Positive Emotions Unlock Anger, Boost Innovation and Improve Physical Health

The evidence is mounting…

evidence that positive emotions exist for a reason…

evidence that evolution has selected positive emotions for specific reasons that help our species – reasons that help you in every area of your life.

Positive emotions include feelings such as awe, curiosity, gratitude, compassion, calm, love, joy, interest, passion and happiness.

Evidence is mounting to support the importance of cultivating positive emotions for success in a variety of areas in your life.

Creativity, Innovation via positive emotions

A comfy nesting bed with egg pillows

At the beginning of every session with a new client, I make a point of sharing a short, humorous video clip. One of my personal favorites is the popular Mother’s Day video by Barats and Bereta (www.BaratsAndBereta.com)…

The reason for sharing a humorous video with new clients is three-fold.

First, the funny video unlocks any negative emotions the client may be holding onto such as anger, irritability, anxiety or sadness (Fredrickson, The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions, 2004, The Royal Society).

Second, those few, fleeting moments of laughter, mirth and smiling  reduce depressive symptoms and improve your well-being and  satisfaction with life (Sin & Lyubomirsky, Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depressive Symptoms With Positive Psychology Interventions: Practice-Friendly Meta-Analysis, JOURNAL OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY: IN SESSION, 2009).

Positive psychology of innovation

Combination stairs and slide for young ones

Third, science has known for over a decade that chronic anger, anxiety and depression put you at an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease (Suls & Bunde, Anger, Anxiety, and Depression as Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease, Psychological Bulletin, 2005). Most people go through life with the sympathetic branch of the ANS stuck in the ‘on’ position. The sympathetic branch is similar to the gas pedal in a car. Negative emotions (along with stress, exhaustion, and lack of exercise) activate the sympathetic nervous system which leads to increased heart rate, pulse and higher levels of cortisol into the blood stream. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.

On the flip side, positive emotions activate the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which acts like the brakes on a car.  The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is in charge of calming the body, reducing heart rate and pulse, and bringing the body back to a resting state. The extent to which you can activate your PNS predicts your emotional and physical health. It is intimately related to how well you can self-regulate your own emotions.

Lower levels of PNS activity are related to higher levels of depression (Chambers and Allen, 2002), anxiety (Friedman and Thayer, 1993), aggression (Beauchaine and others, 2007), and hostility (Virtanen and others, 2003).

On the other side, higher levels of PNS activity are associated with better psychological flexibility, health and resiliency. Individuals with higher levels of PNS activity are related to more resiliency to stress (Britton and others, 2008) as well as greater mental health in children in the face of chronic conflict between parents at home.

Gum shoe - outside the box thinking

How do you come up with such an idea? Start with passion and curiosity

Importantly, the frequency with which you experience positive emotions is related to a more active PNS. Individuals who were shown humorous video clips demonstrated faster heart rate recover after experiencing intense negative emotions (Fredrickson & Levenson, 1998). In addition, simply asking people to think about a time when they felt grateful activated the PNS.

Other ways to ‘turn on’ the PNS include exercise, laughter, mindfulness, massage, yoga, walking your dog and taking fish oil.

Positive psychology John Schinnerer PhD

You’ve gotta’ be inspired to come up with a bedroom like this! 

The success I’ve experienced with clients in my private practice is directly related to how well I can make them laugh. With laughter comes opportunity…

opportunity to unlock stale old anger,

opportunity to teach critical new skills,

opportunity to think outside the box, and

opportunity to transform your life for the better.

How do you proceed from here?

Begin to become more aware of the percentage of time you spend in a positive emotional state as compared to a negative state. This simple realization, this basic level of awareness will begin to produce massive tectonic shifts in your life. And you will reap the benefits…on a number of levels…physical, relational, and emotional.

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.

