In Defense of Happiness

| 4/23/2009 11:46:39 AM

The recent issue of The Sun features an interview with psychologist Barbara Fredrickson (article not available online), a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, director of the University of North Carolina’s Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab and author of the upcoming book Positivity.

While humans pay more attention to negative experiences—an evolutionary result of having to constantly scan for threats—positive moments are far more abundant. Fredrickson says a focus on day-to-day feelings of satisfaction can lead to a happier life, and that an awareness of the present moment, paying attention to human kindness, and enjoying nice weather can increase positivity.

Positive emotions can also affect how we perceive people of other races. Scientists had found that when looking at people of a different race, we often look at individual facial features. People “use the same process they use to recognize objects, which suggests there’s some dehumanization going on,” Fredrickson says. “But what we’re finding is that, under the influence of positive emotions, people use the same holistic process for cross-race faces that they use for faces of their own race. It’s as if people, when they’re feeling good, are better able to see the full humanity of people of a different race.”

Still, denying negative emotions is unrealistic. Fredrickson instead advocates taking stock of the positive moments. “Negativity doesn’t always feel like a choice; it feels like it just lands on you, and you have to deal with it. Positive emotions, I think, are more of a choice.”

Sources: The Sun

Image by Christine Szeto, licensed under Creative Commons

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