Thursday, March 29, 2018

Gifts of Solitude

Seven months ago I walked into solitude fearful and lonely; I walked out with  calm authenticity and connection.

  • I have knowledge and acceptance of the mystery who am I; I am a single thread connected to all of humanity.   

  • I replace thinking as my dominate information seeker with heart awareness through five senses.

  • Fear thinking when in my awareness vanishes by remembering who I am.  

  • Constant evaluation is set aside for being tuned into the miracles of hope, joy, beauty, mystery.

  • I replace loneliness with a connection to self and feeling the threads that bin me to all.

The question I ask now is what do I wish to do with the rest of my life. What do you do when you no longer have a heart's desire? What do you do when you no longer have to play the game of being a therapist or a Mindfulness Teacher? What do you do when you no longer have anything to prove?


To be continued:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Beginning the Solitude Journey

I listened to the intuitive voice within and decided to stop the running and busyness to spend time in solitude as a way to begin my transition into retirement.  In a short time, to my surprise silence and solitude didn't have to be a painful time of arid meaningless stale lonely hours. In fact it became a time reflected well in Diane Ackerman’s poem, The Great Affair

The great affair, the love affair with life,

is to live as variously as possible,

to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,

climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day.

Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding,

and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours,

life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.

It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery,

but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.—Diane Ackerman

I hear Diane calling us to a life of exploring and risk-taking with wide awake senses.  She inspired the next step to my transition time. I decided to go on a senses journey each day and incorporated a sense awareness time to my daily practice. I wanted to experience life as a child again, stop to smell the dandelion, see its bright yellow color, hear the romantic songs of birds in spring and feel the sensations of walking barefooted along the Gulf. I focused on a sense a day with activities to enhance my awareness. I started with smell.

Smell “Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived. The odors of fruits waft me to my southern home, to my childhood frolics in the peach orchard. Other odors, instantaneous and fleeting, cause my heart to dilate joyously or contract with remembered grief. Even as I think of smells, my nose is full of scents that start awake sweet memories of summers gone and ripening fields far away.”-- Helen Keller

Diane Ackerman in her book, The Natural History of the Senses, states that smell was the first of our senses to develop.” She states all smells fall into a few basic categories, almost like primary colors: minty (peppermint), floral (roses), ethereal (pears), musky (musk), resinous (camphor), foul (rotten eggs), and acrid (vinegar).

Smell is linked to emotions and memory. The olfactory bulb is a part of the brain’s limbic system and can suddenly and spontaneously bring up memories and powerful responses. This is especially true when we have experienced trauma. The olfactory bulb has direct accesses to the amygdala and hippocampus. The amygdala can direct our mind-body awareness into fight flight or freeze and the hippocampus is where emotional learning takes place. I remember many years ago working with a Viet Nam combat veteran who suffered from spontaneous flashbacks of smelling burning flesh. It was very disturbing to him to be sitting in a meeting and suddenly smell flesh burning. When I worked in bereavement, I remember stories of how widows did not wash their departed husband’s clothing because they wanted to be able to remember his smell.

By practicing what some doctors call Scent Therapy you can create new receptors in your nose and improve your sense of smell. By choosing several strong smells that are pleasant to you and spending a few minutes every day sniffing each one, your nose will become more aware of these smells. You can google Scent Therapy for more detailed directions.

Some things you can do the day you pick smell as your sense of the day are listed:

  • Close your eyes during some daily routines or tasks to focus more on smells; taking a shower, cooking, doing laundry.
  • How does it smell when you first enter your home; what are the different smells making up that order? Try this with your basement or attic.
  • When you open a window smell the fresh air.
  • What is the smell of your lover?
  • Can you remember the smell of a departed parent or grandparent?
  • Notice the smell of your car.
  • How does the bakery smell in your grocery store feel?
  • Smell something in nature, a tree, soil, flower.

Taste—The other senses may be enjoyed in all their beauty when one is alone, but taste is largely social. Humans rarely choose to dine in solitude, and food has a powerful social component”.--Ackerman

Researchers tell us to taste and smell are connected in the sensory system. Flavor is almost entirely sensed in the nose. We often smell something before we taste it, and that’s enough to make us salivate. Our sense of taste is so integrated with our sense of smell, if we can’t smell we can’t taste; however, I have noticed that an overwhelming smell can be tasted.  