Award-winning author of Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought (for a free PDF version, visit http://www.GuidetoSelf.com and enter your name and email address)

Award-winning author of The Shrunken Mind – the blog on positive psychology

Free online anger management classes which incorporate humor and positive psychology at WebAngerManagement.com

Workplace Anger Best Dealt With Via Compassion

From ScienceDaily.org…
ScienceDaily (Apr. 18, 2011) — Challenging traditional views of workplace anger, a new article by a Temple University Fox School of Business professor suggests that even intense emotional outbursts can prove beneficial if responded to with compassion.

Workplace anger and online anger management classes
Dr. Deanna Geddes, chair of the Fox School’s Human Resource Management Department, argues that more supportive responses by managers and co-workers after displays of deviant anger can promote positive change at work, while sanctioning or doing nothing does not.

“The trouble with sanctions: Organizational responses to deviant anger displays at work,” co-authored with University of Baltimore’s Dr. Lisa T. Stickney, states that “when companies choose to sanction organizational members expressing deviant anger, these actions may divert attention and resources from correcting the initial, anger-provoking event that triggered the employee’s emotional outburst.”
In a study of 194 people who acknowledged witnessing an incident of deviant anger at work, the researchers found no connection between firing an irate employee and solving underlying workplace problems. Geddes and Stickney also found that even a single act of support by a manager or co-worker and the angered employee can improve workplace tension.

Managers who recognize their potential role in angering an employee “may be motivated to respond more compassionately to help restore a favorable working relationship,” the researchers wrote in the journal Human Relations.
If management shows “an active interest in addressing underlying issues that prompted employee anger, perceptions of improved situations increase significantly,” the researchers wrote.

“Business codes of conduct are often about what we shouldn’t do as an angry employee in emotional episodes, while few, if any, tend to address our role as observers of emotional episodes,” according to the article. “Such guidelines, if available, could expand to include positive suggestions for those who witness, judge and respond to angry employees — formally or informally.”
Workplace compassion as antidote to anger

The findings stem from the Dual Threshold Model of workplace anger expression, which distinguishes between suppressed and deviant anger. Researchers label the space between suppressed and deviant anger as the zone most likely to achieve positive change. The model distinguishes between muted anger — complaints to co-workers and friends who lack the authority to resolve the situation — as the least productive way to prompt change. Geddes created the model with Dr. Ronda Roberts Callister of Utah State University.

“Some of the most transformational conversations come about through expressed anger,” Geddes said.’

…….

Compassion does not occur without self-compassion. One cannot feel compassion for others without first feeling compassion for self. The foundation of compassion is self-compassion.

For more info on the latest tools in the positive psychology of anger management, visit www.GuideToSelf.com. You can get a FREE copy of John’s award-winning book on ways to turn down the volume on negative emotions and turn up the volume on positive emotions by clicking on the yellow book icon and entering your name and email address.

Also, be sure to check out the fantastic blog on positive psychology of anger management at http://drjohnsblog.wordpress.com.

Have a day filled with compassion!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder of Guide to Self, Inc.

Award-winning author, anger management coach, blogger, abnormal guy
Journal Reference:

1. D. Geddes, L. T. Stickney. The trouble with sanctions: Organizational responses to deviant anger displays at work. Human Relations, 2010; 64 (2): 201 DOI: 10.1177/0018726710375482

Temple University (2011, April 18). Compassion, not sanctions, is best response to workplace anger. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2011/04/110414131853.htm.

Mindfulness Training Changes Brain Structure in As Little As Eight Weeks

Mindfulness is a 2500-year-old practice that focuses on the nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts, feelings, sensations and state of mind. Mindfulness is a staple of many positive psychology programs due to it’s wide-ranging positive health benefits. Mindfulness has been shown to be significantly helpful in reducing symptoms of depression, anger, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and even speeds the healing of physical ailments such as psoriasis. Mindfulness rests on a mountain of research spanning over 30 years demonstrating its effectiveness in such areas.

Mindfulness as resting rocks

Most recently, active participation in an 8-week mindfulness program was shown to make noticeable physical changes in brain areas associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. In a new study coming out in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, spearheaded  by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers share the results of their study, the first ever to demonstrate mindfulness-produced improvements over an 8-week period in the brain’s grey matter.

