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The Ultimate List of Positive Emotions and Their Purpose

As I mentioned in a previous post, every emotion you have ever felt and will ever feel has a purpose; a positive intention. Whether you consider an emotion “negative” because it makes you feel “bad”, or “positive” because it makes you feel “good”, it’s always trying to help you. All of your feelings give you feedback that you need to pay attention to. They all exist to prompt you and to steer you in the right direction, so none of them are unnecessary or unimportant.

The common response in a lot of us is that “bad feelings” should be overcome. But, without them, our quality of life would greatly suffer. If you’ve read the aforementioned post, then you will be familiar with the plethora of vital information negative emotions help us to notice. Therefore, if we got rid of them altogether, we would be left woefully ill-equipped to tackle even the most rudimentary of situations. That being said, my previous post didn’t mention positive emotions and all the wondrous messages they want to convey. So allow me to rectify that gross oversight with this post.

As far as what our positive emotions are trying to tell you goes, positive emotions differ slightly from negative ones. While negative emotions are trying to move you away from situations (or stop you from doing things) that may cause you harm, positive emotions are trying to keep you in situations (or get you to repeat actions) that have the potential to help you survive. “Good feelings” want you to keep doing exactly what you are doing, because it could provide you with further benefit.

This “away from pain and towards pleasure” response is one of our most rudimentary systems. That being said, it is that very simplicity that makes it one of the most powerful tools in the evolutionary toolbox, so to speak. It’s incredibly simple: if you like how something makes you feel, you do more of it. If you don’t like how something makes you feel, you do less of it. And it’s been working so well that it has remained one of our automatic responses ever since the dawn of our species.  

But I digress. At this point, I’m probably just rambling. So without further ado, please find below, my extensive (but by no means exhaustive) list of our most common positive emotions and what they are there to help us understand:

This ties into our innate human need for belonging to a group. We want to feel valued, worthy and included, because our tribal roots are telling us that we need other people to survive. Even though we no longer live in tribal communities, that still holds true today, as we continue to be a social species that requires assistance from others.

These emotions are linked closely to the ones above, in that they reinforce our need for the approval of those around us. These feelings are trying to teach us that our status and influence within our social circle is directly correlated with our chances of survival.

When we feel this way, our bodies are trying to show us how important it is to stay fit. Feeling full of energy and life reinforces our love for movement, which in turn keeps us healthy and ready for action, in case the need arises for fight or flight.

These feelings make us feel as though we are in control of our situation. They increase our confidence and make us more likely to take risks that might lead to rewards both for ourselves and for the group we belong to. Being disciplined makes us feel consistent and dependable, which incidentally also makes others more likely to trust us.

This emotion makes us more likely to be flexible and adaptable, both with situations and with other people. As a result, we will be considered a good candidate for leadership roles and we will have a clearer head for making important decisions under stressful circumstances.

Humor and an upbeat attitude are two things that lower our blood pressure and diffuse emotions that tend to get out of control, like anger or depression. When we’re in a funny mood, our body is trying to tell us that we’ve noticed or realized something clever and we’re proud of ourselves for that.

These emotions make us feel certain of our abilities and decisions. When we’re sure about ourselves, we are more likely to be decisive, rather than second-guess ourselves. Being decisive and clear-headed in an emergency situation is vital, which is why most people find themselves drawn to self-assured and confident individuals.

These emotions put you at ease. They tell you that you are safe and can relax. The feeling of being balanced and centered is like a cue for you to know that you’re handling all of the aspects of your life with skill and dexterity. It also tells you that you are living in alignment with your values.

These emotions point you in the direction of your innermost passions. They tell you that what is going on right now is important to you and they hold your attention because you can see (consciously or subconsciously) that there is value to be gained from it.

These emotions tell you who you really are. You feel amazing when you are 100% yourself, because your body is trying to get your attention. When you know who you are and you are no longer hiding anything or holding back, your power to create, lead and inspire multiplies a-hundred-fold!

Satisfaction and related emotions give us the pleasure of having met challenges and achieved our goals. These emotions make you feel fulfilled because they want you to know that what you currently have in your life is valuable and you shouldn’t take it for granted. By knowing its value you will work harder to keep it and not lose it out of ignorance.

These emotions are there to help us make the tough decisions. Sometimes something that looks or feels scary is really what we need the most and without emotions that make us feel good for taking that risk, we would stagnate and remain stuck in emotional quagmires.

When we feel like this, we gain an immense amount of conviction that helps us trust in our own abilities. Without them we wouldn’t be nearly as effective, because our efficiency relies entirely on our belief that we can accomplish a task successfully. If we didn’t think we could do it, we wouldn’t even try – and all that would do is ensure our failure.

Safety and stability are one of our most basic human needs. If we don’t feel safe, we can’t focus on carrying out any higher task. Feeling cared for by others is part of what makes us feel safe, but having a secure living environment and a stable routine also add to that emotion.

These emotions are similar to feeling strong and self-reliant. It helps us seek out new experiences that enable us to expand our horizons and learn new things that might provide our tribe with survival opportunities we didn’t have before.

