Prevention & Treatment, Volume 3, Article 0001a, posted March 7, 2000 Copyright 2000 by the American Psychological Association

Cultivating Positive Emotions to Optimize Health and Well-Being
Barbara L. Fredrickson University of Michigan

ABSTRACT This article develops the hypothesis that intervention strategies that cultivate positive emotions are particularly suited for preventing and treating problems rooted in negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, aggression, and stressrelated health problems. Fredrickson's (1998) broaden–and–build model of positive emotions provides the foundation for this application. According to this model, the form and function of positive and negative emotions are distinct and complementary. Negative emotions (e.g., fear, anger, and sadness) narrow an individual's momentary thought–action repertoire toward specific actions that served the ancestral function of promoting survival. By contrast, positive emotions (e.g., joy, interest, and contentment) broaden an individual's momentary thought–action repertoire, which in turn can build that individual's enduring personal resources, resources that also served the ancestral function of promoting survival. One implication of the broaden–and–build model is that positive emotions have an undoing effect on negative emotions. By broadening the momentary thought–action repertoire, positive emotions loosen the hold that negative emotions gain on an individual's mind and body by undoing the narrowed psychological and physiological preparation for specific action. Indeed, empirical studies have shown that contentment and joy speed recovery from the cardiovascular aftereffects of negative emotions (Fredrickson & Levenson, 1998). Stepping off from these ideas and findings, a range of intervention and coping strategies are reviewed, including relaxation therapies, behavioral therapies aimed at increasing rates of pleasant activities, cognitive therapies aimed at teaching optimism, and coping strategies marked by finding positive meaning. These strategies optimize health and well-being to the extent that they cultivate positive emotions. Cultivated positive emotions not only counteract negative emotions, but also broaden individuals' habitual modes of thinking and build their personal resources for coping. Experiences of negative emotion are inevitable and at times useful. Even so, when extreme, prolonged, or contextually inappropriate, negative emotions can trigger a wide array of

problems for individuals and for society. Fear and anxiety, for instance, fuel phobias and other anxiety disorders (Ohman, 1993) and together with acute and chronic stress may compromise immune functioning and create susceptibilities to stress-related physical disorders ( O'Leary, 1990). For some individuals, sadness and grief may swell into unipolar depression (Nolen-Hoeksema, Morrow, & Fredrickson, 1993), which when severe can lead to immunosuppression (O'Leary, 1990), loss of work productivity (Coryell, Scheftner, Keller, & Endicott, 1993), and suicide ( Chen & Dilsaver, 1996). Anger and its poor management have been implicated in the etiology of heart disease (Barefoot, Dahlstrom, & Williams, 1983; Fredrickson, Maynard, et al., 1999; Scheier & Bridges, 1995; Williams et al., 1980) and some cancers ( Eysenck, 1994; Greer & Morris, 1975), as well as in aggression and violence, especially in boys and men ( Buss, 1994; Lemerise & Dodge, 1993). Given the suffering and loss that stem from negative emotions, the press to understand these emotions is immense. In part reflecting this press, the scientific literature on emotions includes far more publications on negative emotions, like fear, anger, and sadness, than on positive emotions, like joy, interest, and contentment. One could argue that efforts to understand positive emotion should be postponed while psychologists learn more about preventing and treating the disease and suffering caused by negative emotions. But what if positive emotions could help to solve some of the problems that negative emotions generate? What if positive emotions could help people overcome negative emotions faster and build their resilience to future adversities? This article takes these possibilities seriously. I begin by presenting a model that describes the form and function of positive emotions (Fredrickson, 1998). I next provide a brief overview of studies that test the implications of this model for the role of positive emotions in regulating negative emotions ( Fredrickson & Levenson, 1998; Fredrickson, Mancuso, Branigan, & Tugade, 1999). My ultimate aim is to illustrate the implications that this new model has for counteracting—both preventing and treating—individual and societal problems that stem from negative emotions. This is not a tautological endeavor: Preventing or alleviating problematic negative emotions does not in itself cultivate positive emotions. Positive emotions are more than the absence of negative emotions. The capacity to experience positive emotions remains a largely untapped human strength. The possible benefits of positive emotions seem particularly undervalued in cultures like ours that endorse the Protestant ethic, which casts hard work and self-discipline as virtues and leisure and pleasures as sinful. Departing from this ethic, I will argue that the best solutions to problems stemming from negative emotions are ones that capitalize on positive emotions. An important feature of positive emotions is that their effects do not end once suffering is prevented or alleviated. The repercussions of experiencing positive emotions resonate further: I hypothesize that positive emotions, when tapped effectively, can optimize health, subjective well-being, and psychological resilience. This outlook concurs with the emerging view that psychology should examine, both theoretically and empirically, the positive aspects of human experience as rigorously as it does the negative aspects ( Ryff & Singer, 1998; Seligman, 1998).

Current Perspectives on Emotion
A brief review of current perspectives on emotions provides an important backdrop. Working definitions of emotions vary somewhat among researchers. Even so, a consensus is

A key idea in these models is that having these specific action tendencies come to mind is what makes emotions evolutionarily adaptive: These are among the actions that worked best in getting our ancestors out of life-or-death situations. Emotions differ from moods in that they are about some personally meaningful circumstance (i. But rather. The need for a better way to make sense of positive emotions was clear. 1986). which may be manifest across loosely coupled component systems. anger and fear) with positive emotions (e. joy and contentment) squeezed in later. most models are built to the specifications of prototypic negative emotions (e. These tendencies. are far too general to be called specific.g.. and so affective traits and emotional states represent different levels of analysis (Rosenberg. neuroticism. 1991). Although . when you have an urge to escape when feeling fear. then what is their form and possible function? To answer this. Levenson. contentment with that emotions are multi. 1994). an emotion process begins with an individual's assessment of the personal meaning of some antecedent event—what Lazarus (1991) called the "person–environment relationship. people's ideas about possible courses of action narrow in on a specific set of behavioral options. I propose discarding two common presumptions (Fredrickson. Lazarus. 1990).. 1996. for example. 1996). 1994. disgust the urge to expel. & Schure.. Lazarus. is the idea that emotions are. 1998). facial expressions. as an afterthought." or "adaptational encounter. such as subjective experience. No theorist would argue that people invariably act out these urges when feeling particular emotions. Whereas others before me have noted that the fit for positive emotions is poor (Ekman. ideas about positive emotions need to be uncoupled from ideas about negative emotions. Tooby & Cosmides. is linked with the urge to escape. the specific action tendencies identified for positive emotions are vague and underspecified. This is an example of how theorists have tended to squeeze positive emotions into the same theoretical mold as negative emotions. Current models of emotion are typically intended to explain emotions in general. 1986. your body reacts by mobilizing appropriate autonomic support for the possibility of running (Levenson. Typically. for instance. by definition. There is good reason to retain models based on specific action tendencies for negative emotions but to start fresh for positive emotions.g. such as hostility. anger with the urge to attack. Kuipers.e. whereas moods are often free-floating or objectless (Oatley & Jenkins. Instead. is linked to aimless activation. 1992. So. and interest with attending ( Frijda." This appraisal process triggers a cascade of response tendencies. to my reading of the literature. Fredrickson and Levenson (1998) noted that negative and positive emotions are not isomorphic in this regard. 1998). The first is that emotions must necessarily yield specific action tendencies. Taking Positive Emotions Seriously The first question is: If many positive emotions do not share the hallmark feature with the negative emotions of promoting and supporting specific actions. or optimism: Enduring affective traits predispose individuals toward experiencing certain emotions. 1989. Emotions also differ from affective traits. in our view. In making this fresh start. Oatley & Jenkins. Despite this aim. 1991. associated with specific action tendencies (Frijda. Joy. and so on. and physiological changes. 1992. key to many models of emotions.component response tendencies that unfold over relatively short time spans. they have an object). As one critical example. Another key idea is that specific action tendencies and physiological changes go hand. Fear. this acknowledgment had not yet been productive. Frijda. for example.