Mindfulness – One of the Best Tools Available for Stress, Anxiety, Anger & Depression

“Although the practice of mindfulness is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that mindfulness also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says Sara Lazar, PhD, of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the study’s lead author.

Prior studies found structural differences between the brains of experienced mindfulness practitioners and individuals with no history of mindfulness, with thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with awareness and emotional intelligence. But those studies were unable to conclude that those differences were truly produced by the practice of mindfulness.

In this study, magnetic resonance images were taken of the brains of sixteen (16) participants two weeks before and after they took part in the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. In addition to weekly meetings that included the practice of mindfulness — which focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts, feelings and sensations — participants received audio files to use for daily guided mindfulness practice. Participants tracked the amount of time they practiced mindfulness each day. A set of MRI brain images were also taken of a control group of people who did not practice mindfulness over the same 8-week period.

Mindfulness, stress management, anger management tools

Mindfulness group participants spent an average of 27 minutes daily practicing mindfulness exercises. Their answers to a mindfulness questionnaire showed significant improvements in mindfulness and meta-cognition compared with pre-study responses.

Physical Changes In Brain Due to Mindfulness Practice

The analysis of brain images found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, which is associated with new learning and long-term memory, as well as in brain regions associated with self-awareness and empathy.

Decrease in Stress & the Amygdala

Those who reported a decrease in stress also had a decrease in grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is associated with the presence of anxiety, depression and stress. Interestingly, no such changes were seen in the control group, indicating that the brain changes were not a result of the inevitable passage of time.

“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing mindfulness, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being, reduce stress and quality of life.” says Britta Hölzel, PhD, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany. “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that mindfulness can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”

John Schinnerer, Ph.D., Founder of Guide to Self, Inc.

John Schinnerer, Ph.D. is in private practice in Danville, CA teaching clients the latest tools to manage emotions such as anger, anxiety and depression. Using positive psychology, he helps clients achieve happy, thriving, meaningful lives. He graduated summa cum laude from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in educational psychology. John hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a prime time radio show on positive psychology, in the San Francisco Bay Area.   He wrote the award-winning book, ‘Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought.’ He sits on the Advisory Board of PsychCentral.com, one of the top psychology sites on the web. He may be reached via email at John@GuideToSelf.com.  His award-winning blog on positive psychology, Shrunken Mind is at http://drjohnblog.guidetoself.com. His newest blog on positive psychology and anger management can be found at http://webangermanagement.com.
Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Massachusetts General Hospital.

Journal Reference:
1. Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, Sara W. Lazar. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011; 191 (1): 36 DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006

How Positive Emotion Protects Against Poor Health

How Positive Emotion Protects Against Poor Health in Later Life

The new issue of the journal ‘Current Directions in Psychological Science’ includes an article entitled,
‘Pathways Linking Positive Emotion and Health in Later Life.’

Positive psychology and free online anger management class 

The author is Anthony D. Ong.

The article begins as follows…

‘There is growing empirical evidence that positive emotion protects against poor health outcomes in later life.

Two recent reviews have documented a robust association between positive emotion and improved health (Chida & Steptoe, 2008; Pressman & Cohen, 2005).

Across experimental and large-scale prospective studies, significant aspects of adult health predicted by positive emotion include self- reported health, physiological responses, physical functioning, disease severity, and mortality.

In this article, I review the biobehavioral and psychosocial pathways that may account for the relationship between positive emotion and health in later adulthood.

Although the literature is not without theoretical gaps and methodological inconsistencies (see Pressman & Cohen, 2005, for a discussion), overall, the data suggest that positive emotions have demonstrable health benefits in later life, the net effect of which may be to slow or delay the rate of functional decline in resilience.’

