The secret to living up to 10 years longer


Positive psychology: an article written by Barbara L. Fredrickson (2003) who is the
director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of
Michigan reviews the value of positive emotions and the understanding of why it is good to feel good. This article is based on the branch of positive psychology, a field of psychological sciences founded by Martin E. P. Seligman who at the time was president of the American Psychological Association.
In This article Fredrickson (2003) introduces the review of journal entries written by
nuns sixty years prior and the discovery that the nuns who had more positive expressions lived up to 10 years longer than the nuns who didn’t. Fredrickson (2003) then attempts to explain through her experiments why positive emotions and expressions help people to live longer and why feeling good matters.

A vital component to her theory is the study of positive emotions rather than negative emotions which is a common focus within psychological research. Fredrickson (2003) questions the inherited adaptive significance of positive emotions where prior studies show negative emotions are inherited from our ancestors and vital for survival. She theories that positive emotions may be a sign of no current threat as positive expressions show no distinct responses from the autonomic system compared to negative emotions that have distinct responses from the autonomic system. Furthmore, this is suggesting that people are inheritably good in nature. 

Fredrickson (2003) conducts experiments to investigate why positive emotions assist people to live longer including their effects on psychical, social and psychological wellbeing. The results of the experiment show that over the course of one month induced positive emotions and thinking improved psychological well-being compared to those who did not induce positive expressions into their daily experiences. The experiment demonstrated that endorsing positive meaning into a person’s life displayed more resilience, optimism and social connectedness.

Critique towards this investigation may be that there was no mention of the participant’s prior life experience, situation or current psychological well-being. Additional consideration is whether it reflects authentic positive change or illusionary defences especially in regards to optimism. With this being said it is plausible that positive mannerism might solve the evolutionary mystery of positive emotions in that our ancestors would have naturally accrued more personal resources that would further translate into greater odds of survival and reproduction (Fredrickson, 2003).

With her findings, Fredrickson (2003) concluded that “feeling good” and positive psychological well-being served more purpose than just in the face of threat.  With the inducing of positive emotions this may broaden people’s thought-and-action repertoires that consequently may counteract the physiological effects of negative expressions within the body and in turn dismantle physiological preparation for specific action (Fredrickson, 2003). Her theory may prove beneficial for prolonged stress that would be considered unhealthy and unrequired. However, in the face of threat such autonomic functions are vital for survival and the body’s way of regulating stimulus of various natures.

In conclusion positive emotions seem to have a good effect on psychological well
being, psychical health and social interaction. On the other hand it should not disregard or out way the effects of negative expressions if they are a necessary and vital physiological responsive mechanism. Though evidence shows the long term benefits of positive psychology, the experiment doesn’t demonstrate the significant effects that positive emotions have in the face of other forms of negative diversity, such as current mental health problems and traumatic experiences. However, other research experiments have demonstrated the positive effects on well-being and is currently being adopted as psychological treatment within this field.  On the other-hand, this particular experiment merely tested positive emotions and expressions against the everyday situations participants encounter. Even though the benefits are valid, positive emotions enabling people to live longer may not be linear but may include other factors. Further experiments would give more insight into the subject of positive emotions enabling people to live longer.


Published by Tiarna-lee Hughes

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