Everybody likes to feel good. It’s one of the very few opinions that all humans—of every race, color, creed, religion, and political persuasion—have in common.
We like to feel good, and positive emotions just plain feel good. They don’t necessarily need a reason or cause behind them for us to enjoy them; we just do!
Experiencing emotions like happiness, excitement, joy, hope, and inspiration is vital for anyone who wants to lead a happy and healthy life. Luckily, you don’t need to experience them all the time to reap the benefits of positive emotions. These often-fleeting moments can be the ones that make all the hard work and struggling in life worth it, the spice that brings flavor to your life.
What are Positive Emotions? A Definition
Before diving too deep into positive emotions, we should start by making sure we’re all on the same page about emotions, and positive emotions in particular.
Positive emotions are not simply “happy feelings” that we chase to feel momentary pleasure; like the more negative emotions, they play a significant role in everyday life.
There are many ways to define “emotion,” but they generally fall into one of two camps:
- Emotions are a state or feeling that cannot be conjured up at will.
- Emotions are attitudes or responses to a situation or an object, like judgments (Zemach, 2001).
Most current scholars fall into the second camp, viewing emotions as the outcome or result of something, provoked by an action or by being on the receiving end of an action. The implications of embracing one view over the other are fascinating, but for the purposes of understanding positive emotions and their role in psychology, it’s not necessary to choose between the two camps; whether we can consciously choose our positive emotions or whether they are a direct result of some action or experience, it is mainly their effects that are of interest to the positive psychologist.
Narrowing down to positive emotions, there are two popular ways of defining them that loosely correspond to the two camps noted above. They have been defined as “multicomponent response tendencies” that last a short period of time (Fredrickson, 2001), aligning roughly with the second view, and as mental experiences that are both intense and pleasurable (Cabanac, 2002), adhering more closely to the first view.
Whichever definition you think fits best, the most important things we need to know about them are (a) which emotions they are, (b) what is their purpose or point, (c) how we can improve our experience of them, either in quantity or quality, and (d) what effects they have on us.
Part 2 to continue tomorrow,
Sent with Love