Even in small doses, happiness is healthy

UNC-CHAPEL HILL (US) — People who take time to focus on even small moments of positive emotion increase their resilience against challenges. A new study finds these “micromoments” can help tap optimistic feelings.

“Those small moments let positive emotions blossom, and that helps us become more open,” says study author Barbara Fredrickson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“That openness then helps us build resources that can help us rebound better from adversity and stress, ward off depression, and continue to grow,” Fredrickson adds.

In the study, which appears in the June issue of the bimonthly journal Emotion, participants were asked to submit daily “emotion reports,” rather than answering general questions about their emotional state.

“Getting those daily reports helped us gather more accurate recollections of feelings and allowed us to capture emotional ups and downs,” Fredrickson explains.

Adopting a Pollyanna approach to life and denying the existence of negative occurrences isn’t necessary, the study finds.

“The levels of positive emotions that produced good benefits weren’t extreme. Participants with average and stable levels of positive emotions still showed growth in resilience even when their days included negative emotions.”

Too often people focus on thinking about the future or dwelling on the past, Fredrickson says.

“The better approach is to be open and flexible, to be appreciative of whatever good you do find in your daily circumstances, rather than focusing on bigger questions, such as ‘Will I be happy if I move to California?’ or ‘Will I be happy if I get married?’”

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco, the University of Michigan, Cornell University, and the University of Pittsburgh contributed to the report.

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