Importantly. but also. nonspecific thought–action tendency. Dolhinow & Bishop. Lazarus. play takes many forms. Joy. but also intellectual and artistic play. invention and just plain fooling around.1 For each. In the following sections. In other words. joy creates the urge to play and be playful in the broadest sense of the word. exhilaration and amusement) can thus be described as broadening an individual's thought–action repertoire. which he termed free activation: "[it] is in part aimless.g. not only broadens an individual's momentary thought–action repertoire through the urge to play. it does appear to have reliable outcomes. can have the incidental effect of building an individual's physical. manipulative–cognitive skills are developed and practiced in object play. and social resources. ethologists have long argued that play promotes skill acquisition: Physical skills are developed and practiced in rough-and-tumble play. I build the case for this proposal by describing three distinct positive emotions: joy. social play builds and strengthens friendships and attachments. 1977). 89). 1992. they appear to be less prescriptive than negative emotions about which particular actions should be taken. 1991). these new resources are durable. in place of action tendencies. then. traditional action-oriented models can be paraphrased for negative emotions as follows: Negative emotions narrow a person's momentary thought– action repertoire. To my mind. Additionally. 1998). Joy Joy arises in contexts appraised as safe and familiar (Izard.. Using this new terminology. 1977. is to a large degree unscripted. In addition. More recently. and contentment. unasked-for readiness to engage in whatever interaction presents itself and in part readiness to engage in enjoyments" (p.positive emotions often produce urges to act. So. an alternative model seems warranted: I have proposed that positive emotions broaden a person's momentary thought–action repertoire (Fredrickson. intellectual. long after the instigating experience of joy has subsided. ancestrally adaptive actions represented by specific action tendencies. and in some cases. Even though play is often aimless. by events construed as accomplishments or progress toward one's goals (Izard. Play. encompassing not only physical and social play. the urge to play represents a quite generic. Panksepp (1998) proposed that childhood play drives brain development. I touch on (a) the circumstances that tend to elicit the emotion (b) apparent changes in the momentary thought– action repertoire. and can be drawn on later. . I discuss the relative breadth of the momentary thought–action repertoire. 1970). I refer to thought–action tendencies . and (c) the consequences or outcomes of these changes. Certainly. especially imaginative play. then. interest. 1988). Joy and related positive emotions (e. instead of presuming these thought–action tendencies are specific. This effect is clearly adaptive in life-threatening situations that require quick action to survive. over time and as a product of recurrent play. Because positive emotions are not linked to threats requiring quick action. especially in the frontal lobes responsible for executive functions and implicated in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Frijda (1986) offered the clearest statement on the action tendency associated with joy. Pointing to no single set of actions. It involves exploration. They do so by calling to mind and body the time-tested. and social–affective skills are developed and practiced in social play (Boulton & Smith. as requiring low effort (Ellsworth & Smith. Some of the positive emotions seem instead to spark changes primarily in cognitive activity. The second is that emotions must necessarily spark tendencies for physical action.

again building on Tomkins (1962). wonder. which builds on earlier work by Tomkins (1962). At first blush. Interest and related affective states (e. 1977). interest also builds the individual's store of knowledge and cognitive abilities.. challenge ( Csikszentmihalyi. and flow) arise in contexts appraised as safe and as offering novelty. to the extent that inactivity is not an action. It may be. Hidi. feel "oneness" with others or the world around them. and in other emotional states. 1977. or extend or expand the self by incorporating new information and having new experiences with the person or object that has stimulated the interest" (Izard.g. contentment is captured by the Japanese emotion term amae. & Krapp. These contexts also tend to be appraised as important and requiring effort and attention (Ellsworth & Smith. Interest. or the pleasure that derives from a good meal or otherwise meeting bodily needs. curiosity. 216). however. a sense of possibility (Izard. these become durable resources that can be accessed in later moments. Contentment Contentment and related emotions (e. & Ryan. 1986). This emotion is distinct from mere satisfaction. tranquillity. explicitly and actively aimed at increasing knowledge of and experience with the target of interest. Pelletier. Interest generates "a feeling of wanting to investigate. Similarly. 1988). according to Izard (1977). it is nonetheless associated with feeling animated and enlivened. contentment appears to have no real action tendency. the openness to new ideas. is exploration. not only broadens an individual's momentary thought–action repertoire as the individual is enticed to explore. serenity. Although interested individuals explore for intrinsic reasons. and actions is what characterizes the mindset of interest as broadened. The momentary thought–action tendency sparked by interest. It may also be the positive emotion least appreciated in Western cultures. 1992). Some theorists have posited that the momentary thought–action tendency of interest is to simply attend (e. and development of intelligence. Renninger. such exploration has reliable outcomes. which refers to the sense of being accepted and cared for by others in a passive relationship of reciprocal dependence (Markus & Kitayama. p. and relief) arise in situations appraised as safe and as having a high degree of certainty and a low degree of effort (Ellsworth & Smith. excitement. wrote that interest is the primary instigator of personal growth. become involved. but over time and as a product of sustained exploration. Izard (1977) proposed. experiences. change. 1991. 1982. Beyond simply incrementing knowledge. Most obviously. to satisfy their own inner curiosity.g. 1992). then. interest-inspired exploration increases an individual's knowledge (Deci." defined by Csikszentmihalyi and Rathunde (1998) as the ability to integrate and differentiate complex relationships with people and among concepts and strivings. interest and related states also appear to foster "psychological complexity. Vallerand. Instead. A closer look at theoretical writings on contentment and related states suggests that this emotion prompts individuals to savor the moment or recent experiences.Interest Interest. rather than narrowed. or mystery (Kaplan. that the changes sparked by contentment are more cognitive than physical. In part. Izard (1977).Importantly.g.. Hazen & Durrett. intrinsic motivation. Yet to my mind this stops short of fully describing the impact of interest. 1988). creative endeavor.. 1990). Tomkins (1962) characterized interest as thinking with excitement. Again. 1991). I favor Izard's (1977) treatment of interest. Although interest may or may not be accompanied by overt physical action. and integrate current and . is the emotion experienced most frequently. Frijda.

