Presentation Title: Impact of Anticipating Positive Events on Recovery From Stress

Abstract: Field studies strongly suggest that positive emotions mitigate the deleterious impact of stress on physical and mental health. The few experimental studies examining the impact of positive emotions on discrete stressors suggest that positive emotions improve recovery from stress. These studies, however, have typically induced positive emotion immediately at the offset of the stressor, which may not occur in natural settings. We propose that anticipating a positive event may be a particularly effective strategy to improve stress recovery because positive anticipation can occur for long periods of time, does not require a perfectly timed positive event to impact stress, and can switch attention from a past negative event to a future positive event. In Study 1, we found that anticipating a positive event was correlated with faster stress recovery in a hypothetical stress-recovery scenario. In Studies 2 and 3, we tested this effect experimentally and found that anticipation of a positive event induced increases in positive emotion during the recovery from a social stressor. In Study 3, we found that this effect was greater when anticipating a positive event than when having just experienced a positive event prior to the stressor. In Studies 4a and 4b participants sequenced hypothetical events such that they preferred to experience positive events after neutral and negative events, suggesting that individuals may already understand the benefits of anticipating positive events and may use this process to cope with everyday stress. The exploration of anticipatory positive emotion represents an important step forward from past research, providing a more realistic depiction of how people may use positive emotion to regulate stress in daily life.


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