For many people, the first thing we taste is milk from our mother’s breast that comes with love and affection, and a sense of security, warmth, and wellbeing. Scientists tell us that is our first feeling of pleasure. This helps us to understand why the association of pleasure and food is very powerful. It is a pleasure we can savory when we practice mindful eating. We get into trouble when it becomes a mindless compulsion.

Ayurveda teaches that all six tastes should be eaten at every meal for us to feel satisfied and to ensure that all major food groups and nutrients are represented. The attached chart list each taste, food source, and effect on Mind Body Physiology.

Some things you can do the day you pick taste as your sense of the day are listed:

·        Try to eat something from each of the six tastes.

·        Hold your nose to see what effect not smelling has on taste

·        See if you can also be aware of where on your tongue you are experiencing each taste. We know that at the tip of the tongue, we taste sweet things; bitter things at the back; sour things at the sides; and salty things spread over the surface, but mainly up front.

·        Try to focus on where you experience pungent and astringent tastes.

·        Try planning a meal with all six tastes and notice if you do feel more satisfied.

·        Become aware of the strong association of food and pleasure without judgment but rather with an attitude of savoring.

·        Have a savoring experience this week with a special food you love.

Hearing—“There’s music in the sighing of a reed; There’s music in the gushing of a rill; There’s music in all things, if men had ears: Their earth is but an echo of the spheres.”—Lord Byron

“Music heard so deeply that is not heard at all, but you are the music while the music lasts.—T.S. Eliot.

Hearing, in general, is still very mysterious. Scientist understand the basic concepts that are fairly simple, but the specific structures are extremely complex. They state that it is astonishing how much is involved in the hearing process and that all these processes take place in such a small area of the body. They discover new hearing elements every year.

We can appreciate how extraordinary are our ears when we realize they pick up sound around us and then translate this information into a form that the brain can understand. This process is described as being completely mechanical whereas our sense of smell, taste, and vision all involve chemical reactions, hearing is based on physical movement. Sound travels through the air as a vibration in air pressure. To hear the sound the ear does three things; direct the sound waves into the hearing part of the ear, sense the fluctuations in air pressure, and then translate these fluctuations into an electrical signal that the brain can understand.

Humans like animals use sound for many things. It gives us information about our environment to enhance our safety and security. A loud sound can alert us that we are in danger. We use it to communicate. It is an important sense as we make our way through the world for experiencing emotions, religious ceremonies and celebrating. Chanting “om” creates a vibration that you can feel in your head and the cartilage of your bones as they vibrate. Ackerman calls it a “massage from the inside, very soothing.”

Ackerman calls music the perfume of hearing. She researched the history of music and found Mesopotamian instruments dating back 5,500 years. The found pipes, triangles, stringed instruments, and drums; they even found how they devised a method of musical notation. They Mayans played an array of whistles, flutes, recorders and ocarinas. Oriental music began around 2700 B.C.  Historians tell us that if we contrast 2,400-year-old Chinese bells with present-day Chinese flute, we find that the tones are similar and nearly match on an oscilloscope. It seems from the onset our brains and nervous systems prefer certain intervals between sounds.

Ackerman describes how music and emotion; “like pure emotion, music surges and sighs, rampages or grows quiet, and, in that sense it behaves so much like our emotions that it seems often to symbolize them, to mirror them, to communicate them to others, and thus frees us from the elaborate nuisance and inaccuracy of words. Most often, our emotions are private things. We bottle them up like so many jars of peach preserves that we store on a top shelf in a hidden pantry; then, in a crisis, we reach for them, often taking off the lids on our emotions through song.”

Music is used in the medical field with dementia patients, autistic children, and others who have trouble with communicating. Comatose patients will respond to music. They have used music in psychotherapy and addiction fields calling it music therapy. Music is also helpful to encourage longer exercise sessions.

Some things you can do the day you pick hearing as your sense of the day are listed:

·        Try to pick out the details of what you are hearing; for example, if you hear construction pick out the different sounds that make up the generic sound of construction.

