Why variety is the spice of emotional life

May 28, 2015


“Cultivating self-awareness and allowing yourself to express your authentic emotions can be beneficial.”


A new paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology by researchers from four countries and six institutions – including Yale University and Harvard Business School – finds that experiencing a variety of emotions may be good for our mental and physical health.


The idea that wellbeing isn’t about being cheerful all the time and avoiding sadness like the plague isn’t new to happiness researchers. For example, an October 2012 study found that it might be better for our overall happiness to feel emotions like anger at appropriate times, rather than seeking happiness no matter the situation.


A famous study by the University of California, Riverside’s Sonja Lyubormisky showed that it might be possible to gratitude-journal too much, losing gratitude’s positive effects in the bore of a routine.


For this new study, the researchers surveyed participants’ tendency for positive emotions (like amusement, awe and gratitude) and negative ones (like anger, anxiety and sadness). In particular, they measured the variety and abundance of these emotions – a new concept they call “emodiversity.”


An emodiversity score takes into account how many emotions people experience and how evenly distributed they are. Is there a reason why we have the capacity for so many emotions? Could emodiversity play a role in wellbeing, beyond simple levels of positive and negative emotion?


Their first study surveyed over 35,000 French speakers and found that emodiversity is linked to less depression. This was the case for all types of emodiversity: positive (experiencing many different positive emotions) negative (many different negative emotions) and general (a mix of both). In fact, people high in emodiversity were less likely to be depressed than people high in positive emotion alone.


Their second study linked emodiversity to better health. In a sample of nearly 1,300 Belgians, the more emodiverse ones had less medication use, lower government health care costs and fewer doctor visits and days in the hospital. They also had better diet, exercise and smoking habits. Surprisingly, the effect of emodiversity on physical health was about as strong as the effects of positive or negative emotion alone.


Read more at http://positivenews.org.uk/2015/wellbeing/body-mind/17564/variety-spice-emotional-life/

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