Learn how positive emotions can help you become more resilient.
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Vassar two minute lecture series Positive Emotions Michele Tugade: Take a look at a world around you, pickup any news paper, turn any television, you'll find that in our culture we are inundated with information telling us about how much stress and negative emotions we experience everyday. So why is there such a focus on stress on negativity? In a field of psychology this comes as no surprise, historically psychology has been geared towards examining mental health and disease. And understandably so we've studied what ails the human condition, so really important topics like anxiety, depression and the goals in psychology has been to try to understands, how to prevent and how to treat these ailing conditions. Now taking a slightly different perspective in an emerging field in psychology called positive psychology. Positive psychology says that rather then looking at human weakness let's try to examine people's strengths, the strengths than enable individuals to flourish and to thrive and to try to reach their highest potential. Now positive psychology is not saying let's completely change the focus of psychology, its saying let's shift the swing of the pendulum so that we start to examine the full array of our experience. So for example take the experience of positive emotions, or emotions of happiness, joy, contentment, love and gratitude. We found that these experiences of positive emotions have a propensity to help build resilience for individuals and resilience is the ability to spring back or bounce back to your original form after experiencing a stressor. So think about rubber band that's stretched out with stress, resilience would be the ability to come back down to its original form. Now what we found is that positive emotions are really helpful in feeling resilience. So what's so important about positive emotions? Well it's well documented in the literature that negative emotions are important. So negative emotions help to prepare your body for very specific action. It prepares your body and mind for fight or flight, so if you feeling angry you might want to attack, if you're feeling fear you might want to escape. And recent discoveries have found that positive emotions have a complimentary affect. Positive emotions like love and gratitude help to broaden your scope of thoughts and actions and by consequences helps to build important resources like resilience. So using modern technology we're now able to empirically test the benefits of positive emotions, both in the laboratory as well as in the context of people's everyday lives. And what we thought is that these very fleeting experiences of positive emotions can be beneficial. So if you smile at a passerby or you express gratitude to someone or you appreciate your surroundings these really subtle and mild experiences can accrue and accumulate over time to help build important resources. So although mild and subtle, positive emotions have the benefits to help the resilience to help you flourish and to help you thrive.