The 5 ‘R’s of Positive Emotions. Without a doubt, positive emotions lie at the heart of positive psychology and any other psychology and therapeutic intervention for that matter. There are numerous research papers and articles that show positive emotions not only improve our immune system by increasing our killer cells but also build resilience toward distress and pain tolerance.

Positive emotions do not prevent you from experiencing pain and suffering but they help you to fundamentally accept yourself and the predicament you find yourself in. Acceptance, whether it be through grief and suffering is fundamental in being able to cope and move on with life. (Acceptance and forgiveness are separate notions, which we won’t be exploring in this article.)

Positive emotions do not occur in a vacuum and no medication can provide them. Psychotropic medication aims to neutralise suffering by bringing you in a neutral emotional state.

There are 5 fundamental requirements for the cultivation of positive emotions, otherwise known as the 5 Key Affects (5 Rs) of positive emotions:

1 – Replenish 

2 – Repair

3 – Ripple 

4-  Resilience 

5-  Repertoire 

Let’s look at each in greater detail:

1 – Replenish Positive Life Experiences 

Positive emotions broaden our range and repertoire of positive thoughts and feelings. The bigger the range of positive emotions and experiences we have, the easier it becomes to recall them and put them into practice again. We need to replenish our positive life experiences or else we may forget how positive emotions such as joy and sense of wellbeing feel but often we reminisce about the good old times and/or wait for good times to occur sometime in the future.

Dr Ilona Boniwell –  “When we are experiencing positive emotions, such as joy or interest, we are more likely to be creative, to see more opportunities, to be open to relationships with others, to play, to be more flexible and open-minded“.

Developing your repertoire of positive emotions is a skill and it can be practiced on an on-going basis with Improv Comedy. Improv Comedy is highly interactive and based on building  spontaneity, creativity and playfulness as well as building strong relationships on and off the stage. In addition to training, members become part of a fun loving and supportive culture and soon realise that in the small world of Improv Comedy, everyone seems to knows everyone. It’s a close knit community with the sole purpose of practicing and learning the art of Improv Comedy. For many, the fun becomes addictive and they get hooked on it. Can you ever have enough fun I wonder?

2 – Repair and eliminate negative emotions

If you are going through an emotionally difficult period with a low mood,  depression, anxiety and stress, being part of a group of friends, or in this particular instance, a group of improvisers, will help you attain a flow state as well as relax and have fun. Dr Ilona Boniwell – “mild joy and contentment can eliminate the stress experienced at a physiological level.

Negative emotions are mostly experienced physiologically as fatigue, stress, shortness of breath, stiff neck and back, tightness in the stomach, palpitations, crummy hands, dry mouth, etc.  One of the easiest ways to alleviate these symptoms is by creating more flow experiences with friends and family, but if that’s not possible, consider joining Improv Comedy groups. You will find Improv Comedy games and role play are very physical and playful and it doesn’t take long before you get into the flow of the games. It is important though, to fully participate in the interactive games.

The more you broaden and build new positive experiences, the easier it is to cope with negative emotions. The ‘broaden-and-build’ theory of positive emotions was initially developed by Barbara Fredrickson (2001).

3 – Ripple Effect of Positive Emotions

The ripple effect or transfer of positive emotions often happens without us even being aware or intentional about it. Somehow we start to see life, ourselves and others from a different perspective. The experience of positive emotions is in our emotional body. It’s in our heart beat, our palms, feet, stomach, breathing, palpitations, clammy hands, blushing face, tension on our shoulders and neck, etc.

4 – Resilience Building 

It is often said Improv Comedy is the art of failing and failing fast. More often and faster we fail, the less failure becomes a burden in our lives. When we allow ourselves to fail we not only improve our self-perception, but we also increase our ability to take more chances in everyday life too. For instance, you might decide to chance talking to a girl you’ve wanted to talk to but haven’t, start writing the book you’ve been thinking about but never started or finally put the business plan you’ve been developing for years into action.

By purposefully allowing ourselves to fail we build up our resilience to failures in our lives. By failure we include emotional rejection such as failing to be loved or loving towards others, failing our parent’s expectations, failing to be nice or failing to be perfect. Resilience means cultivating  a strong sense of belief that enables you to hold conflicting emotions at the same and accept the reality as it is.

One of the most important tenets of Improv Comedy is to accept the reality without fighting it. To say ‘yes’ and then add something to that reality. For example, you might be playing a scene where you find yourself in a situation where you have play an abused wife or an abusing husband. No matter how uncomfortable this may feel, you have to accept this as a reality and then add to it.  When we accept situations and people as they are, we can look for ways of coping and dealing with them calmly and with consideration rather than overacting and/or being too emotional.

5 – A Bigger Range and Repertoire of Positive Emotions

Barbara Fredricksen – ‘positivity is at the heart of human resilience‘. In her book ‘Positivity’ (2009) she writes: “Heartfelt amusement brings the irrepressible urge to laugh and share your joviality with others. Shared laughter signals that you find your current situation to be safe and light-hearted and that you’d like to use this blessed time to build connections with others.”

Improv comedy provides incredible amounts of opportunities to build a new repertoire of  positive emotions. It aims to explore human emotions and reactions in a exaggerated fashion through the participation in games and role play.  Improv Comedy is about the truth, discovering the truth and sometimes disclosing our own truths. The truth is funny!  We recognise the truth in other people’s  stories and because of that we laugh.

When was the last time you laughed? Consider making a list of all the activities that makes you laugh. There may be some that you can do on a daily basis. One thing to remember is, in order to laugh more you also need to smile. The power of a smile is as important as the power of laughter. When  you infuse yourself with the joy of smiling and/or laughter on a daily’ll discover the best way to ‘sieze the day’ – Carpe diem.


‘We are The Positive Psychology People’


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