The article concludes like this…

‘Three decades ago, Lazarus, Kanner, and Folkman (1980) suggested that under intensely stressful conditions, positive emotions may provide an important psychological time-out, help to sustain continued coping efforts, and replenish vital resources that have been depleted by stress. Until recently, there has been little empirical support for these ideas. Foundational evidence for the adaptive function of positive emotion is now beginning to accrue, however. Taken together, the available data indicate that there is no single answer to the question of how positive emotion influences health outcomes in later adulthood. Instead, findings suggest that health behaviors, physiological systems, stressor exposure, and stress undoing may be among the key pathways underlying disparities in physical health, psychological well-being, and even longevity in later life.

Future work building on these findings will require greater attention to the interaction between increasing positive emotion and the presence of decreasing resilience with aging. Targeted prevention and intervention strategies that enhance positive emotions, particularly among the most vulnerable, are likely to play an important role in preventing serious physical illness, minimizing the burden of stress, and improving overall functioning in older adults.’

In addition to the reference section, there’s a small bit on ‘Recommended Reading’:

Charles, S.T., & Carstensen, L.L. (2009). Social and emotional aging.
Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 383-409. A comprehensive, highly accessible overview of what is known about socioemotional development.

Fredrickson, B.L. (2003). The value of positive emotions. American Scientist, 91, 330-335. A clearly written review for readers who wish to expand their knowledge on positive emotions.

Ong, A.D., Bergeman, C.S., & Chow, S.M. (2009). Positive emotions as a basic building block of resilience in adulthood. In J. Reich, A. Zautra, & J. Hall (Eds.), Handbook of adult resilience: Concepts, methods, and applications (pp. 81-93). New York, NY: Guilford. A highly accessible overview of what is known about positive emotions and resilience in later life.

Zautra, A.J. (2003). Emotions, stress, and health. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. A thorough, far-reaching theoretical analysis of the relationships between stress, emotions, and health.

The author note provides the following contact information: Anthony D. Ong, Department of Human Development, G77 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-4401; <ado4@cornell.edu>.

Increasingly, science is proving the necessity of positive emotions (e.g., pride, love, curiosity, interest, passion) for a thriving, meaningful, happy life. Currently, there are more than 70,000 empirical studies looking at these very topics (e.g., self-compassion, mindfulness, love, life satisfaction, curiosity, engagement, the zone, passion, strengths, purpose and meaning) under the umbrella term positive psychology.

For more information on ways to cultivate more positive emotions in your life, visit http://www.GuidetoSelf.com to get a free copy of Dr. John’s award-winning self-help book, ‘Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought.’ It has the latest in positive psychology and tools to make you more aware of and ways to create more positive emotions in your life.

Positive emotions are an instrumental part of any top-notch anger management program as well for the same reasons (e.g., they act as a hidden Reset button for negative physiological effects of destructive emotions, they make us feel more connected and they build enduring resources within). For more information on the best anger management programs which include a positive psychology perspective and ways to create more positive emotions in your life, visit Dr. John’s recently developed online anger management course at http://www.webangermanagement.com. There you will find several free videos sharing the latest tools to turn down the volume on anger AS WELL AS the latest tools to turn up the volume on positive emotions.

Happy holidays!!!

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Founder Guide to Self, Inc.
Award-winning author, blogger and mental health coach

Positive psychology - the joy of bubbles

The simple joy of bubbles!

P.S. Also be sure to check out John’s other fantastic blog on free online anger management classes at http://drjohnsblog.wordpress.com.

Why Anger is the New ‘It’ Emotion (And Better Than Sex!)

How Anger is the New Sex

Switch off the Housewives they’re making you crazy. How to keep your temper in an angry age.

WebMD Feature from “Marie Claire” MagazineBy Joanne Chen

Free online anger management courses w emotion expert John Schinnerer Ph.D.

