Positive Emotions Promote Good Health

Positive Emotions Promote Good Health

Information Resources

By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MSLIS
Health Science Writing | Clinical Medical Searching
Blog Posted November 22, 2015

Research suggests that we can have some control over the emotions that we experience, according to scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as discussed in an article titled, “Positive Emotions and Your Health,” in the August 2015 issue of NIH News in Health.

Experts say that persons who are emotionally healthy have fewer negative emotions and are able to bounce back faster from difficulties. This quality is called, “resilience.”

Another sign of emotionally healthy persons is that they are able to hold onto positive emotions longer and appreciate the good times.

How can we become more emotionally healthy?

Just as daily exercise helps us to stay physically healthy, certain ways of thinking and being can help to promote emotional wellness.

Ten tips to develop positive emotions:

  1. Think more objectively. Step back from a situation that is causing stress. Being more objective may help you to think of practical ways that work, to deal with the problem.
  2. Express gratitude. Say, thank you, while looking directly at the person you are thanking.
  3. Smile. Make a habit of smiling, when talking with someone in person or on the phone.
  4. Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Learn from what went wrong, without dwelling on it.
  5. Spend more time with your friends. Schedule time together for activities you all enjoy.
  6. Develop healthy physical habits. Eat healthy foods, exercise daily, and get enough sleep.
  7. Enjoy your daily accomplishments. When you complete a work assignment or a home project, physically look at what you have accomplished.
  8. Develop your compassion. Give yourself credit for helping other persons.
  9. Explore self-affirmation. Think about how to guide your life by the things you value most.
  10. Remember that variety is truly the spice of life. Build variety into each week, spending time indoors and outdoors, and participating in active and quiet activities.

Information Resources

Selected and Annotated by Evelyn Cunico, MA, MSLIS

Cohn, MA, Fredrickson, BL, Brown, SL, Mikels, JA, Conway, AM ((2009). Happiness Unpacked: Positive Emotions Increase Life Satisfaction by Building Resilience. Emotion. June; 9(3):361-368.
Summary Note: Authors suggest that it is in-the-moment positive emotions, and not more general positive evaluations of one’s life, that may lead to coping resources and life satisfaction.
(Free Full Text Article accessed 12 November 2015)

Davidson, RL, with Begley, S (2012). The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live — and How You Can Change Them. Print Book (New York: Penguin).
Summary Note: Authors discuss six emotional styles, arising from systematic studies of the brain. Book includes strategies that persons can use to change their emotional responses to everyday events.

Davidson, RL (2014). One of  a Kind: The Neurobiology of Individuality. Cerebrum. May-June; 2014: 8.
Summary Note: Author discusses how experience physically changes brain pathways involved in emotional responses. Article provides evidence, based in part on brain imaging, that psychological interventions, such as mindfulness meditation (MM) and compassion training, can increase resilience and well-being.
(Free Full Text Article accessed 12 November 2015)

Fredrickson, BL (2008). Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced through Loving-Kindness-Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. November; 95(5): 1045-62.
Summary Note: Author discusses how loving-kindness-meditation (LKM) produces daily experiences of positive emotions, which, in turn, produces increased social support and decreased illness symptoms.
(Free Full Text Article accessed 16 November 2015).

Fredrickson, BL (2004). The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions. Philosophical Transactions B. The Royal Society of London Biological Sciences. September 29; 359(1449):1367-1378. Published online 17 August 2004.
Summary Note: Author explains the “broaden-and-build” theory,” by which a person can “build” positive emotions, including joy, interest, contentment, and love, to improve their overall well-being.
(Free Full Text Article accessed 16 November 2015).

Fredrickson, BL (1998). What Good are Positive Emotions? Review of General Psychology : Journal of Division 1, of the American Psychological Association , 2(3):300-319.
Summary Note: Article provides observational evidence that persons can learn to regulate positive emotions, and so contribute to their own good physical and mental health.
(Free Full Text Article accessed 16 November 2015)

Kok, BE, Coffey, KA, Cohn, MA, Catalino, LI, Vacharkulksemsuk, T, Algoe, SB, Brantley, M, Fredrickson, BL (2013). How Positive Emotions Build Physical Health  . Psychological Science. July 1; 24(7): 1123-32.
Summary Note: Authors suggest a strong tie, over time, between a person’s positive emotions, their perception of positive social interactions, and their physical health.
(Abstract accessed 12 November 2015. Full Text Article available by subscription from Sage Publications.)

Mayo Clinic Staff. Patient Care and Health Information. Meditation: A Simple, Fast Way to Reduce Stress.
Summary Note: Discusses different forms of meditation, as well as ways you can practice meditation on your own.
(Accessed 21 November 2015)

National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Meditation.
Summary Note: List of information resources about meditation for medical conditions, such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and pain.
(Accessed 22 November 2015)

National Institutes of Health (August 2015). Positive Emotions and Your Health. NIH News in Health. A monthly newsletter from the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Summary Note:
Newsletter article discusses in plain language how a positive mindset may help to improve physical health.
(Accessed 11 August 2015)