The work of Alice Isen and her colleagues is exemplary: Their experiments have demonstrated that positive emotions produce patterns of thought that are notably unusual (Isen. A wide range of empirical evidence supports specific predictions drawn from the broaden– and–build model: Positive emotions and related positive states have been linked to broadened scopes of attention. according to this analysis. Importantly. 1998). these resources are more durable than the transient emotional states that led to their acquisition. receptivity.recent experiences into their overall self-concept and world view (Izard. interact in more unpredictable ways (Gottman. see Fredrickson. 1998). and insight characterize contentment as an emotion that broadens individuals' momentary thought– action repertoires. is a mindful emotion. intellectual and social resources (for a review. & Nowicki. which in turn creates a new sense of self and a new world view.. for instance. & Turken. the specific love relationship.g. or shallow thinkers. Verette. the often incidental effect of experiencing a positive emotion is an increment in enduring personal resources that can be drawn on later. 1998 ). an effect recently linked to increases in brain dopamine levels ( Ashby. or receptive to. Isen suggested that positive affect "enlarges the cognitive context" (Isen. and builds their personal resources. These links to mindfulness. scattered. Even though positive emotions broaden thought–action repertoires within individuals. Daubman. Observations of married couples. It involves full awareness of. Moreover. interest. in press). the broaden–and–build model does not predict that persons experiencing positive emotions become unfocused. Over time. 1987). then. positive emotions have relational repercussions. 1997 ). Here again the analysis is consistent with the . Contentment is not simply behavioral passivity but rather a reflective broadening of a person's self-views and world views. 1977. and rigid. this surplus functions as a social resource: Couples that have it are less likely to escalate each other's negative emotions when faced with conflict. 1985). Isen. cognition. In contrast. Johnson. 1984). Possel. & Weiner. a finding consistent with the proposed broadening effects of positive emotions. in other contexts and in other emotional states. de Rivera. Happy couples. < a name="8">Contentment. In general terms. but are at the same time generative of. such broadening can impact interpersonal relationships. This body of evidence is consistent with the broadening effects of positive emotions that I have proposed. and contentment share the feature of broadening an individual's momentary thought–action repertoire. Mertz. In addition. creative (Isen. Importantly. self-complexity. integration. by contrast. 1989). and openness to momentary experiences. especially enduring ones. By consequence. and action and enhanced physical. Gottman (1998) contended that members of happy couples build up a surplus (or "bank account") of positive sentiments for their partner and their marriage. & Robinson. ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social resources. or target of interest). playful episode. it carries the urge to savor and integrate those experiences. 1987. 222). a wide range of ideas and actions within the domain of their focus. and receptive (Estrada. reveal that the interaction patterns of unhappy couples are structured. p. predictable. flexible (Isen & Daubman. but they also share the feature of building the individual's personal resources. & Young. Positive Emotions Broaden and Build A parallelism has emerged here: Not only do joy. it suggests that these persons typically maintain their focus within the emotion-relevant domain (e. I call this the broaden–and–build model of positive emotions (Fredrickson. Isen.

of obvious importance. Although we cannot assume that positive emotions inevitably "do good. be vigilant—why might being playful or exploratory have led to a reproductive advantage? The key is in the "build" part of the broaden– and–build model. the personal resources accrued during positive states were durable. the adaptive problem that appears to be solved by positive emotions is this: When and how should individuals build resources for survival? The answer is to build resources during safe and satiated moments by playing. the broaden– and–build model . Through the experiences of positive emotions. exploring. Moreover. Panksepp (1998) argued that "youth may have evolved to give complex organisms time to play" (p.g." the insights that the broaden–and–build model offers into the psychological form and ancestral function of positive emotions can illuminate ways that present-day humans might deploy positive emotions to optimize health and well-being. attack. these resources could translate themselves into increased odds of survival. Of all the things a hunter– gatherer could do in a such a moment—sleep. reproduction. An Evolutionary Functional Analysis of Positive Emotions Before taking up the implications of this new model. at face value. Presentday motivations aside. Indeed.a detailed cognitive map for wayfinding). Together with this evolutionary functional analysis.. These links between positive emotions and resource building suggest that positive emotions may be essential to early child development.. ancestors built their personal resources. The common denominator across the contexts that elicit positive emotions is perceived safety and satiation. I have argued.proposal that positive emotions build enduring social resources. When these same ancestors later faced threats to life and limb. or inclusive fitness. 96).g. or savoring and integrating. One route to arguing that a particular psychological phenomenon is an evolved adaptation is to take a form-to-function approach: First one notes the form of some existing psychological phenomenon. is a momentarily broadened thought–action repertoire. sit around. including physical resources (e. Thus. and social resources (e. The evolutionary functional analysis I have sketched does not mean that experiences of positive emotions necessarily have adaptive advantages in present day circumstances. and in turn. intellectual resources (e. Importantly. I would like to discuss it in the context of human evolution. increased odds of living long enough to reproduce. The ability to recognize and take advantage of the opportunities inherent in safe and satiated moments is.. someone to turn to for help). continue to run. 1992). The form that characterizes positive emotions.g. positive emotions may now serve multiple purposes in people's lives. the ability to outmaneuver a predator). the adaptationist account I offer makes the more modest claim that the structure and effects of positive emotions evident in present-day humans have been shaped by the recurrent conditions faced by our ancestors over the course of human evolution. nor that present-day humans pursue positive emotions to maximize their odds of survival. Indeed. the broaden–and–build model describes what positive emotions have been good for—their ancestral function—and explains why they are now part of our universal human nature. then thinks back to the lives of our hunter–gatherer ancestors and tries to locate the sort of adaptive problem that might have been solved by this form (Tooby & Cosmides. At times. the "pursuit of happiness" may solely reflect the fact that positive emotions are hedonically pleasant and therefore inherently rewarding.

. 1958). into this context of negative emotional arousal (and using a between-groups design). 1994). which narrow individuals' thought– action repertoires.e. 1999). Fredrickson. we found that the two positive emotion films— the amusement film and the contentment film—each accelerated cardiovascular recovery relative to the neutral and sad films (Fredrickson & Levenson. et al. Building on this reasoning. using either a feareliciting film clip (Fredrickson & Levenson. that the broadened thought–action repertoire of positive emotions is psychologically incompatible with the narrowed thought–action repertoire of negative emotions. can help people overcome current stresses faster and make them more resilient to future adversities. Study 2). 1980 ... Cabanac. I will argue. Across three independent samples. Nezu. neutrality. et al. We tested this aspect of the undoing hypothesis in a series of experiments (Fredrickson & Levenson. In other words. then. Mancuso.. & Blissett. intellectual. the precise mechanism or mechanisms ultimately responsible for this long-noted incompatibility have not been adequately identified. 1999). I propose. Broadening may turn out to be the operative mechanism. specific action tendency) evokes physiological changes to support the indicated action (Levenson. Next. 1998. 1998. 1988. Mancuso. We obtained further evidence for the undoing effect from a correlational study that linked spontaneous smiles during negative emotional arousal to faster cardiovascular recovery from that arousal (Fredrickson & Levenson. Our empirical strategy was first to induce negative emotional arousal in all participants. 1976. 1998. positive emotions should have an undoing effect on negative emotions. If true. positive emotions may loosen the hold that (no longer relevant) negative emotions gain on an individual's mind and body by dismantling or undoing the narrowed psychological and physiological preparation for specific action. a counteracting positive emotion—with its broadened thought–action repertoire— should quell or undo this physiological preparation for specific action. Nezu. and social resources. In addition. again using film clips.eliciting speech task (Fredrickson. Solomon. By returning the body to baseline levels of physiological activation. By broadening the momentary thought–action repertoire. my colleagues and I hypothesized that positive emotions should have a unique ability to down-regulate the lingering cardiovascular aftereffects of negative emotions. They also have the potential to broaden people's habitual modes of thinking and build their physical. and has been demonstrated over several decades by a range of researchers working on affect-related processes (Baron.. Wolpe. to the extent that a negative emotion's narrowed thought–action repertoire (i. The basic observation that positive emotions (or their key components) are somehow incompatible with negative emotions is not new. then positive emotions should also serve as particularly effective antidotes for the lingering effects of negative emotions. These processes. we induced amusement. 1971. Study 1. We tested our hypothesis by measuring how long it took for the initial negative emotional arousal to return to baseline levels once the randomly assigned secondary film was introduced. Even so. et al. Implications for Emotion Regulation: The Undoing Effect of Positive Emotions I have argued that positive emotions broaden individuals' momentary thought–action repertoires. Fredrickson. contentment. positive emotions create physiological support for pursuing the wider array of thoughts and actions called forth. or sadness. 1999). that positive emotions can have effects beyond making people "feel good" or improving their subjective experiences of life. 1998) or an anxiety.

