Why Be Happy?

  • Positive emotions broaden our thinkings and attention. According to Fredrickson’s research, when people experience joy or interest, they are more creative, see more opportunities, more open with their relationships, and more open-minded.
  • Positive emotions cancel out negative emotions. In an experiment Fredrickson did, they showed students a movie scene where someone is on the ledge of a high rise. At one point, the person loses grip and hangs above the traffic. The heart rate of these students watching increases with the blink of an eye. Then these students were shown one of four clips: “waves,” “puppy,” “sticks” (yes, sticks), and “cry.” Can you guess which ones made the heart rate go down? Puppy and waves. Which made the heart rate go up? Cry (4).
  • Positive emotions build resilience. Emotions like enjoyment, playfulness, satisfaction, love, etc., enhance our resilience, AKA ability to cope. On the other hand, negative emotions decrease resilience. Positive emotions can help us cope with a problem the right way or see the best in negative situations (1).
  • Positive emotions can lead to an upward developmental spiral. Like negative emotions can trigger downward spirals of depression, positive emotions can trigger upward spirals towards better well-being, leading people to the “good life” (1).
  1. Ilona Boniwell (2012). Positive Psychology In A Nutshell: The Science of Happiness. Open University Press.
  2. Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D. (2004). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. Atria Paperback.
  3. Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218–226.
  4. Fredrickson, B., and Levenson, R. (1998). Positive emotions speed recovery from the cardiovascular sequelae of negative emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 12, 191–220.




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Yulan Wang

Yulan Wang

A high schooler passionate about studying cognitive psychology and data science.

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