The Power of Positive Emotions in Longevity: Understanding the “P” in PERMA

In our last post, we introduced the PERMA model of well-being, highlighting that mental health is key to a long life. Today, we dive into the first part of PERMA: Positive Emotions.

What Are Positive Emotions?

Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson identified the ten most common positive emotions:

  1. Joy
  2. Gratitude
  3. Serenity
  4. Interest
  5. Hope
  6. Pride
  7. Fun
  8. Inspiration
  9. Awe
  10. Love

These emotions not only feel good but also build up our physical and mental resources over time, like adding pennies to a jar. Unlike physical sensations, emotions come from how we think about events. They’re different from moods, which are long-lasting and without a specific cause, whereas emotions are short-lived and tied to specific events.

Why Positive Emotions Matter
From an evolutionary standpoint, positive emotions helped us survive by building connections, learning about our environment, and encouraging us to engage with the world. They lead to thinking that is more:

  1. Flexible
  2. Creative
  3. Integrative
  4. Open to new information

This means we’re more open to new ideas and can think more efficiently by connecting different pieces of information. These traits are just as important now as they were during early human evolution.

How to Cultivate Positive Emotions

You can grow positive emotions by:

  1. Reflection: Reflecting on times when you felt positive emotions and finding ways to recreate those moments
  2. Positive reframing: Changing how you think about your current situation to see it as a blessing or opportunity.
  3. Gratitude: Finding gratitude in everyday things.

Positive Emotions and Relationships

Not all emotions are the same. Some, like love and joy, are shared with others, creating powerful moments of connection. These shared positive emotions act like super nutrients, enriching our lives and relationships.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development, which tracked adults and their families for over 80 years, found that positive relationships are more important for longevity than genetics or having long-lived ancestors. This means that the quality of our relationships has a significant impact on how long and well we live.

Positive Emotions Build Resilience
Positive emotions help us bounce back from stress quickly and effectively, similar to how resilient metals bend but don’t break. They also counteract negative emotions, reducing their impact on our minds and bodies.

By fostering positive emotions, we improve our health, social connections, resilience, and overall happiness, which are all crucial for a long, fulfilling life.

Positive emotions are more than just good feelings; they are essential for a healthy, long life. By understanding and nurturing these emotions, we can build a strong foundation for longevity. Embrace the “P” in PERMA and let positive emotions lead you on your journey to a longer, healthier life.

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