Whether it’s Wall Street bonuses, the Gulf oil fiasco, or cultural icons (David Letterman! Tiger Woods! Al Gore?!) flagrantly cheating on their wives, Americans have more reason than ever to be pissed off – a sentiment Charles Speilberger, Ph.D., University of South Florida psychologist, says we’re also quicker than ever to express. As coeditor of the recently published International Handbook of Anger – just one of the new releases examining our current age of rage – he should know. Because not only are there more reasons to get angry today, there are more outlets for it as well, from social media to reality TV to books, including Koren Zailckas’ tellingly titled memoir, Fury, out this month. Anger, it seems, is the new sex: It sells. And none of us, especially women, can get enough – just check out the bonanza ratings enjoyed by any reality show in which there’s even the potential for a hissy fit. So how will we ever calm down, and, more importantly, do we even want to? Take a deep breath (or two), and we’ll tell you.
WHAT’S MAKING YOU MAD
(And How to Stop It)

Once upon a time, we told each other off in person. Discussions grew heated, doors were slammed, and we moved on. Now, with so much of our daily communication done via e-mail, texting, or Facebook, many of the impulse controls we’d normally employ in confrontations have gone out the window. “Electronic media disinhibit the expression of anger,” says Michael Potegal, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics and neurology at the University of Minnesota. Alone, typing angry thoughts to a friend or a loved one, we don’t have the benefit of seeing a facial reaction, reading body language, or hearing a voice – we’re wearing conversational blinders, so we end up typing things we’d never say in person.

This, in turn, breeds an anger-making dynamic all its own. Scott Wetzler, Ph.D., department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at New York City’s Montefiore Medical Center, calls this sort of one-sided expression of emotion “venting.” When we e-mail or text, which allows us to ignore the other side of the argument, “we feel justified; the more justified we feel, the angrier we get.” What’s more, typing a thoughtful response to your boyfriend in the heat of an argument is particularly tough when shorthand expressions (whatev!) roll so easily off the fingers. Soon, our inbox and Twitter feeds can devolve into rage-filled echo chambers, leaving us feeling vulnerable and guilty over things we wish we could un-type.

And according to University of Minnesota researchers, even cell-phone communication is fraught with risk. Chatting as we run errands may make us feel like great multitaskers, but the reality is that it means we take longer to react. Add poor sound quality and other distractions into the mix, and you have a recipe for misinterpretations and unintended interruptions – all of which, researchers say, lead to “hurt feelings, conflict, and misunderstandings.” What’s more, the fallout from this is often hardest on women: Says Ray Novaco, Ph.D., professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, women relive angry incidents more, and stay angry longer, than men do.

FINDING PEACE IN AN ANGRY WORLD
 

Turn off the TV. In a University of Maryland study, people who chose reading over watching TV were more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” than those who did the opposite, watching TV more than reading.

Live in 3-D. Save e-mails and cell-phone calls for appointments and reservations, never for heart-to-hearts. And always keep Twitter-talk light and conflict-free.

Breathe. Delay responding to an e-mail or text message that annoys you. Take five breaths; call when you have time to talk calmly. Better yet, take a night to sleep on it. Never, ever send a work e-mail in anger.

Sleep. “Irritability is a symptom of insomnia,” notes Nancy Molitor, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Northwestern University. The message: Snooze more and you’ll be in better control of your emotions – and your tongue.

Be grateful. Make a daily list of everything you’re grateful for as a way to dispel anger, which Novaco says is the “absence of appreciation.”

Move. “The chemicals released during anger can feel like muscular tension that needs releasing,” says Rich Pfeiffer, Ph.D., a Sedona, Arizona-based psychologist. Hit the gym to keep your limbs loose and your mind open.

Take action. Anger strikes when we feel powerless. Whether you’re outraged by disease in Africa or the latest eco-disaster, join a volunteer group to do something about it. Your mood will improve, and you may even have an impact on the problem.

For the full article at WebMD, click here.

For more information on how you can turn down the volume on your anger with the latest scientifically-proven anger management tools, visit http://drjohnsblog.wordpress.com for some free online anger management classes!

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Founder Guide to Self, Inc.
Emotion Expert

 P.S. For a free PDF copy of the award-winning self-help book, Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion And Thought, visit http://www.GuidetoSelf.com and enter your name and email. There are dozens of tools included to turn down the volume on anger along with the latest methods for anger management.