Health and well. behavioral therapies aimed at increasing rates of pleasant activities. indirect supportive evidence can be drawn from a collection of correlational studies. 1999). should be especially effective for counteracting these problems. My ultimate aim is to illustrate how positive emotions infuse each of these change strategies and account for their effectiveness. they may dwell on the repercussions of what has been lost.Beyond speeding physiological recovery. Importantly. prolonged. Taking these truisms to heart. negative emotions can entrain people toward narrowed lines of thinking consistent with the specific action tendencies they trigger.. Mancuso. Trabasso. the evidence suggests that two different positive emotions— contentment and amusement—although distinct in their phenomenology. Individuals who express or report higher levels of positive emotion show more constructive and flexible coping. No experiments have yet tested this prediction. the hypothesized undoing effect implies that positive emotions should counteract any aspect of negative emotions that stems from a narrowed thought–action repertoire. more abstract and long-term thinking. cognitive therapies aimed at teaching optimistic explanatory styles. 1997). individuals may dwell on getting revenge or getting even. Although additional studies are still needed. when channeled into effective prevention. ranging from anxiety disorders and depression to heart disease and aggression. Experiments have thus documented that positive emotions can undo the cardiovascular reactivity that lingers following a negative emotion and that this undoing effect is both reliable and generalizable ( Fredrickson & Levenson. The undoing hypothesis predicts that positive emotions should restore flexible thinking in these circumstances. 1993. 1998. and wellness. or contextually inappropriate negative emotions. When angry. Folkman. resilience. 1998. 1997. In this latter half of this article. Even so. and greater emotional distance following stressful negative events (Keltner & Bonanno. when sad or depressed. together with the existing evidence for the undoing effect. In other words. For instance. et al. & Richards. provides the basis for this claim. & Dance. It bears underscoring that the view of positive emotions inherent in the broaden–and–build model suggests that intervention strategies that cultivate positive emotions are not simply methods for treating and preventing disease and distress. I suspect that the undoing effect occurs because positive emotions broaden people's momentary thought– action repertoires in a manner that is incompatible with the continuance of negative emotion. The broaden–and–build model. . These include relaxation therapies. when anxious or afraid. Positive emotions may also undo the psychological or cognitive narrowing engendered by negative emotions. share the ability to undo negative emotional arousal. Kuiper. Fredrickson. Moreover. correlational evidence suggests that the undoing effect may extend beyond speeding physiological recovery. Olinger. Martin. and coping strategies. and coping strategies marked by finding positive meaning within and despite adversity. treatment. they may dwell on escaping or avoiding harm. Positive emotions. Stein. their effects are likely to go beyond treating and preventing problems that stem from negative emotions and into the realm of building personal strength. just as positive emotions are more than the absence of negative emotions. Implications for Preventing and Treating Problems Rooted in Negative Emotions I started this article by specifying individual and social problems that stem from excessive. Lyubomirsky & Tucker. I take up a range of intervention and change strategies.being are more than the absence of disease and distress. the intervention strategies discussed below are perhaps best conceptualized as optimizing health and well-being.

or a cool mountain top. I argue. Laboratory research on emotions has shown that cultivating key components of an emotion can often initiate. seemingly disparate relaxation practices. at one level or another. & Bonner. ranging from more traditional forms. or jump-start." (J. cannot be instilled directly. Consider first the thematic imagery exercises central to many different relaxation therapies. J. some imagery exercises ask people to focus on a . Are relaxation therapies contentment therapies? I propose that relaxation therapies are effective because. and in doing so. can be reconceptualized as various methods for inducing contentment. Orians & Heerwagen. like any emotion. Nature settings are especially effective in captivating people's attention and quelling tension ( Kaplan. C. Instead. certain nature scenes evoke contentment. on similar effects attributed to nature scenes). negative emotions. For this reason. as well as headaches. create conditions for experiencing contentment. 1990). Ulrich et al. The emphasis on components is noteworthy. Fletcher. the efficacy of relaxation therapies may derive from the undoing effect of positive emotions. the mechanisms or active ingredients responsible for their effectiveness remain unknown (Blumenthal. Despite obvious dissimilarities across these forms. or a grassy plain. 1995. empirical tests of the undoing effect confirm that contentment induced by a short film can speed cardiovascular recovery from laboratory-induced fear and anxiety (Fredrickson & Levenson. 1992. All emotion induction techniques are by necessity indirect. & Kabat-Zinn. they are often considered a single class of treatments. C.. letting the scene become as vivid and real as possible. Mancuso. 56)or whatever setting is most relaxing to them at the moment. Smith. to more modern forms. or both. 1991). the changes it sparks are more cognitive than physical. and day-to-day stress and depression ( Shapiro. contentment broadens a person's momentary thought–action repertoire. The contentment produced by relaxation therapy may similarly undo the real-life anxiety or stress associated with presenting clinical problems. 1985). In abstract terms. People cannot simply will themselves to feel content. p.. for reviews see Kabat-Zinn. As such. developed in the West. chronic pain. 1991. I have argued. Relaxation therapies induce key components of contentment. multicomponent emotion process. 1992. I will build a case for the hypothesis that relaxation therapies capitalize on contentment by describing components of different relaxation therapies that resemble components of either contentment or emotion induction techniques. Put differently. Schwartz. As we have seen. Smith. including anxiety disorders (Kabat-Zinn et al. they cultivate the positive emotion of contentment. It carries the urge not only to savor the moment but also to integrate those momentary experiences into an enriched appreciation of one's place in the world. Other than nature scenes. Contentment. Various forms of relaxation therapy. essential hypertension (Blumenthal. like meditation and yoga.. This is perhaps no coincidence. They typically focus on one component of the more complex emotion system: a situation or recalled event. originating in India and Asia. 1995 ). Nature settings seem to be invoked most often. Miller. the entire. Imagery exercises. Fredrickson. et al.. like progressive muscle relaxation and biofeedback. or a peaceful pond.Relaxation Therapies There is no single relaxation therapy. 1990. or exacerbated by. Treatments centered on relaxation persist for practical reasons: They work. 1998. see also Ulrich et al. 1992. empirical studies have shown that each form produces relaxation and effectively treats problems rooted in. or a mode of thinking. 1998. is a mindful emotion. Contentment. Even so. 1999. there are multiple. a facial expression. 1985). Individuals receiving relaxation training might be instructed to cultivate an "image of a quiet beach. 1990.

