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Savoring Happy Moments Helps Build Emotional Strength

Cultivating positive emotions can help ward off stress and depression, study says

FRIDAY, July 10 (HealthDay News) -- Taking time to appreciate the positive things that happen in your daily life can help boost your overall satisfaction and build resilience to cope with tough times, study findings show.

In a recent study, 86 volunteers provided daily "emotion reports" over a one-month period, instead of answering general questions such as how much joy they felt over the last few months.

"Getting those daily reports helped us gather more accurate recollections of feelings and allowed us to capture emotional ups and downs," study author Barbara Fredrickson, a professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a news release.

"This study shows that if happiness is something you want out of life, then focusing daily on the small moments and cultivating positive emotions is the way to go," she said. "Those small moments let positive emotions blossom, and that helps you become more open. That openness then helps us build resources that can help us rebound better from adversity and stress, ward off depression and continue to grow."

Fredrickson added that "the levels of positive emotions that produced good benefits weren't extreme. Participants with average and stable levels of positive emotions still showed growth in resilience even when their days included negative emotions."

She emphasized the need to focus on small positive moments, or "micro-moments," that can produce good feelings.

"A lot of times we get so wrapped up in thinking about the future and the past that we are blind to the goodness we are steeped in already, whether it's the beauty outside the window or the kind things that people are doing for you," Fredrickson said. "The better approach is to be open and flexible, to be appreciative of whatever good you do find in your daily circumstances, rather than focusing on bigger questions."

The study was published in the June issue of the journal Emotion.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about emotional health.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, news release, July 8, 2009

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