …all share the ability to broaden people’s momentary thought-action repertoires and build their enduring personal resources”.
I know, what does that even mean?
Well, unlike negative emotions, Csikszentmihalyi (1997) would add that positive emotions increase alertness because there is no need to “feel sorry for ourselves and psychic energy can flow freely into whatever thought or task we choose to invest in” thus helping “create order in consciousness” (p.22) better known as “psychic negentropy”. He, together with Barb, tell us that when we feel good, our minds EXPAND. And in this state of expansion, we are better able to create order in our own lives, better managing our health (not to mention, the relationships around us). They also say that we develop certain strengths within us like compassion, courage, and organization, when we cultivate positive feelings.
Today, as I was doing more research, I also learned that self-compassion (vs. self-criticism) has a way of helping us manage. When we can be aware of our emotions during difficult periods, we can also be kinder and more forgiving towards ourselves, helping us stay focused on the ultimate goal we need to reach. Dr. Timothy Sharp’s study on The Primacy of Positivity (2011) believes that if we give premium to positive emotions as a means instead of simply an end to be achieved then goals, particularly in weight management, can be acquired. He assumes that with the primacy of positivity, this will be able to boost one’s self-esteem, resilience, and coping abilities.
Emotions work like tiny engines that have the power to nourish or demolish our lives. Start paying attention to the way you feel and you might just save yourself from a lot of trouble.