·        Listen to a multi-instrument piece of music. Try to identify and focus on the different instruments.

·        Sit outside and try to differentiate close sounds from far sounds. It may be easier to close your eyes.

·        Sit outside or inside and try to differentiate sound by volume. Identity which sound is loudest and then continue to the quietest sound. You may hear subtle sounds you did not hear before.

·        You can also gently pull on your ear occasionally and notice how it improved your hearing.

·        Listen to an emotional piece of music and become aware of how the ebb and flow and subtleties of the music match your emotions.

Seeing—“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something.… To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion, all in one.” John Ruskin

We know our eyes are light gathers. When light rays reflect off an object and enter the eyes through the cornea which is the transparent outer covering of the eye, we can see that object. The cornea bends or refracts the rays that pass through the round hole of the pupil. The iris opens and closes, making the pupil bigger or smaller. This regulates the amount of light passing through. The light rays pass through the lens to the retina which converts the light into electrical impulses. The optic nerve sends the impulses to the brain, which produces an image. The eye’s lens stiffens with age, so it is less able to focus when you view something up close. Have you thought maybe this is a good thing for as we age we grow in wisdom and know that it is the big picture that matters?

Another interesting finding is that men and women do see things differently. Research has shown that male and female brains process colors in slightly different ways. For example, if both sexes look at an orange, it will appear redder to the man than to the woman. Similarly, grass looks yellower to a man than to a woman. Women are able to see variations in color better than men. Scientists speculate that the enhanced color perception was important when women were the primary gathers and need to distinguish among fruits, foliage and insects. While men show significantly greater sensitivity for fine detail and rapid moving images thus enabling them to detect possible predator or prey from afar and be able to distinguish between these objects more easily.

While the ageing process changes how we see things up close, it does not change our ability to appreciate color, design, shapes and textures. It doesn’t interfere with our ability to see in our inner vision. We don’t need our eyes at all to remember beautiful scenes from that day or from the past. I can close my eyes and see the beauty of the beach with shorebirds scurrying to find food before the tide comes in. I can picture complete detail the memory of my granddaughter as she dances in the Nutcracker. We can see surprising detail when we dream.

Some things you can do the day you pick sight as your sense of the day are listed:

·        Go through the day observing your surroundings and the richness of color and textures. Look with more awareness to see things that you may not have noticed in the past. Maybe you will notice the richness of eye color in your beloved in a new way.

·        When you lie down at night and close your eyes see an intense beautiful landscape or beautiful tree from your inner vision.

·        Look at clouds and find the variations and differences. Note all the different parts of the clouds, their shapes, sizes and colors.

·        Look at something beautiful and pick out the details of what makes it beautiful.

·        Go through your day noticing minuscule details that you would only be able to pick out by being mindful.

Touch-“That’s what it feels like when you touch me. Like millions of tiny universes being born and then dying in the space between your finger and my skin. Sometimes I forget.” –Iain Thomas.

Our skin is the largest organ of the body weighing from six to ten pounds and gives us the sense of touch. Touch sensitivity varies as the fingertips, tongue and genitals are much more sensitive than the back. Some parts of our body respond to touch in different ways when we have an itch, shiver or get goose bumps. Scientist say that touch is the first sense to develop as fetuses we begin to explore our world through touch. Soon after being born we instinctively begin touching. Touch cells in the lips make nursing possible. Touch teaches us the difference between I and other.

Touch is a sense with unique functions that affects our whole body; it has a much stronger influence than smell, taste, sound or sight. Touch is the sense that has a great potential for increasing our awareness and tuning into our environment. By bringing your attention to the sensations of skin contact with your environment and noticing the temperature like the warmth or coolness on our face or hands; you can become more present in the moment.

Some things you can do the day you pick touch as your sense of the day are listed:

·        Feel the textures of everyday objects in your environment to focus your attention in a way you haven’t before.

·        Really feel an itch before you do something to relieve it. Analyze all the sensations involved in an itch.

·        If you get goosebumps focus your attention on the sensations. Where do you feel the goose bumps? Do you feel chilled?

