How Do You Feel About Stress?
The Role of Positive Emotions in Stress!
• “the process by which we
perceive and respond to
certain events, called stressors,
that we appraise as
threatening or challenging”
(Myers, 2011, p. 419)
The Nature of Emotions and Stress
• Emotions co-occur when stressed whether we
recognize them or not
• How we perceive stress affects emotions
– Harm or threat appraisal = sadness,
anger, anxiety, and/or fear
– Challenge appraisal = excitement, confidence, and
(Folkman, 2008)
The Nature of Emotions and Stress
• Stress also changes the level of our negative
and positive emotions:
– Increases negative emotions and decreases
positive emotions
– The changes appear to be more pronounced
though on negative emotions than on positive
(Dowd, Zautra, & Hogan 2010)
The Nature of Emotions and Stress
• Level of Emotional Experience involves:
– Heritability
• Estimates are at 40% to 50% (Sprangers et al., 2010)
– Environment
– 5 Variables
Emotional regulation
Emotional disclosure
Emotional Intelligence
Intensity of Experience
(Pandey &Choubey, 2010)
Instructions for the Positive Affectivity and
Negative Affectivity Scale – Momentary (PANAS)
(as cited by Seligman, 2002, p.33)
• You will see a number of words that describe different feelings and
• Read each item and then mark the appropriate answer in the space next
to the word.
• Answer based on how you feel right now in this present moment
• 1 = slightly or not at all
• 2 = a little
• 3 = moderately
• 4 = quite a bit
• 5 = extremely
• Add up your scores for positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA)
Positive Emotions
• The personal and individual experience of and
engagement in happiness (Pandey & Choubey, 2010)
• “Feelings that reflect a level of pleasurable
engagement with the environment, such as
happiness, joy, excitement, enthusiasm, and
contentment” (Cohen & Pressman, 2006, p. 122)
The Impact of Positive Emotion on
Stress and Health
• Increased average life expectancy (Cohen & Pressman,
• Lower susceptibility to illness throughout the lifespan
(Steptoe, Dockray, & Wardle, 2009)
• Improved immune response and pain tolerance
(Sprangers et al., 2010)
• Better adjustment to traumatic events such as the
death of a loved one (Pandey & Choubey, 2010)
• Better physical and emotional health
• (Pandey & Choubey 2010)
The Impact of Positive Emotion on
Stress and Health
• Heightened emotional intelligence (Pandey &
Choubey, 2010)
• Improved social relationships and social support
structure (Pandey & Choubey 2010)
• Greater tendency to practice positive health
behaviors (Cohen & Pressman, 2006)
• Greater resilience or ability to bounce back from
stress and illness (Smith, Tooley, Christopher, & Kay,
The Impact of Positive Emotion on
Stress and Health
• Optimism, a positive emotion has been shown to promote:
– Women who are more optimistic had a 16% less chance of a heart attack, a 9%
less chance of developing heart disease, a 30% less chance of dying from heart
disease and a 14% less chance of dying from any disease than women who
displayed little optimism (Tindle et al., 2009)
– better coping with a number of health problems such as osteoarthritis
(Ferreira & Sherman, 2007)
– breast cancer and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (Aspinwall & Tedeschi,
– positive increases in an individual’s immune functioning (Aspinwall & Tedeschi,
– quicker and more complete recovery from a number of medical (Aspinwall &
Tedeschi, 2010) procedures
– longevity (Aspinwall & Tedeschi, 2010)
– adherence to more positive health behaviors (Aspinwall & Tedeschi, 2010)
– an individual’s psychological well being with reductions in symptoms of
anxiety and depression (Ferreira & Sherman, 2007).
The Impact of Positive Emotion on
Stress and Health
• Hope, another positive emotion promotes
– Greater adherence to positive health behaviors
and limiting unhealthy behaviors (Berg, Ritschel,
Swan, An, & Ahluwalia, 2011)
– Insulation from despair when facing chronic or
potential illnesses (Wiles, Cott, & Gibson, 2008.
How to Experience Positive Affect
• Recognize the external myths/barriers to
happiness and that the pursuit of them do not
lead to long term positive affect and well being
• These include:
Money means happiness
Health means happiness
Education means happiness
Change your race or move to sunnier climate
(Seligman, 2002)
How to Experience Positive Affect
• Internal characteristics promoting positive
– Liking oneself (good self esteem)
– Have a balanced sense of internal and external
locus of control
– Optimism and hope
– Outgoing
(Myers, 1992)
How to Experience Positive Affect
Humor and laughter
How to Experience Positive Affect
Compassion (Other focused)
We Can Feel Good
About Stress!
• American Institute of Stress website. Great informational site about
• Website of Dr. Martin Seligman and his work with Positive
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pathway to fulfillment, well-being, and enduring personal joy.
New York, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.
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