Monday, August 31, 2015

The role of positive emotions in well-being, health and success

Dance by Eva Deli

Whereas negative emotions change from sadness and incapacitating fear to aggravation and even physical violence, positive emotions spur motivating energy and optimistic enthusiasm. Whether we laugh, smile or jump for joy, positive emotions make us generous, kind, embracing and constructive. In contrast to the isolation felt by those with negative emotions, love is an embracing and uniting feeling.

Sages, philosophers, and artists have understood the importance of positive emotions for well-being for millennia, but scientifically feelings were not taken seriously until the second part of the twentieth century. Like the sound of an engine or a waterfall, emotions were thought to be just symptoms of consciousness and therefore secondary to higher mental functions. In recent years the importance of emotions is quietly gaining ground in a variety of disciplines; for example, in neurological, psychological, and common-sense observations. It is increasingly clear that emotions are the sole motivation of higher animals. Without motive, we do nothing. Our sentiments determine whether we want to live or die, but they do not let us take our lives; suicide must be planned carefully. When motivation is strong; it can even give us superhuman abilities. The greatest emotions, such as love, faith, enthusiasm or belief inspire the most significant achievement. The behavior of mammals and people (and even nations) can be impeccably manipulated by emotions. This is intuitively understood by every great teacher, leader, politician, or artist.

Over time emotional interactions form a mental landscape, which determines our confidence level, and regulates our thinking, behavior, and relationships in an intimate way. Only positive emotions generate optimism, trust and confidence, the source of emotional stability. Behind every notable piece of art, music, literature, or science we find positive emotions, for only an optimistic mind, is capable of creativity, or „flow.” Even art that describes terror and suffering carries a positive, hopeful emotional message: the belief in the human potential. Even abstract mathematics depends on harmony, symmetry, and beauty. Faith, love, courage, and awe bubble up with the enthusiasm of the instant, which cannot be postponed until tomorrow. Thus positive emotions are the force of the moment, but their long-term effect is profound. They increase mental energy, making positive emotions the success generators of the spiritual universe. In the positive attitude mind, unnecessary details are eliminated, expanding the sense of time and fueling enthusiasm, generosity, and the energy for happiness and joy. It is important to note that excitement, glee, and selfish pleasure, which increase brain frequencies in the long term, are not considered positive emotions, as they generate insecurity and remorse. At the same time, catharsis and reaching closure in sadness are uplifting and form positive experience.

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