Positive emotions open the mind, encourage creativity, make threatening information easier to take on board, and facilitate cooperation.
There are three aspects to emotions: we experience them as sensations in the body, words or images in the mind, and ‘action tendencies’, which refers to an impulse to engage in a particular behaviour.
Research shows that positive emotions broaden our sense of what we can do while negative emotions narrow this sense. Our emotional state alters our perspective and colours our perception. A negative emotion is a signal that there is danger present, so we narrow our focus to deal with this threat and try to make it go away. Anger comes from a sense that we or someone we care about has been wronged and feel an urge to attack in order to restore justice. When we feel scared, we want to run away.
When we experience positive emotions, it is a sign that all is well. As a result, we are safe to begin to explore the world around us. We may feel an urge to try new things, take risks, and pursue opportunities. Positive emotions encourage exploration, expansion and creativity.
See if you can explore the effects of positive and negative emotions in your daily life. Try to notice and name emotions as they arise: ‘Here is anger, here is joy’ etc. What does each emotion feel like in the body and the mind? What is the subjective sense of it? What action do you feel like engaging in when you are sad, playful, anxious, interested? Try to bring curiosity to these experiences.
Look for opportunities to cultivate or savour positive emotions when they arise. Positive emotions include love, contentment, gratitude, inspiration and interest. What activities could you engage in to have more of these experiences? Memory is another source of positive emotion (remembering a time when you felt peaceful, content etc), or imagination (visualising positive outcomes and evoking hope for a happy future).