Historically, psychologists have tended to focus on negative aspects of human behavior.
For years, the focus of psychologists investigating emotions was primarily on negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger, and depression.
One question that was unanswered was what good positive emotions are.
The article, ‘Broaden and Build Theory of Positive Emotions’, argues that positive emotions serve to broaden an individual’s range of thought and action, leading to good health and functioning.
The theory that positive emotions broaden an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoire and promote their long-term resource building is known as the Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions.
This article looks at the key differences between positive and negative emotions, Fredrickson’s Broaden-and-Build Theory, and additional resources on emotions.
Why Are Positive Emotions Understudied?
Despite the fact that everyone wants to feel positive emotions, research on how to cultivate such emotions has only recently begun to flourish. This is due to the rise of movements like positive psychology.
Why have scholars chosen to neglect such an important dimension of the human experience?
In her article (1998), Fredrickson offers three possible explanations.
Positive Emotions Are Few and Less Differentiated
Generally, it seems like there are fewer positive emotions than negative emotions. In fact, for every positive emotion specified in scientific categories, there are three or four negative emotions.
While emotions like anger, sadness, and disgust produce unique changes in facial expression, emotions like joy, contentment, and relaxation produce similar expressions, such as the raised lips associated with a smile.
Often, when we try to recall emotional memories, we find it difficult to differentiate among positive emotions.
To give an example, think about one or two positive interactions you’ve had with a friend. What emotions did they make you feel? You probably would say they were enjoyable, fun, or relaxing, or all three.
Now, try to think about a couple of negative interactions you’ve had with a friend and try to describe these in emotional terms.
The emotions you feel in any given situation are likely to be quite specific to that situation. For example, if you get into an argument with a friend who tells one of your secrets, you might feel betrayed or hurt. However, you would not feel this way if you were visiting your friend in the hospital. Instead, you would probably feel concerned. But even though the situations are different, they both elicit negative emotions.
The reason for the difference in negative emotions may be due to natural selection and survival. Positive emotions may help us temporarily, but if we don’t respond to threats, it could lead to death or being cut off from others.
Nesse (1990) argues that the different ways we experience negative emotions may have evolved to help our ancestors respond to potentially deadly situations.
Problems Demand Attention
Negative emotions bring about difficulties for people and society, which is another explanation for why scholars concentrate on them.
For example, people who can’t control their anger may be more likely to commit acts of violence. If someone experiences negative emotions frequently, it can lead to physical problems like heart disease, which costs healthcare systems money (Barefoot, Dahlstrom, & Williams, 1983). Additionally, if someone is chronically sad (i.e., depressed), it may lead to suicide.
There are far fewer links between positive emotions and negative outcomes than there are between negative emotions and negative outcomes. An exception to this may be when a person experiences euphoria or mania, which is then followed by depression.
There is a clear link between negative emotions and bad outcomes for individuals and society. However, psychologists have neglected the study of positive emotions. Positive emotions may play an important role in preventing negative psychological and physical problems.
Theorists Link Emotions to Action Tendencies
Most models of emotion put forward by theorists demand specific action tendencies from positive emotions, which does not align with reality.
The concept of action tendency was first proposed by Theodore Newcomb in 1953. The concept of action tendency was first proposed by Theodore Newcomb in 1953 and refers to the urge to act in a particular way.
While many models of emotions focus on negative emotions, linking them to specific action tendencies, others take a different approach.
Since interest in positive emotions has grown, scholars have struggled to draw similar causal links between positive emotions and behavior. To illustrate, consider the following question:
The emission of endorphins should follow the feeling of joy.
In contrast to emotions such as anger or guilt, one could theoretically do anything while feeling joy. This might include activities like taking a walk in nature, playing a musical instrument, or laughing with a friend.
According to Frijda (1986), positive emotions are associated with a state of “free activation” that allows people to try new things, be less focused, and take advantage of opportunities as they appear.
The conclusion that negative emotions don’t have specific action tendencies runs contrary to existing models.
