Be healthy: learn to enhance your positive emotions
Emotions are one of the greatest mysteries of humanity. Everyone at some time has wondered what emotions are, since these reactions take place continuously and without an exact knowledge of their true meaning.
One of the keys that we must take into account is that they are part of the genetic base of the human being, that is, they are immaterial, so they go unnoticed in the current rational world and are assimilated as something habitual, typical of the way people are. However, emotions can generate incalculable internal benefits, besides being one of the points that unites us with the rest of society.
Human beings experience life in an emotional way, for this reason emotions, which are found in the limbic system, play a great role in our way of thinking and acting. In fact, each person, through their own experience, knows internally what emotions are and the real importance they have in their daily lives. Because of this, men and women act in different ways when making decisions that affect their lives depending on whether they are happy or sad. Emotions sociologists have theorised for decades about these reactions, trying to unveil their mystery in order to better understand their functioning in human beings.
What is an emotion?
One of the definitions that best explains what an emotion is is that of Hockenbury and Hockenbury (2007), “an emotion is a complex psychological state that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioural or expressive response”.
According to these authors, an emotion is considered a subjective experience of each person, so each human being has a different way of acting on the reality that surrounds them.
Furthermore, emotions generate physiological reactions such as rapid breathing or acceleration of the heart rate. Finally, the behavioural or expressive response is the universal way of expressing emotions in society, such as a smile to reflect happiness.
"Positive emotions are fundamental for human beings to relate in society"
Studies in the field of emotions have focused on understanding the functioning of negative emotional states, with the aim of being able to control them and diminish their power in people’s actions. However, positive emotions are fundamental for human beings to relate in society. In this type of emotions, pleasure or well-being stand out, short-lasting sensations that mobilise small resources when facing these situations. In the same way, these positive reactions develop the individual virtues and strengths of each person, which are key aspects in achieving happiness.
Human beings experience these reactions briefly on valuable occasions. When these positive emotions are experienced, physical, social and intellectual resources are generated that are stored in each person in order to face those situations full of negative emotions that may arise in the future. Along this line, the doctor and director of the Diego Alcorta National Hospital in Santiago del Estero (Argentina), Arturo Agüero, points out in his book Emotions that cure that positive emotions are capable of eliminating the negative sensations lodged in the human body and that threaten people's health.
Physical and mental benefits of positive emotions
Positive emotions have important benefits on people’s physical and mental health. By reducing the negative effects on the body, which generate diseases, pathologies are prevented and anxiety is reduced. Happiness also increases the level of resilience so adversities in the field of health are addressed in a positive way, and overcome. The wear and tear of the cardiovascular system is therefore smaller and this helps reduce stress in people.
In the mental aspect, positive emotions generate a cognitive organisation that is more open, complex and flexible, so it broadens the perception of the outside world. It is a way of thinking that intensifies creativity and improves problem-solving, and is very beneficial in work and academic environments. Beyond the person, positive emotions improve social relationships by favouring empathy and altruism with others. New social and friendship bonds are also created, because an action as simple as a smile of joy helps bonding between people.
Following the line of improving these positive emotions in the work environment, some companies even have specific programmes; for example the Banco Santander, which held the BeHealthy week in April, a few days with workshops focused on raising its employees’ awareness of the benefits that these emotions bring to physical and mental health. Among the most outstanding was the workshop “Learning to enhance your emotions”, in which it is taught how to know and promote positive emotions, and the workshop “Channeling Stress”, with information on exercises to relax body and mind in order to turn negative actions into positive behaviours.
A diet of documentaries and positive books
Nature documentaries are also a great source of happiness, as a group of researchers at Berkeley University found in a study conducted with the BBC network. With the simple image of a group of cheetahs resting in the African savannah, there is a decrease in fear, fatigue, stress and anxiety. Planet Earth, from the BBC itself, is a fantastic documentary series to start out in this world.
For those who love reading, Authentic Happiness, by the psychologist and writer Martin E. P. Seligman, is one of the most recommended books to find and enhance the positive emotions found inside each person. Another great option is Positive emotions, by the psychologist and writer Martín Berasain.
Whether through everyday actions of life, with films, documentaries or books, it is important to create habits that help generate positive emotions in our lives. After all, the ultimate goal is always to cultivate the greatest possible happiness.
Nurturing positive emotions
Ten tips that will help you create the daily habits necessary to promote positive emotions in this new stage:
- Appreciate life and enjoy the little things around you
- Laugh constantly at life situations
- Get excited about the hopeful future that awaits you
- Contact nature
- Relate and form bonds with the people around you
- Fight to achieve your goals in life
- Do sport in your day to day
- Develop creativity in cooking, painting, writing or any activity that makes you feel good
- Love yourself and your loved ones
- Be happy and face your life with optimism