Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Positive Minds Wire Our Brains for Tough Times

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The findings may provide some clues about the biological systems involved in resilience to stress, as well as risk for psychological problems such as depression and addiction.

By Meg Dennison & Murat Yücel

Positive feelings are linked to brain development in teenagers, giving neuroscientists insights into why people differ in their resilience to stress and other mental health conditions later in life.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Feeling positive refers to more than just being happy. It includes things like being enthusiastic and determined, being mentally alert, having interests as well as feelings of contentment, satisfaction and joy.

A number of studies have shown that positive emotions may play an important role in being (and becoming) resilient during times of stress or hardship, and seem to play a role in general well-being and physical health. A proliferation of research on the role of positive emotions in resilience, known as the “positive psychology” movement, suggests that people who are able to experience positive emotions during difficult times, including times of extreme adversity or trauma, are more likely to bounce back or even use difficult times to learn more about themselves and to grow as a person.

Psychologists have long known that individuals vary in the amount of positive and negative emotions they experience in everyday life. We have also learnt that people who experience extremely low positive emotions have a greater risk for a number of psychological disorders, including depression, substance use disorders and addiction, as well as less common illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Psychologists have observed that, even from the moment we are born, there are differences in the frequency and intensity with which infants might display or...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.