What are the long-term benefits of positive emotions?

We all enjoy feeling good yet tend to be consumed by negativity.

Learn everyday strategies to boost your mood, lift your psychological wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around you.

Denise Quinlan from the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience talks with Sue Langley about how positive emotions contribute to our health.

In this interview, Sue explains why all emotions are important, how frequent experience of positive emotions can build our psychological and physical wellbeing and describes some of the key strategies we can use to increase them.

Emotions are information, or data, that we can learn to use. Although emotions are classified as positive and negative, it is important to remember this does not equate to good or bad, as all emotions are necessary in our lives.  Negative emotions and purpose give us information about our lives.  For example, anger may be telling us that we are blocked from reaching a particular goal or outcome. Fear might be keeping us safe. Curiosity, a positive emotion, supports us to explore and be open to new ways of thinking or doing things in order to find a way forward.

Positive emotions do more than just make us feel good in the moment. We benefit from good moods in the long-term as well. Physically, positive emotions boost our immune systems, improve cardiovascular health and enhance brain function. The social benefits are also clear. When we experience positive emotions, we are more likely to be approachable, open, helpful and collaborative. This enables us to connect with others; in teams, schools, workplaces, families and communities. Positive affect is not a luxury, it’s a cornerstone of success.

Strategies for increasing positive emotions can be likened to a buffet. We can try lots of different types of strategies or wellbeing ‘tools’.  We should return to the ones we really enjoy. There is no set menu for wellbeing. Using the tools which work for us and make us feel good into our daily lives is important. This may involve us making space for more positivity or layering and tacking on strategies with activities we already do.

Two critical ways to boost our positive emotions are through our relationships and how we look after our physical bodies. Developing and nurturing our relationships is hugely important for supporting and fostering positive emotions. Human connection is one of the biggest components of wellbeing and moments of connection can provide us with a little burst of positive emotion which fuels further positive action. Basic physical lifestyle strategies – how we eat, sleep, and exercise – are also critical for life satisfaction.

Having a variety of mood-boosting tools is crucial.  One or two mood strategies might not suit the level of energy we have or the emotion we are feeling. Of course, it’s also important to accept our emotions and to remember that it is okay to fully experience and really feel our negative emotions. We don’t need to squash them yet rather to understand what our emotions are telling us before we use a strategy which enables us to move on.

Listen to the interview here.

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