Positive Emotions Are the Overcoming of All Adversity

Positive psychology is the scientific study of various sources of a healthy and thriving life. Positive psychology focuses on what is good about people. This includes the study of positive traits, psychological assets, and strengths. The aim of positive psychology is to identify and foster the factors that allow individuals, communities, and societies to prosper.

Longitudinal, experimental and cross-sectional research establishes that positive feelings are linked to several benefits related to health, family, work, and economic status. Developing biomedical research validates the stance that positive emotions are not simply the inverse of negative emotions but may be independent components of mental affect.

The asset-based models of positive psychology offer new methodologies for enhancing psychological buoyancy and supporting mental health. Ultimately, greater collaboration between positive psychology and public health may bolster and endorse mental health in innovative ways.

Positive psychology does not attempt to negate mainstream psychology, nor does it attempt to devalue mainstream psychology because it focuses on mental pathology and illness.

Rather, positive psychology strives to offer a more comprehensive scientific construction of the human experience. This scientific construct encompasses positive and negative experiences to fully incorporate and balance existing knowledge about mental illness with providing awareness about positive mental health.

One of the main tenets of positive psychology is the impact of optimism on the physical and mental well-being of individuals. Research implicates that optimism has been associated with better coping mechanisms concerning a variety of health problems including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and breast cancer (Aspinwall & Tedeschi, 2010).

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Optimism has also been linked with improved functioning of immune system functioning, increased survival rates, positive health behaviors, and enhanced recovery following medical procedures. An in-depth analysis of the effects of positive psychology on physical and mental well-being will reveal a connection between the construct of hope and optimism on favorable health outcomes, as well as the quantifiable impact positive emotions have on both physical and mental health.

There is increasing evidence that supports a positive connection between optimism and health outcomes. Most studies of optimism and health outcomes emphasize analyzing the advantage of having hope and optimism in the face of life-threatening diseases, such as cancer. In earlier studies on optimism and illness, researchers found a remarkable correlation between optimism scores and survival rates for patients who had varied metastatic cancers. Additional earlier research on optimism, health and hope found that patients who had high hope scores also had reduced severity and frequency of ill health (Scioli, 1997). Optimism and hope has also been linked to positive health indicators, such as improved mental health (Brackney & Westman, 1992) and improved quality of life (Rustoen & Wiklund, 2000). On the contrary, hopelessness and lack of optimism proved to be a crucial predictor of disease specific mortality as well as general mortality patients who had been treated for myocardial infarction or cancer (Everson et al., 1996). Positive emotions, according to research, include of feelings of energy, calm, and well-being and were linked with enhanced health practices.

In addition to optimism and other positive emotions showing a reduced severity and frequency on illness, research also shows that optimism can protect health and well-being. Not only has research found a positive correlation between optimism and physiological changes that were linked to improved immune functions, it has also been linked to a decrease in susceptibility to infectious disease (Futterman, Kemeny, Shapiro, & Fahey, 1994). Further studies have shown that positive emotions influenced considerable resistance to the onset of the common cold (Aspinwall & Tedeschi, 2010). Positive states of mind and health has also been found to decrease stress hormone levels including epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. Similarly, there has been a strong correlation found between positive states of mind and longevity (Danner, Snowden, and Friesen, 2001).

Hope and optimism has been related to an increased resilience to stress and decreased risk for mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression (Moraitou & Efklides, 2013). Research on young adults and middle-aged adults have shown a greater number of depressive symptoms in these populations when there are less feelings of optimism. Similarly, studies focusing on the older populations have revealed an inverse association between depression and optimism. Specifically among the elderly male population, a lesser accumulative incidence of depressive symptoms was found among elderly males with higher optimism scores (Moraitou & Efklides, 2013).

According to Martin Seligman, a pessimist is an individual who tends to hold the belief that adversity will last a long time, will negatively affect everything, and he or she are inclined to believe that hardship and adversity are their own fault (Gregory & Rutledge, 2016). Pessimism is not considered a disorder in itself, rather it is used an inclusion criterion for other disorders including depressive personality disorder, anxiety depressive disorder, and dysthymic disorder. It is considered to cause substantial clinical distress in social or occupational functioning (Choi, DeSilva, Monson, 2010). Cantor and Norem describes pessimism as a mental strategy through which an individual forsees negative future events despite evidence of a prior successful history (1989). Such negative predictions help defensive pessimists in reducing anxiety and, therefore, in planning how to avoid poor performance (Ferradas et al., 2017). From this vantage point, an individual’s ability to respond malleably to traumatic events may be a critical aspect of his or her ability to manage a range of possible stressors.

In contrast, Seligman viewed optimists as individuals who consider defeat and hardships as a temporary occurrence. Moreover, optimists do not see adversity as their fault, rather, they acknowledge that “circumstances, bad luck, or other people brought [the circumstances] about” (Gregory & Rutledge, 2016). Research has shown that optimists have different coping mechanisms than pessimists when going through misfortune. Optimists have the ability to use more problem-focused coping strategies, affirmative reframing, acceptance, and use of humor when facing challenges. Conversely, pessimists tend to cope with misfortune by disengagement and denial.

Optimism and pessimism are both opposite and complementary constructs of dispositional affect. At large, optimists habitually expect good results and pessimists habitually expect bad results. These contrasts in human consciousness can have overwhelming mental and physical implications. Research reveals that between the ages of 35 to 50, the interrelationship between optimism, pessimism and health is evident. Pessimistic behaviors and attitudes forecasted poor health between the ages of 45-60, even when physical and mental health at age 25 were controlled. Pessimism in early adulthood seems to be a risk factor for poor health during middle age and elderly years (Choi, DeSilva, Monson, 2010). Additionally, the correlation between optimism and good health, and pessimism and bad health was most remarkable at age 45 (Choi, DeSilva, Monson, 2010).

