All day long we are confronted with situations where we must manage our emotions. We might run into some unexpected setback and need to manage stress, we may need to spark our motivation by dealing with a negative attitude, or we may need to manage anger when someone cuts us off in traffic.
Much of psychology and counseling focuses on how to regulate these negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, anger and stress.
Fortunately, there are many strategies which allow us to use these emotions most adaptively.
On a similar note, much of our life includes the experience of positive emotions as well, and learning to regulate emotions such as joy, gratitude, optimism, and hope has significant benefits.
Regulating positive emotional experiences can offer the specific benefit of greater resilience and the ability to cope with stress.
According to Barbara Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory, positive emotions allow us to be more resilient by building social, mental and emotional resources. We develop a positive emotional reserve to pull from in times of adversity, build supportive relationships to help us during tough times, and are able to think more broadly to solve problems.
An article in the Journal of Happiness Studies (2007) reports that there are two main strategies when it comes to the regulation of positive emotions, and these include maintaining or prolonging, and increasing or enhancing, positive emotional experiences.
Here are a few considerations for how to incorporate these strategies into your life:
Maintaining positive emotions
When we hear some great news, achieve something important to us, or experience something inspiring and uplifting, finding ways to make these feelings last can help us get the most from positive emotions.
One thing that can be done is to simply share positive and pleasant news with others. As long as the other is willing to embrace and validate our positive feelings it gives us a chance to prolong them.
Similarly, learning to savor positive feelings and experiences can really help us experience extended positive emotions. A few ways to savor positive emotions is to anticipate the upcoming experience, appreciate and fully engage in the moment, and reminisce about the experience afterwards.
Enhancing positive emotions
When things are going well this is a great opportunity to boost and enhance our positive emotional experiences. Cultivating gratitude is one way to do this. Consider the blessings in your life and really appreciate all the good things you have.
Learning to find positive meaning and value amongst stress and adversity can also help us turn our emotional state around. Reframe and reappraise situations with a positive outlook. Find the silver lining and any value that the situation offers.
Learning to be open to positive feelings is a major key to regulating these feelings. Remember to focus on past success that makes you feel proud and stay present in the moment. Do what you can to extract the most satisfaction from your positive feelings and you will find it easier to bounce back from negativity and cultivate greater positivity.
Photo credit: Lel4nd
Tugade, M. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2007). Regulation of Positive Emotions: Emotion Regulation Strategies that Promote Resilience. Journal of Happiness Studies, 8, 311-333.