We frequently come across diet and lifestyle tips that stress on making healthy food choices and doing regular exercise to remain fit. However, a good diet and exercise are not enough and we can further improve our fitness by cultivating a “positive attitude” – because a healthy mind leads to a healthy body.
It’s now an established fact that people who feel good and experience more positive emotions, live longer. Ten positive emotions have been defined so far and they are: joy, gratitude, hope, awe, inspiration, interest, serenity, pride, amusement, and love. Read many psychology articles when I was a student and found the ones on “positive psychology” really interesting. Therefore, I’d like to summarize one of the articles written by Dr. Barbara Frederickson, titled “The Value of Positive Emotions” in the journal “American Scientist (2003)”. Dr. Frederickson is a very well-known social psychologist who has conducted exemplary research in the field of “positive psychology”.
In general, human beings tend to have a “negativity bias”, or we tend to give more weightage to negative emotions like fear and anger, rather than to positive emotions. We do this for evolutionary reasons because negative emotions have evolved to protect us from dangers and for survival purposes. For example, we need to feel fear when we encounter a predator like a tiger, because we will flee only if we feel fear. However, positive emotions, in contrast, are not for survival purposes but lead to personal growth and development. While negative emotions narrow people’s mindsets, positive emotions broaden them. When people feel good, their thinking becomes more creative, flexible and open to information.
Feeling good is better for your cardiovascular (heart) health as well, since positive emotions are also believed to undo the lingering bad effects of negative emotions. So how do positive emotions promote longevity? Experiencing more positive emotions in the present increases the likelihood that one will feel good in the future, and also reverses the bad effects of negative emotions.
So do try to include more positivity and meaning in day to day events by expressing appreciation, love, and gratitude, even for simple things. Try to spend more time on activities like traveling, art, music, meeting friends etc. that interest you and bring you joy, inspiration, awe or hope. These small efforts can improve your mental and physical health tremendously, and increase your longevity 🙂 🙂
Fredrickson, B. L. 1998. What good are positive emotions?
Review of General Psychology 2:300–319. Fredrickson, B. L. 2000. Cultivating positive emotions to optimize health and well-being. Prevention and Treatment 3 (1).