·        Find a surface that is for the most part smooth but has some irregularities. One at a time slowly move each finger and thumb over the surface. See if you can feel irregularities differently when felt by different fingers or thumb, right hand or left hand

·        Find something that feels very soft to touch like a stuffed animal or piece of soft cloth. Touch your face, hands, feet, forearms, legs trying to discern the similarities and differences between the body parts experiences of touch.

·        Walk barefoot over different surfaces, textures, and temperatures. Focus on feeling the surface with your feet.

·        In the morning when you first wake up, rub your feet together over and over to simulate touch awareness.

·        As often as you remember, as you go through the day bring your attention to the sensations of skin contract with clothing, furniture, keyboard. Feel the pressure on your skin when your body is resting on a chair or in bed. Feel the temperature of the air on your face when you first step outside.

As I continued into this journey of solitude, I used the time to enhance my senses and found a beauty around me I failed to experience in the past. Busyness distracts us from facing reality and it seems to be the easiest way to handle our deepest fears; it also hides the beauty around us.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Growing Old Alone

I was terrified when I turned forty and my eighteen year marriage ended. There were big financial concerns and concerns about my children's welfare. The biggest fear was what if I grow old alone. I feared my life could become arid and meaningless and I would have non-stop loneliness. For several years I managed to go on with life by ignoring these fears. My implicit goal each day was to reach exhaustion so as not to experience the silence of being alone. Silence, that huge empty space where there are no distractions, no cushion against attacks from within. Today I am still single and turning 70. I am growing old alone!

December 2016, I counseled my last client, sold my house, and moved to Florida. I retired! The trip
down to Florida distracted me with ice storms and scary hotel stops with  my dog and cat. When I arrived in Florida I was busy settling into a new state and a new home. I found new tasks to stay busy. I wanted to meet new friends, find a comfortable church, and teach Mindful aging classes. I went to meet ups, attended four different churches, started a Mindful aging meet up. After six months of non-stop distractions, I realized there was something wrong with this plan. Every meet up, church activity, and social gathering felt like a collision. I came home feeling like a wreck, on empty and very alone. I don't think there is anything lonelier than feeling alone when you are with a group of people.

I was starving for real connections. Avoiding talking about politics or anything controversial seemed empty, passionless, and a waste of time. I longed for meaningful authentic discussions. I missed lunch with close women friends; long lunches lasting several hours talking about what we loved, what we believed and what was happening to better understand life. I missed close responsive and sensitive women friends who knew how to share without protecting whatever came to mind.

My life was in limbo. How do you go from a carefully scheduled life of a small business owner, psychotherapist and Mindfulness teacher to days that have no design or order? I spent weeks, months, with few social outings. I would ask myself about isolating and depression and the answer would be, "sometimes a person has to simply endure a period of time alone." I renamed this time as silence with a purpose, solitude. Solitude is a place to find ones self even during the arid and meaningless times. I believed it was a place I needed as I transitioned to a new stage of life.  I was right!

Restorative Solitude
“Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own.” –Oprah Winfrey
I have to admit when I started my journey with solitude, it was to avoid emotional pain of confusion and fear. One month I was a psychotherapist living in Wisconsin and the next I was living in Florida and retired. What was I thinking? If I were my therapist I would be saying’ jumping into retirement without creating a space between the old and new will create chaos and is just another way to run from self. You need time to transition. Pregnant emptiness created in transitions has always been difficult for me. I have had the busyness habit for a long time. I was retiring alone; it was time to face that old fear of growing old alone.
The first few months in Florida I spent with my busyness habit, disconnected from feelings and inner self. I was trying to run away from the emotional and spiritual work facing me. Gratefully I continued another habit, a long standing daily practice of meditation and journal writing. Meditation was a peaceful time without judgment and journal writing gave me insights and clarity. Both helped me to surrender to the challenge at hand. The direction toward silence turned painful loneliness to restorative solitude.
My first discovery in silence was the peacefulness of doing nothing; waking up without an alarm clock. I questioned if all of this free time would lead to laziness or I would feel guilty because I wasn’t using my time well. Then I laughed at myself and my inability to enjoy retirement. My meditation and journal writing reflected the journey to a new way to be.
Questions I asked myself:
  • Who decides what a meaningful life is?
  • What is my purpose and how can I use my experience, education and passion?
I spent time listening and believing I was on the right path through solitude. I was right!