1990). Imagery exercises—whether used in relaxation therapy. PMR induces a key component of contentment: an overall reduction in muscle tension and action readiness. Kemeny.. although typically those of the face. or DFA. Kasimatis. I speculate that the dynamic tension–release sequences of PMR might also induce emotion. 1990).g. C. Laboratory techniques for inducing emotion also sometimes target muscles. Thus. 1993. Stanislavski (1965) taught. Priester. individuals report feeling the targeted emotion in 66% of the trials. Building on this empirical evidence.. . & Stepper. Futterman.childhood triumph or a recent good experience (J. The aim of PMR is to reduce overall muscle tension and action readiness. The implicit aim seems to be to encourage people to imagine or relive a pleasant event and savor it. Carstensen. hands. when targeted facial muscles are contracted accurately. For instance. Langer. arms. Smith. PMR was developed by Jacobson (1938) to combat anxiety. & Fahey. some form of PMR is often used to initiate relaxation training sessions (J. These sequences appear to mimic and extend the muscular activity associated with intense laughter. & Friesen.2 or full moment-to-moment awareness ( Alexander. Levenson. Highly similar imagery exercises and relived emotion tasks have long been used as induction techniques in laboratory studies of emotion (e. For instance. Ekman. a good (joyful) laugh can give way to relaxed contentment. Levenson. Meditation exercises. To do this. Many forms of relaxation therapy also use meditation exercises to cultivate mindfulness. p. they should imagine a specific emotion. So perhaps because it mirrors intense laughter. and limbs. Moreover. and exhibit emotion-specific autonomic responding in 73% of the trials (Levenson et al. or on stage— focus people's attention on emotion-eliciting situations. Shapiro. Levenson. 1991) Method acting also uses similar techniques: To portray an emotion with conviction. (For other nonreactive methods of eliciting specific facial muscle contractions. In these techniques. the images called forth are ones known to activate contentment. one-by-one. and later simplified by Bernstein and Borkovec (1973).g. C. Muscle exercises. and in doing so increase the probability that experiences of the targeted emotion will follow. see Larsen. the set of facial muscles that create specific facial expressions of emotion (Directed Facial Action. & Frey. 1990 ). & Berntson. back. In relaxation therapies. incorporated into Wolpe's (1958) systematic desensitization therapy. namely contentment. or shoulders). Ekman et al. . associated with a reduced readiness to respond . 1988.. 1983. Martin. and Strack. Ekman. Another component of some relaxation therapies that resembles an emotion induction technique is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR. 1993) or overall body posture (Stepper & Strack. 1994. 609). Friesen. & Friesen. individuals are asked to tense and then relax different muscle groups (e. followed by abrupt tension reduction in these same muscles (Ruch. Smith. the tension–release sequences of laughter give way to "a relaxed posture and typically lowered muscle tone. The logic of these techniques is that the muscle action associated with a particular emotion can trigger other components of that emotion. 1993). 1992.eliciting event from their own lives.. & Ekman. with planned behavior" (Ruch. laboratory studies. also called isometric squeeze techniques). trunk. 1990).) Other techniques target arm muscles (Cacioppo. experiments document that posed muscle contractions that mirror those present during emotional states can induce specific emotions. in one technique participants are instructed to contract. 1983. actors need to experience the emotion portrayed. In practice. Intense laughter involves the contraction of many muscles in the face. 1993). Put differently. .

nonjudgmental way. I suggest that the therapeutic benefits of relaxation training are best conceptualized in emotion-related terms: The broadened thought–action repertoire of contentment is incompatible with the narrowed thought–action repertoire of negative emotions. 1990. Full relaxation seems to involve more. muscle. Another. C. 1990). I have proposed that relaxation therapies work because they elicit contentment and thus capitalize on the undoing effects of positive emotion. mindfulness involves being. Descriptions of the mindfulness gained through meditation strongly resemble the cognitive components of contentment. not doing (Kabat-Zinn. Comparison to prior explanations for relaxation therapies . 1990. blood pressure. This way of seeing. 1990). By inducing contentment and its associated broadening. without getting caught up in the past or future. Meditation practices come in many forms. Cultivating mindfulness also entails cultivating nonstriving (Kabat-Zinn. You may start seeing an intrinsic order and connectedness between things that were not apparent before. Thus. Said differently. 1990) or passivity (J. Smith. the moment-to-moment awareness of mindfulness leads directly to new ways of seeing: "You see more. contentment produces behavioral passivity (nonstriving). & Davies." (p. these techniques create conditions conducive to experiencing contentment. This relaxation response was deemed therapeutic because it is physiologically incompatible with the health-damaging "stress response" identified earlier by Selye (1956). or the ability to trust and accept new experiences (J.. When effective. Recall that emotions have multiple components. Kabat-Zinn. Prior explanations have emphasized only part of the picture: Either arousal reduction or mindfulness. 1975). Instead. C. including imagery. 1990). J. and meditation exercises. Relaxation therapies use a range of techniques to elicit contentment. conceptualizing contentment and its associated broadening as the critical ingredient of relaxation therapies does not necessarily replace previous explanations. spanning both physiological and cognitive. mindfulness is not synonymous with contentment." a collection of physiological changes involving decreases in heart rate. Smith. C. Chandler. but typically individuals are instructed to practice focusing their attention on the present moment. more recent explanation appeals to the cognitive components of relaxation: Various relaxation therapies are thought to work because each cultivates mindfulness or cognitive coping skills that can counteract anxious tendencies (Blumenthal. . I propose. the ability to stop unnecessary goal-directed activity and relinquish unnecessary control. observing the world and their own thoughts and feelings in a patient. 1985. According to Kabat-Zinn (1990). accompanied by urges to savor the moment and forge new connections. 1990). it expands on them. and muscle tension (Benson. sets the stage for contentment and its associated urges to savor and integrate moment-to-moment experience.Newman. relaxation therapies undo negative emotional arousal. C. How does this analysis compare to earlier explanations for the efficacy of relaxation therapies? One traditional explanation appeals to the physiological components of relaxation: Various relaxation therapies were thought to work because each induces what has been called the "relaxation response. inner calmness and feelings of "oneness" or connection. Smith. As previously described. 1989. and you see more deeply. Kabat-Zinn. J. 28). Importantly. or any single line of thinking or preconceived notion. breathing rate. mindfulness creates conditions for contentment to develop.. Smith. 1990). Mindfulness meditation also hinges on cultivating receptivity. Note that this explanation emerged from an era of psychology that did not favor reference to cognitive or emotional states. These positive emotional states are in turn accompanied by reductions in physiological arousal.