This is an extension of feeling interested. Excitement includes a level of anticipation that helps us think positively and thus practise being optimistic. When we look forward to something it means we are expecting it to go well, according to plan.

Serene emotions such as these not only keep our heart rate low and healthy, but they also keep our mind clear, making us less prone to rash judgements or hurried decisions. We are more likely therefore to think in a composed, deliberate manner and thus make a better decision.

Consistency is very important to our brains and to other people around us. Knowing that a person or situation can be depended upon to act in a certain way is what our brain relies on to be able to make decisions.

Easy-going people are easy to get along with. They make friends easily and allow other people to be themselves, which keeps emotions positive on a group level while allowing for growth and ideas to flow freely.

Just like excitement and enthusiasm, hope and optimism train you to trust that things are going to be okay. They help you focus on all the things that could go well rather than the things that might go wrong. This type of emotion makes you less likely to feel stress or panic, which will keep your head clear, so you can make level-headed decisions.

These emotions might seem quite different from each other, but they share one major commonality. They are all traits that humans value in each other because they help us create a well-functioning society. They makes us more likely to help each other out, thus increasing our collective and individual odds of survival. We feel good for acting in such ways because our body is reinforcing our likelihood of repeating them, thus strengthening our bonds with those around us.

Pride can be considered both good and bad. If taken to the extreme, it might make people arrogant and self-absorbed, but in healthy levels it’s an indication that you have accomplished something of importance. It tells you that you have shown an extraordinary amount of devotion to a cause, put in the necessary effort and stuck with a task for a longer amount of time than others. These are all admirable qualities that are necessary for the achievement of difficult goals.

When we start to feel these emotions towards another human being, they either create the desire for procreation (when directed at members of the opposite sex) or make us feel protective so that we ensure the survival of our species (when directed at our offspring or younger/weaker members of our group).

These are similar forms of the above emotions connected to love and lust. They make us seek out a mate, so that we can reproduce. While today’s society has complicated our standards and offered us a range of choices when it comes to when, where, why and how we will do so, the underlying instincts remain the same.

This is how we feel when we have “re-charged our batteries”, so to speak. It tells us that whatever preceded this feeling is a valuable item or activity, because it clears our head and re-energizes our body. As a result, we are more likely to be capable of making split-second decisions and responding competently to any danger.

These emotions create an impetus for change. They make us want to take action and stick with said action until our goal is met.

When we feel present, we are mindfully aware of our surroundings and our inner state. We are unconcerned because focusing on the present moment doesn’t allow us to regret the past or fear the future. We simply accept the here and now and carry out the task at hand. This kind of inner peace allows us to reach unprecedented levels of enlightenment, which can lead to innovation and insights from which our entire species can potentially benefit.

We feel relief when we realize that a perceived or real threat has passed us by and we are no longer in danger. It shows us how seriously we had taken said threat or danger and leads us to appreciate for our ability to avoid it.

Being in awe of something shows you how wondrous it is. It causes you to appreciate the effort that went into creating such a thing. Alternatively, it makes you realize how precious it is, and creates a sense that it must be protected at all costs.

When you feel as though someone has earned your trust, that tells you that you are now part of the same tribe, so to speak. You can help each other and rely on each other to achieve things neither one could accomplish alone.

When you feel healthy, you get the impression that you are going to live forever. A part of you of course knows that isn’t true, but you feel so invincible that you are prompted to continue the healthy behaviour, whether it’s healthy eating, exercise or inner wellness.  

These are both the simplest emotions as well as the most complex. On the one hand, they are one of the first emotions we learn to express as babies. On the other, they are a combination of multiple other positive emotions. When you feel any of the emotions in this list, they will also cause you to feel a level of joy and happiness – which is why they are the ones most commonly sought after. When asked to list the positive emotions in the human experience, most people come up with these ones first. Indeed, some people actually consider them to be the only positive emotions, since they consider everything else on this list to be a neutral emotion instead.


I hope I’ve convinced you otherwise today. Yes, joy and happiness can be found in many of the other positive emotions, because they are all somehow linked to being happy. However, I find it useful – and indeed imperative – to separate them into the categories I have listed, so that they can be individually recognized, felt and appreciated on their own merits.

Feel free to reach out if you believe there is anything I could have added to this post. I want it to be as thorough and accurate as possible, so I welcome any and all feedback in the comments below.

77 Responsesso far.

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  2. […] The Ultimate List of Positive Emotions from HappyAndAuthentic.com […]

  3. Mindvalley says:

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  4. Jennifer Molloy says:

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  5. Jennifer Molloy says:

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  6. Hi my name is Victoria Stallard & I found your website here because I really need & want to learn to respond rather than react & I really also need & want to listen better as well, so that is why I am on your website is for some very needed & wanted learning. Anyway, so far I really like your website and feel you have done a very good job with what you put together on it.

    • Happy and Authentic says:

      Hi, Victoria! Thank you for reaching out and sharing your goals with me. ^_^ If you need any more personalized assistance, feel free to contact me. Let me know if the information you found on my website has been helpful for you.

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