Livestrong.com just asked for a quote for an upcoming article on emotions and how they influence our attainment of goals around health and wellness (i.e., optimal human functioning). I thought you might enjoy my brief response…

Guilt has a boomerang effect on you

Guilt has a boomerang effect on you

Hi! I hope this note finds you smiling! My Ph.D. is in educational  psychology out of UC Berkeley. I currently teach positive psychology (JFKU), coach individuals in anger management and the latest ways to use positive psychology.

I am a self-professed emotion ‘geek’. I have studied emotion
research for a decade now. I love discovering how emotions affect our behaviors, such as health and wellness goals (e.g., losing weight, building muscle, eating better, learning a sport, or building psychological resiliency).

For instance, a recent study showed that guilt has a boomerang effect where it first causes the guilty party to avoid the guilt-inducing situation. Then guilt causes one to approach the situation to make things better. This is the first emotion I am aware of that’s been scientifically shown to have both an approach and an avoidance component to it.

In terms of wellness goals then, a moderate level of guilt (think a 4-6 on a 10 point scale) may work effectively at meeting wellness goals. If you fall off the wagon and feel guilty about it, you are likely to re-approach your goal shortly with a renewed motivation.

Elevation is the positive emotion experienced when you watch another person perform an act of moral courage or high integrity, and was first  ‘discovered’ by Jon Haidt.  This emotion seems to act as a hidden reset button wiping out doubt, replacing it with feelings of inspiration, hope and optimism. Elevation creates a desire to become a better person and thus, is likely to lend itself to meeting wellness goals.

Please note: When I interviewed Jon Haidt several years ago, he was not ready at that time to label elevation an emotion. More research was needed. From what I understand, both Jon and Dacher Keltner at UC Berkeley are now looking into it. I hope that is helpful for your article!

To life, love, and laughter!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self, Inc.

P.S.  Want to find out more about your emotional landscape? Want to figure out HOW to turn down the volume on anger, anxiety or sadness? Need to know the latest in anger management tools? Would you like to learn how to cultivate more positive emotions in your daily life? Just visit www.GuideToSelf.com, and click on the yellow book icon. Enter your name and email address for a FREE PDF copy of John’s award-winning book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, because when it comes to the emotional mind, we’re all beginners!

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