Friday, March 25, 2016

Studies on Healthy Centenarians

This is the data from Dr. Barzilai, the director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and is based on longitudinal study of 500 healthy elders.

At age 70 his centenarian data:

    37 percent were overweight

    8 percent were obese

    37 percent were smokers (for an average of 31 years)

    44 percent reported only moderate exercise

    20 percent never exercised at all

Despite this at the age of 100 the people in this study had 60 percent lower rates of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Depression and other psychiatric illnesses are almost nonexistent.

There are many studies done on Centenarians that involve asking them to try to explain why they have lived so long. When reviewing these interviews, there are patterns and themes that come up in every study.

It is interesting when doing a review of the literature on Centenarians; I found it doesn’t seem to matter where they live or what their particular culture, when it comes to their beliefs and the behaviors they seem to have intuitively established the same beliefs and behaviors that foster longevity.

    Staying mentally active and always learning something new.

    Keeping a positive attitude.

    Friends and family important part of their daily life.

    Being social with a strong social network.

    Faith/spirituality is important.

    Healthy oppositional to the tribal rules that don’t fit their beliefs. (Breaking unnecessary rules)

    Don’t like to be around old people whose conversations revolve around aches and pain, or doctor visits.

    Don’t like to go to the doctor and most have not gone in years. They say their doctors died a long time ago.

    Live in moderation.

    Keep moving naturally, remaining active doing things they enjoy.

    Have a strong sense of purpose.

    Have routines that shed their stress like kicking back with something they savor, taking a nap, prayer or mediation.

    Eat less meat.

    The Mediterranean diet was most popular among centenarians of various locations and cultures.

    Drink alcohol in moderation.

A few more interesting statistics:

    Eight of every nine Centenarians are women.

    19 percent use cell phones.

    12 percent use the Internet.

    3 percent have participated in online dating.

Some findings from Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer’s book, Counterclockwise:

    Women who think they look younger after having their hair colored show a decrease in blood pressure and are rated more youthful in photos even when the pictures do not show their hair.

    Being married to someone younger tends to lengthen your life

    Being married to someone older tends to shorten your life.

    Prematurely bald men see themselves as older and, therefore, age faster.

Mario Martinez in his book Body Codes has interesting findings from his Centenarian Study

·       “Without expanded consciousness to match our lifespan, we are dying longer instead of living longer.”

·       Most Centenarians view themselves to be much younger than their age.

·       Most Centenarians enjoy and seek out novelty and wisdom when facing challenges.

·       They defied cultural norms that do not make sense to them their entire life.

·       When you meet healthy centenarians, you realize they don’t fit the stereotype of their age.

·       “Resilience, perseverance, creativity, and flexibility are all attributes I have found in every healthy centenarian I have studied, in cultures spanning five continents.”

·       They continue to plan for the future. When asked about his garden a man who was 106 told the interviewer “wait until you see next year’s garden. It is going to be bigger and much better.”

·       They do not hold grudges. They have an outlook that enabled them to forgive easily and often used an attitude of gratitude replacing anger. “I am so grateful that my guardian angels were with me that day or things could have been a lot worse.”

·       Martinez found that Centenarians made “joyful choices” rather than forced abstinence.

·       Centenarians followed the middle way having no compulsive behaviors; but knew how to savory pleasure. One man reported that he never smoked during the day, but he did have “a good cigar every night before bedtime.”

·       They experience the depth of emotional and physical pain with acceptance.

·       They continue to be curious and interested in learning new things.

·       They have the belief that it is never too late to engage in passion. Many singles are dating and seeking a new partner. Some marry again in their 100’s.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Power of Savoring

“We see God face to face every hour, and know the savor of Nature.”-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The sky was warmly lit by the setting sun with colors of pomegranate pink and soft orange. I watched how the pink, orange haze cast over the waters of Clearwater Beach creating a paradise of beauty as I waited for the sun to set.  My skin felt a chill by a slight breeze as the air became cooler with the setting sun.  I was sitting at the Tiki bar and grill sipping an exotic drink called Shipwreck. Reggae music played creating an atmosphere of play.