a wide range of positive emotions should be useful for counteracting depressive tendencies. Despite these successes in both treating and preventing depression. To treat depression. Hoevenaars & van Son. Research has demonstrated that Lewinsohn's and related behavioral therapies for depression are effective: They increase engagement in pleasant activities and decrease levels of depression (see Lewinsohn & Gotlib. Even so. a recent experiment with medical students demonstrated that mindfulness meditation not only decreases anxiety and depression. researchers have been unable to locate the precise mechanisms responsible for documented therapeutic benefits (Lewinsohn & Gotlib. 1990. being physically active. Relaxation therapies also double as prevention techniques. 1993. these researchers used the 320-item Pleasant Events Schedule (PES.. Ying. being creative. 1980).. social skills. I turn now to depression and dysphoria. the benefits of relaxation therapies do not end once presenting symptoms are treated.. Kabat-Zinn. MacPhillamy & Lewinsohn. Behavioral and cognitive therapies have each been tested as methods for treating and preventing depression. & Guzza. being in nature. problems that many theorists have conceptualized as deficits of positive affect (Davidson. 1990). 1995. 1982) that taps a vast array of activities. Lewinsohn. but also develop more complex and resilient views of self (Benson et al. and follow the movement toward more cognitive therapies centered on explanatory style. Nor have they been able to clearly demonstrate a causal relationship between rates of pleasant activities and subsequent levels of depression (see. Perhaps most significantly. including various forms of socializing.Relaxation therapies as prevention techniques. & Grosscup. For instance. Brown & Lewinsohn. Chan. Lewinsohn & Hoberman. Relaxation therapy offers repeated practice at selfinitiated contentment. 1989). 1998). but also increases empathy and spirituality (Shapiro et al. Both types have been shown to be effective. e. improve their immune functioning (O'Leary. and even extend their lives (Alexander et al. 1995). This raises the possibility that increased rates of pleasant activities may be a sign of depression remission and perhaps not a cause of it. 1982). So. Lewinsohn and colleagues postulated that depression may result in part from a deficit of responsecontingent positive reinforcement (for a review. 1990). function as personal resources that can be drawn on later to promote coping and enhance health and well-being. see Lewinsohn & Gotlib. Finding Positive Meaning Contentment. This practice changes people—it builds their personal resources. To better deploy positive emotions. I begin with early behavioral therapies centered on increasing rates of pleasant activities. I trace the origins of this idea in the sections to come. I propose that strategies for counteracting depression incorporate findings from the emerging literature on coping styles marked by finding positive meaning. . Clark. A focus on increasing pleasant activities also appears to prevent the initial onset of depressive symptoms (Munoz. Sullivan. 1984. & Carey. I have argued.g. 1987). according to the broaden–and–build model. 1994. To monitor changes in rates of pleasant activities.g. Armas. may be particularly useful for counteracting problems that stem from fear and anxiety. decision-making and time management) aimed at decreasing the intensity and frequency of depressed persons' unpleasant events and at increasing their rates of engagement in pleasant activities (e. these researchers developed a set of intervention strategies (including training in assertiveness. and other forms of leisure. Building on behavioral theories.. I think the pivotal role of positive emotions has been underdeveloped within each approach.. Watson. for a review). Early emphasis on pleasant activities. people who practice relaxation techniques not only gain practical skills for managing subsequent stressors. 1988). In my view. These new sources of resiliency. 1995). relaxation.

1997. it is useful to recognize that behavioral therapies centered on increasing pleasant activities originated within an era of psychology that ignored emotion-related concepts. Perhaps even more critically. Stein et al. 1988). Seligman. 1997). 1997). 1994). Langston. Moreover. see Peterson. These include: (a) Reframing adverse events in a positive light (also called positive reappraisal). So. Contemporary emphasis on explanatory style. 1997. Again. 1978) posited that it is not bad events per se that lead to depression. To take this recognition seriously. Ozer. (b) infusing ordinary events with positive value. 1996. That is. For instance. Daily experiences of . celebrate. but rather the habitual style in which individuals explain their bad events. unstable. 1997. Perhaps this explains why pleasant activities are emphasized over pleasant subjective experiences. Nezu et al.. (For a compatible critique of learned optimism. even those as extreme as caregiving and bereavement (Folkman. reflecting the influence of cognitive approaches to emotion and therapy. 1998. 1995.. & Seligman. individuals also vary in their likelihood of experiencing positive emotions in response to unpleasant events (Lyubomirsky & Tucker. their efficacy has been shown to be mediated by changes in explanatory style ( DeRubeis et al. Folkman. 1994). the track record of cognitive therapies centered on explanatory style surpasses that of behavioral therapies centered on pleasant activities. These observations render an exclusive focus on the valence of events and activities misleading. 1988). and (c) pursing and attaining realistic goals. In other words. Jaycox. Folkman. Explanations based on internal. it may do little to increase experiences of positive emotion or optimize well-being. 1983 . Reivich.Again. learning to explain bad events in circumscribed ways—with reference to external. Of particular interest in this effort is the emerging literature on the ways individuals seek and find positive meaning3 (e. 1988). Yet with or without the infusion of religion. 1997. even though this type of learned optimism can counteract depression. Cognitive interventions spotlight these pessimistic explanatory styles. Gillham. and seek to change them. as with relaxation therapies. like positive emotions. This alone underscores that the emphasis switch from the valence of activities to the meanings people construct from them is crucial.. stable. Although it seems obvious that pleasant activities should produce positive emotions. reformulated learned helplessness theory (Abramson. that individuals are more likely to experience positive emotions following pleasant events if they perceive control over those events. Frankl. More recently. 1998. and specific causes (also called learned optimism) —alleviates and prevents depression. for example. these positive states are not merely the absence of negative states. theoretical focus has shifted away from dayto-day events and activities themselves and toward the meanings individuals construct from them. or mark. Stein et al. Clinical studies have documented that such cognitive therapies are effective—both for treating and preventing depression. 1959. & Teasdale. psychologists must push the analysis of meaningmaking beyond the traditional boundaries of explanatory style. 1988. Langston. 1989.. Martin & Lefcourt. & Park. Thompson & Janigian. Kuiper & Martin. or otherwise share those events with others (Bryant. along with negative beliefs. Correlational studies have shown. Holding spiritual or religious beliefs or otherwise appreciating the "meaning of life" on philosophical levels can increase people's likelihood of finding positive meaning (Folkman. 1990). Seligman et al. 1984).g.. and global causes have been shown to be depressogenic ( Peterson & Seligman.. people find positive meaning in daily life through multiple pathways. Folkman et al. 1998.. 1990. Affleck & Tennen. it also bears underscoring that individuals vary in their likelihood of experiencing positive emotions in response to pleasant activities (Rose & Staats.) Emerging emphasis on finding positive meaning. at present most cognitive therapies strive to cultivate "non-negative thinking" (Seligman. Moskowitz. Even so. 1997.

