How To Master Emotional Intelligence Chapter 9 – How To Cultivate Positive Emotions

How To Master Emotional Intelligence Chapter 9 – How To Cultivate Positive Emotions

How To Master Emotional Intelligence Chapter 9 - How To Cultivate Positive Emotions

Positive emotions promote psychological resilience and trigger an upward spiral toward improved emotional well-being. Preliminary evidence suggests that positive emotions may promote individual differences in resilience. Expanding and building psychological resilience theory makes the bold prediction that experiences with positive emotions can also build psychological resilience over time, not just reflect it. That is, to the extent that positive emotions expand the domain of attention and cognition and enable flexible and creative thinking, they should also increase people’s enduring coping resources

By building these psychological resources, positive emotions should in turn improve people’s subsequent emotional well-being. Consistent with this view, studies have shown that people who experience positive emotions during bereavement are more likely to develop long-term plans and goals.

Along with positive emotions, plans and goals predict greater psychological well-being 12 months after the loss. One way people experience positive emotions in the face of adversity is by finding positive meaning in ordinary events and in the adversity itself. It is important to note that the relationship between positive meaning and positive emotions is considered reciprocal: Not only does seeking positive meaning elicit positive emotions, but positive emotions that expand thinking should also increase the likelihood of finding positive meaning in subsequent events. These presumed reciprocal relationships between positive emotions, expanded thinking, and positive meaning suggest that the effects of positive emotions should accumulate and strengthen over time.

The extended attention and cognition triggered by past experiences with positive emotions should facilitate coping with adversity, and this enhanced coping should predict future experiences with positive emotions. The cognitive literature on depression has already documented a downward spiral in which depressed mood and associated restricted, pessimistic thinking interact, leading over time to increasingly poor mood and even clinical depression

Broaden-and-build theory predicts a comparable upward spiral in which positive emotions and the expanded thinking they elicit also influence each other, leading to a noticeable increase in emotional well-being over time. Positive emotions can trigger these upward spirals, in part by strengthening resilience and influencing the way people cope with adversity. An initial prospective test of the hypothesis that positive emotions can trigger an upward spiral toward greater emotional well-being through cognitive enhancement. Positive and negative emotions and a concept we called broad coping at two time points five weeks apart. Coping was assessed by questions such as “Think of different ways to deal with the problem” and “Try to step back from the situation and be more objective.”

Data showed clear evidence of an upward spiral. Individuals who experienced more positive emotions than others became more resilient to adversity over time, as evidenced by an increase in open-minded coping. These improved coping skills, in turn, predicted increased positive emotions over time. These findings suggest that positive emotions and wide-eyed coping are mutually reinforcing. Positive emotions not only make people feel good in the present, but also increase the likelihood that people will feel good in the future through their effects on extended thinking.

Because comprehensive coping is a form of psychological resilience, these data are consistent with the prediction derived from the theory of expansion and buildup that momentary experiences of positive emotions can build lasting psychological resources and trigger upward spirals toward improved emotional well-being. Many questions also arise from these data. Does this upward spiral effect persist over longer periods of time and across other measures of well-being and expansion? What are the mechanisms of this effect? Do positive emotions produce future positive emotions because the expanded thinking associated with previous positive emotions helps people solve their original problems, or because this expanded thinking enables people to find positive meaning in other life circumstances and thus experience additional positive emotions? Future studies, including experimental designs, are needed to answer these questions.

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