Although people generally do not feel good when they are stressed, some positive emotions can and do occur during stressful periods in people’s lives. Researchers at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California, San Francisco recently published a review of research that shed some light on what people can do to experience positive emotions during stress.
What was the research about?
Specifically, they demonstrated that positive emotions can occur during stress and discussed three types of coping that are associated with positive emotions during stress.
The first type of coping they covered was positive reappraisal, which involves focusing on the positive rather than the negative aspects of events. Positive reappraisal can be accomplished by finding opportunities for personal growth, noticing actual personal growth, and realizing how one’s own actions can benefit other people. Through positive appraisal, people can change the meaning of situations in a way that allows them to experience positive emotions.
The second type of coping they covered was problem-focused coping, which involves thinking and behaving in ways that allow people to attack the underlying cause of their stress. This form of coping is effective when people can establish some amount of control over stressful situations.
The third type of coping they covered was the creation of positive events, which involves taking a mental “time-out” by thinking positively about ordinary events. Examples include savoring a compliment one received in passing and taking a moment to admire a beautiful sunset. Such time-outs give people a short break from ongoing stress.
Why should it matter to me?
If people want to take advantage of the positive emotions that are possible when they are stressed, they may want to consider using positive reappraisal, problem-focused coping, and the creation of positive events.
Source: Folkman, S., & Moskowitz, J. T. (2000). Stress, positive emotions, and coping. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 115-118.