Suddenly I found myself looking at the Triple Fudge Delight dessert being delivered to the table next to me. It looked luscious, and my fondness for chocolate kicked in immediately. I could smell the coffee being poured into her cup. It was my last night in Florida, and so there was something to celebrate; a guilt-free indulgence. The waiter dressed in casual garb and moving to the music smiled as I order the Triple Fudge Delight with a cup of coffee and cream. He beamed with even more enthusiasm when he brought it to my table. I decided to savor every moment of this experience by using Mindful eating for a perfect sense trip.

First, I observed the chef’s presentation of creamy chocolate drizzled on the plate. The chocolate torte covered in hot fudge and whipped cream was a beautiful sight indeed. There is something about hot fudge and the way it glistens when it is melted. Next, I noticed the incredible smell of a perfect cup of coffee. I cut into the decadent layers of chocolate and watched as it crumbled with each fork cut. Placing it in my mouth, the silky-smooth texture that came forth brought sensations of pure pleasure. The taste as it turned to liquid brought pure bliss. I savored each bite observing my feeling of anticipation for the next bite. I was in love with chocolate more than I have ever been before. The whipped cream was the perfect complement as together with the chocolate; they melted in my mouth leaving an irresistible taste and desires to eat more. Once the plate was empty, my heart was open and full of joy. I enjoyed something sweet and luxurious in the midst of a picture postcard beautiful environment, savoring every moment. This is what feeds my soul, a perfect sense trip.

Savoring is a concept that is used in the field of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology focuses on positive experiences and emotions and their effects on people’s lives.  Fred Bryant is considered to be the father of savoring research. He is a social psychologist at Loyola University, Chicago. He introduced the concept of savoring as” being mindfully engaged and aware of one’s feelings during positive events. By being engaged, one can increase happiness in both the short and long run. It is a deliberate effort to make a positive experience last.” When we think of savoring, we often think of food and taste. Fred Bryant’s research shows that any positive experience can be savored. Even the memory of a positive event can be savored. As I was writing the above narrative, I still can remember my sense trip of a few months ago and continue to draw pleasure from it. It is like eating your cake and having it too because there are no calories.

In his book, Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience, Bryant says, “Savoring is like swishing the experience around in your mind.” He has identified several benefits of savoring; improved mental and physical health, stronger relationships and having the ability to find more creative solutions to problems. Here are some suggestions from the savoring researchers as ways to develop savoring as a skill. I believe these ideas can also help you develop a savoring habit just as Mindfulness practices rewire our brain for awareness, equanimity, and emotional freedom.

    “People who savor together stay together.” (Bryant) Studies about the way people react to positive events have shown that those who share positive feelings with others are happier overall than those who do not. Is this another benefit of Facebook to observe?

    Bryant says that we should congratulate ourselves whenever possible. Research shows that people who savor their successes are more likely to enjoy the outcome and be more successful in the future.

    Researchers tell us that by sharpening our sensory perceptions we are flexing our savoring muscles. By taking the time to get in touch with our senses, we are becoming more consciously aware.

    Get absorbed in a special moment by deliberately turning off thoughts and absorb positive feelings. Studies of positive experiences indicate that people most enjoy themselves when they are totally absorbed in a task or in play. Losing sense of time and place is a state psychologist call, “flow.”

    Expressing gratitude can make us happier. Bryant’s research suggests that saying “thank you” out loud can make us happier because we are affirming our positive feelings.  He states that thinking of a new blessing for which you have never given thanks before each night before going to bed, would be a good practice. Recalling the experience through being grateful will help us savor it.

    Positive experiences can help us to soothe and balance negative ones. When two things are held in the mind at the same time, they connect to each other. “What fires together wires together.” Painful feelings and memories can be attached to a positive feeling of comfort or closeness you feel when somebody is supporting you through a difficult time.

    Good feelings today increase the likelihood of good feelings tomorrow. Savoring can be used as a way to increase positive emotions. Positive becomes the norm rather than the brain’s bias for negativity.  Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has shown that positive emotions don’t just feel good at the moment; they have other benefits. Positive emotions increase resilience, optimism, and can counter the effect of trauma. They promote a stronger immune system and a cardiovascular system that is less reactive to stress.