Although negative emotions are inevitable, we can actually make them more tolerable by infusing them with positive emotion.
A few years ago, my car’s transmission blew completely. If I had wanted to, I could have stressed out by focusing on the negative things about this experience–it cost about $2,000 to fix, it happened as part of a string of repairs on that car, I desperately needed that car to get to work, and money was really tight. But because I had trained my brain to use reappraisal to focus on the positive, instead of focusing on these negatives, I actually felt gratitude.
My commute to work was an hour each way and I was relieved that this didn’t happen on the highway. I also felt relieved that my partner was in the car with me and helped me get it to an auto shop that day. I even felt happy that third gear was still working, so the car would still drive well enough for me to get it to the auto shop without having to pay to get it towed. By being able to use positive reappraisal, we can handle challenges more easily and get on with our lives. This is why reappraisal counteracts negative emotions, decreases stress, and boosts resilience.
Positive Reappraisal Activity
In this activity, you'll practice using positive reappraisal. Reappraisal has been shown to both increase happiness and resilience and to reduce negative emotions and stress.
Positive reappraisal involves cognitively reframing an event as more positive. For example, let’s say that I dropped my sandwich on the ground and I have nothing else to eat for lunch. I might tell myself that this will be a fun challenge for me or it will give me an opportunity to spend my lunch doing something else I enjoy.
This is a bit different from negative reappraisal which involves reframing an event as less negative.
For this activity, you will get an example of an event that could happen.
Practice reappraising this scenario as more positive. Come up with as many reappraisals as you can over the next few minutes.
My boss yelled at me."