Recognition of optimism and pessimism as strategies that individuals may potentially opt for in specific circumstances leads to an emphasis on the means of coping over time and the capacity for change and adjustment. The realization of coping mechanisms occurred in the framework of examining how individuals adapted to stressors – both internal and external (Cramer, 1998). Coping mechanisms can be viewed as mental processes that modify how individuals perceive reality. They function in order to guard the psyche from excessive angst, whether the source of the angst is the perception of a disconcerting external event or the actuality of a disconcerting internal mental state. Coping is commonly viewed as a mechanism through which optimism translates into better adjustment to stressors. In a more broader perspective, coping encompasses both behavioral and cognitive tactics used to manage stressful circumstances and negative emotions (Aldwin & Revenson, 1987).

Optimism is positively associated with engaging cognitive and behavioral efforts to lessen, remove, and actively manage the demands evoked by various stressors. According to Carver and Scheier’s behavioral self- regulation model (2000), when an anticipated goal is obstructed due to a threat or challenge, an optimist will put forth more effort on overcoming the obstacle because of their conviction that a positive outcome is attainable. Seemingly, positive approach oriented coping mechanisms are more likely to be used in situations that are perceived to individuals as amenable to a positive outcome. Likewise, in a meta-analysis on the connection between optimism, hope, and coping, it revealed that optimistic individuals demonstrate active attempts to change and adjust to stressors (Nes & Segerstrom, 2006). This meta-analysis revealed that even when the stressor is uncontrollable (i.e. traumatic events) or unchangeable, optimists use coping strategies that lessens and manages the emotional consequences of the stressor.

In conclusion, a detailed analysis of the effects of positive psychology on physical and mental well-being reveals a connection between the concept of hope and optimism on favorable health outcomes, as well as the quantifiable impact positive emotions have on physical and mental health. In order to identify and comprehend the connection between positive psychology constructs and favorable health outcomes, it is necessary to investigate the various channels of influence on these outcomes. Some channels may involve encompass changes in overall perception that will encourage positive modifications in health and social behavior that produce better health outcomes. Other channels may be comprised of a transformation of an outlook on life that includes a decreased stress response and improved immune system. Prospective strategies that are mindful of these various channels and that consider significant common connections among changes in health behaviors and coping strategies, will continue to elucidate the means in which positive phenomena may be related to positive health outcomes over time.

Appendix A

Research from the perspective of positive psychology for better health outcomes are still in its early stages. This is perhaps the greatest obstacle to rigorous scientific investigations of optimism and pessimism. There is no definite, widely-accepted method of analyzing optimism or pessimism. Thus far, the majority of studies about positive psychology interventions are chiefly targeted at modifying health behaviors such as physical activity. Research scholars have revealed that positive psychology interventions influence a number of behavioral and biological processes associated with good health. For instance, provoking positive emotions such as hope and optimism increases cardiovascular recovery (Scioli, 1997). Researchers are beginning to examine how positive affect and affirmation affect physical activity and medication compliance among patients with asthma, coronary artery disease, and hypertension. Subsequent steps are to reveal that positive psychology interventions also improve good health in contrast to its possible precursors.

The majority of research on positive health and mind states have unclear distinctions between optimism and other types of affirmative psychological factors. Moreover, there is much debate about what is or is not considered affirmative, positive emotions. Early scholarly research has failed in this aspect to distinctly identify positive emotions, which tend to be broader than negative emotions (Fredrickson, 1998). The broaden-and-build model of emotion recognizes four positive emotions. These include contentment, interest, joy, and love (Fredrickson, 1998). Since researchers do not consider every positive state of mind a positive emotion, a comprehensive description of positive emotion is needed. A potentially applicable positive emotion that has emerged in recent studies is hope. Emotions in this category are linked with intrinsic motivation and may offer a positive sense of possibility (Fredrickson, 1998).

Positive emotion scholars have proposed that hope has the emotional attributes of being hard to restrain. Hope induces action and affects behavior and thought. Scioli implied that hope is a positive emotion that encompasses optimism and other affirmative viewpoints (1997). Nevertheless, positive emotions seem to play a pivotal role in favorable health outcomes. Positive emotions can possibly guard against development of new diseases, and in light of research they may also protect against advancement of disease. What is evident is that positive emotions encompass more than just the absence of negative emotions. On the contrary, positive emotions seem to possibly prompt their own cascade of mental and biological effects, and perhaps even promote health.

There still remains much research to be executed to expound on the specific means by which different positive emotions (such as optimism) may be linked to the cause and advancement of various illnesses. Additionally, it is necessary to understand how positive emotions may function differently for various diseases, including different types of cancer and heart disease. There also needs to be more research into positive psychology interventions that foster psychological well-being, and to evaluate their influence on disease progression.

Further research at the interface of positive psychology and health psychology could possibly elucidate the latent advantages and disadvantages of positive emotions in the causes, advancements, and management of diseases. The strength and consistency of various research across broadly diverse mental and physical disease outcomes suggests the several possibilities for further research in this area.

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Positive Emotions Are the Overcoming of All Adversity. (2022, Feb 17). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/positive-emotions-are-the-overcoming-of-all-adversity/

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