Sunday, August 23, 2009

UNC study: To build resilience, don't worry, see happy

Researcher says focus on small moments

CHAPEL HILL - People who seed their life with frequent moments of positive emotions increase their resilience against challenges, according to a new study by a UNC psychologist and colleagues.

The study, "Happiness Unpacked: Positive Emotions Increase Life Satisfaction by Building Resilience," appears in the June issue of the bimonthly journal Emotion.

"This study shows that if happiness is something you want out of life, then focusing daily on the small moments and cultivating positive emotions is the way to go," said Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences and the principal investigator of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory. "Those small moments let positive emotions blossom, and that helps us become more open. That openness then helps us build resources that can help us rebound better from adversity and stress, ward off depression and continue to grow."

In the month long study, 86 participants were asked to submit daily "emotion reports," rather than answering general questions like, "Over the last few months, how much joy did you feel?"

"Getting those daily reports helped us gather more accurate recollections of feelings and allowed us to capture emotional ups and downs," said Fredrickson, a leading expert in the field of positive psychology.

Building up a daily diet of positive emotions does not require banishing negative emotions, she said.

The study helps show that to be happy, people do not need to adopt a "Pollyannaish" approach and deny the upsetting aspects of life.

"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."


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