Tel +27 (021) 880 1444 | Fax +27 (021) 880 0291 | P.O. Box 12602, Die Boord, Stellenbosch, 7613
Positive affect is defined as the experience of pleasurable emotions such as joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm and contentment that can enhance health on all levels.
Positive affect is often used as an umbrella term covering all positive states, including positive emotions. It has been proposed as a protective factor for ill-health for many years. According to American social psychologist, Barbara Lee Fredrickson,1 positive affect brings forth psychological and physical well-being, and improved cognitive function and mental health.
There is now a growing body of work demonstrating that positive affect can be induced by activities such as physical exercise and listening to music.2 Listening to music has been reported to be one of the most pleasurable activities in human life.3 Music has been shown to induce more positive than negative affect with some of the most commonly reported emotions being calm, contentment and happiness.
THE VALUE OF POSITIVE AFFECT The most challenging area in our make-up is our emotions. Just as the physical body releases energy through movement and activity, the emotions give out energy through the expression of feelings. One of the most important aspects of a balanced and creative life is a healthy, happy and constructive emotional nature. We all experience positive and negative affect such as joy, anger, love and fear. According to emotion research scientists, both positive and negative play a significant role in our lives. It not only helps to process emotional information accurately and efficiently, but also helps to solve problems, make plans and to earn achievements. The ‘broaden and build’ theory of positive affect suggests that positive affect broadens people’s momentary thought/action repertoires and builds their enduring personal resources. It is strongly related to life satisfaction, while it also provides a psychological break or respite from stress.1
The hormonal link A higher trait positive affect has been associated with better health practices such as improved sleep quality, more exercise and better diet, as well as lower levels of the stress hormone. At the same time it can increase levels of the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin and influence health further by altering social interactions. We all know that negative feelings, like stress, sadness and worry, cause a spike in the hormone cortisol which in turn suppresses the immune system.
Positive affect goes hand in hand with resilience, which is generally regarded as a dynamic process of effective adaptation to adversity. Good mental health is not merely the presence and absence of emotional states, but the presence of positive psychology, emotional and social functioning.4 We all have the ability to choose an optimistic mind-set, and, with practice, we can get better at it. Within the perspective of positive psychology is the concept of hope.
POSITIVE AFFECT AND MUSICMusic is a widely used leisure activity which has demonstrated a capacity to improve well-being and which has an impact on symptoms of depression and anxiety. Music is often cited as an effective way of managing or changing one’s cognitive and emotional states and this contributes to positive well-being outcomes. Studies suggest that purposeful music has the potential to elevate well-being and lessen depression, anxiety and stress symptoms.
Music can change a person’s mood in a few seconds, let him recall a certain past situation that happened to him clearly and change his mental state. Research has also demonstrated the efficacy of music use for inducing positive affective states coping with negative states and achieving desirable moods.5 This means purposeful music engagement may promote flourishing in life, by removing mental distress and enhancing well-being, through cognitive reappraisal. Findings show that positive affect-inducing music can help uncertain people achieve a sense of secondary control (acceptance of and adjustment to negative events) over a bothersome event, which can promote psychological and physical well-being.
The power of loveIn the midst of all temporary ups and downs in our life we have, innately within us, a divine power, the greatest power, which is to express unconditional love. It is love, understanding and discernment that will fill our relationships with joy. Certain pieces of music, with their melodies and sonorities will help to awaken the power of love within us. Music, at the same time, has the ability to evoke feelings of unity and belonging.6
A list of references is available from the Natural Medicine office. Tel: 021 880 1444
DR FRANCES LE ROUX, BSC, MSC, PHD.
She is a registered physiotherapist in Fish Hoek, Cape Town, South Africa. She has a special interest in music/medicine based on her research regarding music and pain, immune systems and spiritual well-being. She is a member of the International Music in Medicine Association and on the International Editorial Board of Music and Medicine Interdisciplinary Journal. Her books Music is Healing and recently published Music and Babies are available from: firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to browse or order previous issues