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Archive for January 22nd, 2008

Simply put — positive emotions broaden one’s thinking.

Given the opposite environment — one in which negative emotions emerge — this makes perfect sense. What do people express when they are in a funk or depressed? They say they can’t think of anything else; their thought processes narrow. Many people in that situation even say even their vision narrows — the “looking through a narrow tunnel” syndrome.

Now, researchers have confirmed that the opposite occurs when positive emotions exist. They say that people who experience positive emotions “show a style of broad-minded coping in which they step back from the current problems and consider them from multiple angles.”

Obviously, that approach comes in handy during a stressful situation. People in a positive state are more likely to reappraise the situation in a positive light and be more goal-directed. They are also more likely to infuse ordinary events with positive meaning, which in turns help them survive or thrive despite adversity.

As corny as it may sound, Norman Vincent Peale got it right — the power of positive thinking rests in its ability to broaden, not narrow, our thoughts, perceptions and actions. If you want to change your actions, change your emotions first.

Source: Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires. Barbara L. Fredrickson and Christine Branigan. Cognition and Emotion 19 (3), 313-332 (2005)

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