Positive emotions trigger upward spirals toward emotional well-being

Psychol Sci. 2002 Mar;13(2):172-5. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00431.


The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions predicts that positive emotions broaden the scopes of attention and cognition, and, by consequence, initiate upward spirals toward increasing emotional well-being. The present study assessed this prediction by testing whether positive affect and broad-minded coping reciprocally and prospectively predict one another. One hundred thirty-eight college students completed self-report measures of affect and coping at two assessment periods 5 weeks apart. As hypothesized, regression analyses showed that initial positive affect, but not negative affect, predicted improved broad-minded coping, and initial broad-minded coping predicted increased positive affect, but not reductions in negative affect. Further mediational analyses showed that positive affect and broad-minded coping serially enhanced one another. These findings provide prospective evidence to support the prediction that positive emotions initiate upward spirals toward enhanced emotional wellbeing. Implications for clinical practice and health promotion are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Attention*
  • Awareness*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Inventory
  • Students / psychology