open people's mindsets. these findings are correlational. 1218). and additional studies are needed to test whether positive emotions produced planning and goal-setting or vice versa. 1996). or self-esteem (17%). Folkman and colleagues have found that daily sources of positive meaning predict recovery from depressed mood and long-term psychological wellbeing (Folkman. the broaden– . and receiving affirmation or validation from others (11%). 1996. feeling a sense of achievement. whereas being distracted from everyday cares may coincide with interest or joy. finding positive meaning outperforms engaging in pleasant activities as a predictor of depression remission and future psychological well-being. pride. This observation reminds us that even the most subtle positive emotions merit empirical attention.(1997) found that people who experienced positive emotion during bereavement were more likely to have developed abstract. having an opportunity to be distracted from everyday cares (21%). Together with positive emotions. Chesney. How does positive meaning work? Positive meaning elicits positive emotions. Even so. The most frequently reported forms include: feeling connected to others and cared about (22%). finding positive meaning in major life events (e. 1997). Stein et al. Certainly. for related findings on daily benefit-reminding. & Larson. momentary relief from sad or depressed mood is not sufficient to prevent or treat depression. Similar to finding positive meaning in ordinary daily events.. see Affleck & Tennen. the broaden– and–build model suggests that the momentarily broadened thought–action repertoire characteristic of positive emotions is psychologically incompatible with the narrowed thought–action repertoire characteristic of negative emotions. 1997. 1997. Folkman.. Bereaved caregivers' daily success at finding positive meaning. enabling creative and flexible thinking. Even so. Moskowitz. Collette. Davis. see Folkman et al. Positive emotions. Thus.) Finding positive meaning in daily life appears to have important psychological repercussions. & Cooke. (Percentages indicate the proportion of each form of positive meaning across 215 positive meaningful events described by a sample of 36 caregivers. the broaden–and–build model predicts that the broadening effects of positive emotions produced the flexible mental state that enabled individuals to break out of their negative mindsets to create and pursue abstract and long-term goals. Table 2. To answer this question.. it appears that positive emotions "may not need to be either intense or prolonged to produce a beneficial effect" (Folkman. For instance. p. Finding positive meaning in adverse circumstances may thus be another case of positive emotions undoing negative emotions. feeling connected to others and cared for may coincide with love or contentment. Folkman and colleagues have shown. 1998 ). Boccellari. Consistent with this view. different forms of positive meaning are likely to yield different types of positive emotions. For instance. To be sure. 1997. Nolen-Hoeksema. & Vittinghoff. I propose that the broadening effects associated with experiences of positive emotions explain the therapeutic benefit attributed to finding positive meaning. Importantly. Positive meaning: Treatment and prevention possibilities. predicts their experiences of positive emotions (Folkman. plans and goals predicted greater psychological well-being 12 months postbereavement (Stein et al. the broaden–and–build model holds. feeling hope or optimism (13%). 1996). Collette. it is critical to recognize that positive meaning and positive emotions go hand in hand. serious medical problems or the death of a loved one) has also been shown to predict long. longterm plans and goals.g.term psychological well-being and health (Affleck & Tennen.positive meaning also come in several forms. 1996. Again. Moreover.

I will describe an early social psychology experiment that tested ways to reduce aggression by inducing "incompatible" responses.. those who drove vehicles without air conditioning) because research has shown that uncomfortable heat increases aggressive tendencies (e. no pedestrian crossed the street. experiences of positive emotions might. humor. He simply described the experimentally induced states as "incompatible" with aggression. she crossed wearing "an extremely brief and revealing outfit of a very unusual type" (Baron. which can be the locus of both pleasant activities and positive meaning. These data revealed that those in the empathy. In an empathy condition. This can in turn trigger an "upward spiral" that might. the broaden–and–build model predicts that positive emotions increment people's enduring personal resources. it seems clear that the commonality across experimental conditions was some variant of positive emotion. she crossed wearing an outlandish. Examining this experiment from the vantage point of the broaden–and–build model. 1975 . like enhanced social relationships.) Thus. (For a compatible discussion of an upward spiral. lessen depressive symptoms. The momentarily broadened thought–action repertoire . and the mechanism underlying the noted incompatibility was broadening. 1976. Interestingly. The dependent measure of aggression was hornhonking. humorous clown mask. 1986). Kenrick & MacFarlane. through incremental processes attributable to psychological broadening. I focus here on the behaviors of drivers exposed to the hot weather (i. over time.g. In a humor condition. On hot summer afternoons. see Aspinwall. a sidestep that patterns earlier accounts of why relaxation successfully treats anxiety (Benson. increasing the odds that the individual will find positive meaning in these subsequent events and experience additional positive emotions. measured both by latency to honk and proportion of motorists honking. and interpersonal resources. disgust. or some related negative state. Baron (1976) had a confederate motorist delay male motorists for 15 seconds after a traffic light turned green.and–build model predicts that experiences of positive emotions can accumulate and compound: The psychological broadening sparked by one positive emotion can increase an individual's receptiveness to subsequent pleasant or meaningful events. love. Wolpe.e. facilitate coping and alleviate depressed mood. 266). 1998. In a sexual interest condition. Taken together. Exploring the Range of Benefits I have focused thus far on the ways positive emotions might be tapped to prevent and treat anxiety and depression and thereby optimize health and well-being. Finally. This choice does not mark the boundary conditions of the benefits of positive emotions. Also with time and repeated experience. I make the more general claim that the broadening effects of positive emotions can counteract the narrowing effects of negative emotions. in a control condition. This dynamic should hold regardless of whether the problematic negative emotion is fear. over time. anger. or some related positive state. interest. a female confederate pedestrian crossed the street between the confederate's and subject's cars. joy.. Indeed. the same confederate hobbled along the same route on crutches. and sexual interest conditions were significantly slower and less likely to honk than those who were in the control and distraction conditions. To illustrate this range. 1958). He did this under one of five conditions. These may include both intraindividual resources. these resources— gained through positive emotion experiences—can enhance health and well-being. p. Baron (1976) neither discussed the commonalties across the experimental conditions nor speculated about possible mechanisms responsible for this reduced aggression. like increased psychological and physical resilience. anxiety. sadness. In a distraction condition. It should also hold regardless of whether the intervening positive emotion is contentment.

