Positive Emotions Boost Life Satisfaction By Building Resilience (the Bounce Effect)

Individuals who focus their awareness on brief moments of positive emotions have greater resilience than those who simpmlyl pass those moments by.

 Barbara Fredrickson’s latest study in the journal Emotion (link below) shows that focusing on micromoments that involve positive emotions (such as joy, interest, curiosity, awe, pride, contentment, relaxation, love, hope and more) leads to greater resiliency. This higher level of resiliency allows such individuals to bounce back from adversity more quickly, with greater energy and more wisdom. It also allows resilient individuals to fight off stress and depression more quickly and efficiently.

 The study focused on capturing respondents’ daily recollections of feelings (e.g., ‘Today, how much curiosity did you feel?’) as opposed to more general, longer-term feelings (e.g., ‘Over the past month, how much curiosity did you feel?’). This led to a  more accurate picture of moment-to-moment feelings and enabled more accurate measurement of momentary vicissitudes.

Focusing on cultivating more positive emotions does not require eliminating ‘negative’ emotions (e.g., fear, anger, sadness). ‘Negative’ emotions are a necessary and important part of life. They cannot be done away with nor do we want to do away with them. One does not need to adopt a Pollyana-ish attitude of eternal optimism to enjoy the benefits of positive emotions.

Simply by focusing on fleeting, fragile, low level intensity moments of positive emotions, one is rewarded with a boost in resiliency.  And in this day and age, who couldn’t use a little more bounciness when faced with life’s ubiquitous challenges?

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Guide To Self, Inc.


Cohn, et. al. Happiness Unpacked: Positive Emotionss Increase Life Satisfaction by Building Resilience. Emotion, 2009; 9 (3): 361

‘Life Force’ (Extroverted Personality) Linked To Body’s Ability To Withstand Stress

ScienceDaily (June 18, 2009) — Our ability to withstand stress-related, inflammatory diseases may be associated, not just with our race and sex, but with our personality as well, according to a study published in the July issue of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. Especially in aging women, low levels of the personality trait extraversion may signal that blood levels of a key inflammatory molecule have crossed over a threshold linked to a doubling of risk of death within five years.

Full article here  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090617123700.htm

Have a fantastic day!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Was St. Francis of Assisi the first positive psychologist?

Positive psychology has been defined in a number of ways, as the science of happiness, the empirical pursuit of subjective well-being, ways to reliably increase life satisfaction, and so on.

I recently came across a quote from St. Francis of Assisi that was written hundreds of years ago yet contains many tenets which I would include in any discussion of positive psychology. Here it is…

“Lord, make me a channel of Thy peace,

That where there is hatred I may bring love;

That where there is wron I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;

That where there is discord I may bring truth;

That where there is doubt I may bring faith;

That where there is despair I may bring hope;

And where there are shadows I bring Thy light;

That where there is  sadness I may bring joy;

Lord grant that I may seek rather to comfort than be comforted,

To understand than be understood,

To love than be loved;

For it is by giving that one receives,

Is it by self-forgetting that one finds,

It is by forgiving that one is forgiven,

It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.”

So here we have a number of topics that might fall under the heading of positive psychology:

Peace (Character Strengths and Virtues)

Love  (Barbara Fredrickson – UNC Chapel Hill; also love is most highly associated with life satisfaction and happiness per Chris Peterson)

Forgiveness (Fred Luskin – Stanford)

Truth (character strengths and values a la Chris Peterson & Nansook Park)

Faith (spirituality seems to be a central component of a meaningful live &  a key part of resiliency – Dennis Charney)

Hope  (another positive trait which is associated 2nd most highly with life satisfaction and happiness; research in progress by Rick Snyder at KU)

Joy (self-explanatory)

Altruism (studies have shown that helping others is one of the best ways to increase happiness)

Curiosity (openness to new ideas, cognitive flexibility, approaching novel situations; Todd Kashdan)

Nonattachment to self (Buddhist concept, yet nonattachment is fundamental to contentment, relaxation and high performance)

This seemingly simple prayer by  St. Francis predates positive psychology by hundreds of years. Fortunately, we are now finding empirical evidence to back it up.

Have a wonderful week!

All the best,
John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/johnschin