This has led to models of positive emotions often grouped together instead of exploring the individual emotions and their effects.
Leading With Positive Emotions
Positive emotions do more than just signal that you are doing well. They also help improve your ability to cope and make you feel good in the present moment and over the long term. They can also have a profound impact on your social and professional life.
Positive Emotions Undo Negative Emotions
Negative emotions often stay around longer than they’re useful, causing irritation, increases in heart rate and blood pressure. Research has shown that the best way to stop these lingering effects of negative emotions is to evoke positive emotions. This works for both energizing emotions like joy and amusement, and calming emotions like serenity and appreciation. So it’s important to learn how to generate positive emotions when negative emotions are present.
Positive Emotions Fuel Resilience
Recovery from negative emotions is helped by positive emotions, which also allows people to better cope in difficult situations. Resilient people tend to feel more positive emotions even when things are tough, and this allows them to recover more quickly from setbacks. These findings suggest that it is helpful to have positive emotions available to you in order to deal with difficult situations.
Positive Emotions Broaden Thinking and Build Resources
positive emotions don’t just make people feel better, they also help people explore and expand their thinking and actions. This theory is called the ‘broaden-and-build’ theory, and it posits that positive emotions help people discover new and innovative ideas. This, in turn, leads to an increase in personal resources.Exploration leads to increased knowledge and psychological complexity, which broadens people’s mindsets and builds durable personal resources that can be used during difficult times.
Positive Emotions Trigger Upward Spirals Toward Optimal Functioning
Any positive emotion you experience today not only feels good now, but also increases the likelihood you will feel good in the future.
Positive Emotions May Produce Optimal Functioning in Organizations
Positive emotions don’t just have an impact on individuals, they can have an effect on an entire organization. Things like helpful or compassionate actions can make people more likely to help others, which in turn creates a chain reaction of positive emotions that can help an organization prosper.
Leaders’ Positive Emotions are Especially Contagious
Positive emotions have the ability to produce change within an organization because they spread from person to person. This is partly because emotions are contagious. Studies have shown that when one person expresses a positive emotion, it can cause others around them to feel positive emotions as well through facial expressions. Because they have the ability to communicate with a large number of people, leaders’ positive emotions are especially contagious. Studies have shown that a leader’s positive emotions are directly related to the performance of their entire group.
Leaders Can Cultivate Positive Emotions by Finding Positive Meaning
And they can use effective problem-solving to identify and implement creative solutions to difficult challenges. If positive emotions have so many beneficial repercussions, and leaders have amplified opportunities to spread positive emotions, the best way for leaders to cultivate positive emotions is to cultivate positive emotions indirectly by finding positive meaning in current circumstances. Positive meaning can be obtained by finding benefits within adversity, infusing ordinary events with meaning, and effective problem-solving. Leaders can find benefits in these trying times by focusing on the newfound strengths and resolve of their organizational members. They can infuse ordinary events with meaning by expressing appreciation for jobs well done. And they can use effective problem-solving to identify and implement creative solutions to difficult challenges.The active ingredient for resilience and growth may be positive emotions, but the key is positive meaning.
People often overlook the importance of positive emotions in a fast-paced society. However, recent research has shown that positive emotions are essential for optimal functioning, especially during difficult times. Therefore, it is beneficial for both you and your employees to find ways to experience positive emotions at work.
A Take-Home Message
Positive emotions such as happiness, love, and joy don’t directly affect our actions in the same way that negative emotions do, but they’re still an important part of healthy human functioning. They help us think more creatively and give us the mental and physical resources we need to cope with difficult situations.
We may need these resources during tough times. The good moments we’ve shared with friends may help us out when we need support from them.
If you’re interested and curious about learning a new skill, it might be useful in a new profession that uses that skill.
Fredrickson’s Broaden-and-Build theory explains how positive experiences today can lead to happiness in the future.
We hope this article has helped you to understand the emotional experiences of you and your clients. If nothing else, use this article as a reminder to do something that will make you smile today.