or interpersonal interest could explain the participants' reduced likelihood of acting on the narrow impulse to honk angrily. If a specific action tendency is called forth. Moreover. Feshbach & Feshbach. either explicitly or implicitly. a broadened thought–action repertoire is called forth. 1973) as well as to combat stress and illness (Cousins. During most negative emotions that repertoire is narrow. aggression. A mixed set of intervention strategies. modify. then. amusement. During most positive emotions that repertoire is broad. invoking amusement and laughter may work to de-escalate anger and interpersonal conflict (Gottman. the broaden–and– build model holds that an emotion's thought–action repertoire directs changes in physiological activity. by contrast. finding positive meaning. I suggest. These possibilities deserve close empirical scrutiny. and to some degree unpredictable thinking and action. 1982) because it taps into the broadening effects of love and builds social alliances and bonds.. Such future studies will be necessary to confirm. Cox. At present. 1994). then physiological changes are mobilized to support that action tendency (Levenson. then physiological activity moves toward midrange or relaxed levels to support a wide range of thoughts and actions. and build intellectual resources. or discard my proposals regarding common underlying mechanisms.associated with empathy. This commonality begins to unearth the elusive mechanism that may be responsible for each technique's demonstrated effectiveness. yielding flexible. This incompatibility. 1994) because it taps into the broadening effects joy and builds social bonds and coping resources. People have long held the intuition that positive emotions are somehow incompatible with negative emotions. less receptive. 1998. accounts for the undoing effect of positive emotions. Summary The disparate intervention techniques discussed here— relaxation training. and more predictable thinking and action. invoking empathy. 1998. Positive emotions and negative emotions are fundamentally incompatible because a person's thought– action repertoire cannot be simultaneously broad and narrow. Experiences of flow and intrinsic motivation may similarly work to improve the quality of life (Csikszentmihalyi. Deci et al. & Napoli. the broaden–and–build model provides a parsimonious explanation for how these distinct intervention strategies work to alleviate negative emotions. it may be that building empathy between people and groups works to reduce prejudice. Kuiper & Martin. in press) and foster psychological development (Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde. and violence (Bridgeman. can be woven together by the idea that each is effective because it capitalizes on positive emotions. Fredrickson. this proposal remains a set of theory-based hypotheses that need to be put to empirical test. amusement. 1985. 1998. E. Therapists and researchers and have long operated on this intuition. receptive. Fry. Rigorous tests will include measures sensitive to subtle changes in emotions and the breadth of momentary thought– action repertoires as well as health and well-being. If. Stepping off from these findings. Likewise. Put differently. 1994. But exactly how are they incompatible? At what level? I use the broaden–and–build model to suggest that the fundamental incompatibility resides at the level of the breadth of the momentary thought–action repertoire. or interest—share the ability to evoke positive emotions while alleviating negative emotions. 1990. Neale. Future Directions . 1981. R. 1991) because they tap into the broadening effects of interest. Stone. yielding fixated. Smith.

studies have shown. (in press). Scheier. & Teasdale. G. U. Folkman.. Fontaine. Journal of Personality. 1996. For the simple reason alluded to earlier: Emotions cannot be instilled directly. E.If future tests uphold the predictions advanced here. 57. Atypically. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. should broaden habitual modes of thinking and build personal resources for coping with life's adversity.. Positive emotions are likely to be the active ingredient that energizes this upward spiral that optimizes health and well-being. (1998). Finding positive meaning in dire circumstances may be another route to increasing levels of optimism: Studies have documented that finding benefit in adversity is not only predicted by preexisting levels of optimism but is also predictive of future increases in optimism (Davis et al. 1996. although typically stable. will existing intervention strategies be discarded in favor of techniques that invoke positive emotions directly? Not a chance. Park. What the present analysis does suggest is that fruitful avenues for discovering additional intervention strategies—or fine-tuning existing ones–will follow positive emotions. and happiness appear relevant. Psychoeducational programs.. a look to factors that predispose individuals to find positive meaning is warranted. mindfulness. in turn.. Psychological Review.. 87. Wyer. when people wish to willfully alter their emotional states. Alexander. (1989). Seidlitz.. 1997. Seligman. I. N. Lyubomirsky & Tucker. G. J. Weintraub. 49–74. 1991). 1998. tend to be the ones most likely to find positive meaning (Davis et al. experience positive emotions (Affleck & Tennen. L. have been demonstrated to produce "learned optimism" (Gillham et al. 1992. Chandler. 1998).. In any case.. they must necessarily do so indirectly. Learned helplessness in people: Critique and reformulation. P.. D. J. Given that emotions typically follow from assessments of personal meaning. Aspinwall. 1990). Journal of Abnormal Psychology. the extent to which people hold positive outlooks.. Aspinwall & Brunhart. Manstead. Trope & Pomerantz. 1995. L. References Abramson. H.. 1997. The personality traits of optimism.. Rethinking the role of positive affect in self-regulation. Affleck. M. & Murch.. Scheier et al. & Carver. hopefulness. Irving. M. J. 1986. (For a review of emotion regulation techniques.) The intervention strategies I have discussed here represent effective methods for inducing positive emotions. (1978). Finding ways to cultivate positive emotions will forge paths towards health and well-being. emotions follow from appraisals of the personal meaning of daily events. A neuropsychological theory of positive affect and its influence on cognition. (1996). based on cognitive therapies for depression. Experiences of positive emotions. Transcendental meditation. however attained. C. F. emotions can be "jump-started" by introducing an isolated component of the more complex emotion system. & Davies. Snyder. see Gross. Individuals who possess these traits. Ashby. & Tennen. & Diener. can be enhanced. 1998. Seligman. 1998. employ effective coping strategies (Aspinwall & Taylor. A. A. 950–964. & Turken. and longevity: An experimental study with the elderly. 1993. 1998). Langer. Snyder et al. Cohen. & Crowson. Typically. Increased optimism. 1997). 64. E. 1998. 1998. M. Motivation . Y. Importantly. should translate into an increased ability to find positive meaning and experience positive emotions in daily life.. 899–922. 1998. Scheier & Carver. Newman. H. R. and experience fastest relief from distress (Davis et al. Isen. L. G. Construing benefits from adversity: Adaptational significance and dispositional underpinnings. 1989). & Wagner. 1996). evaluate selfrelevant information carefully and with less defensiveness ( Aspinwall.

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Losito. Type A behavior.. (1980). and Erika Rosenberg for comments offered on earlier versions of this article. KabatZinn. Finding positive meaning is construed as the latter. (1989). Department of Psychology. Journal of Environmental Psychology. L. J. 525 East University Avenue. K. S. Kong. E. Miles. however. Department of Psychology. 2 1 The term mindfulness has been used both within the meditation literature (e.. Williams. & Zelson.. I thank Jeff Chappell. Blumenthal. Wolpe. Barbara L. A. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema. M. Simons. Psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition. (1988). and often enduring interpersonal relationship. D. 1998). T. . (1991). Michigan 48109-1109. & Carey. Lee. R. Jr.. interest. Janoff-Bulman and Frantz (1997). Langer. E. University of Michigan. Ann Arbor. Clark. An attribute common to both usages of the term is heightened awareness of both the content and the context of thinking. R. 346– 353. 42.. For discussions on the distinction between these two construals of meaning. and Women's Studies Program. Fredrickson.. 1992). Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Psychosomatic Medicine. is that the mindfulness cultivated by meditation is more tranquil and less active than the mindfulness described by Langer. 53–72. A. Positive and negative affectivity and their relations to anxiety and depressive disorders.. Watson.. J.22. 11.. (1998). Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Barbara L. Fiorito. hostility. Haney.g. Y. Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. M. Stanford. (1958). Ulrich. 1990) and within the social psychological literature (e.. CA: Stanford University Press. Footnotes In an earlier article (Fredrickson. I discussed how the positive emotion of love can be conceptualized as joy. D... R. Christopher Peterson. 1989. B. A key distinction. Research Center for Group Dynamics. R. see work by Alexander et al. 201–230. see Davis et al. and coronary atherosclerosis. Fredrickson. and Thompson and Janigian (1988).. G. & Whalen.. 97. B. L. For a discussion of the similarities and differences between meditation and a form of mindfulness training based on Langer's work..g. E-mail: blf@umich. University of Michigan. 3 Finding meaning in loss can be construed both as making sense of the event and as finding benefit in the experience. and contentment—experienced singly or in combination or succession—within the context of a specific. 539–549.

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