An animal’s capacity to suffer is a prerequisite for any animal welfare concern, and the minimization of suffering is a key aim of refinement research. In contrast to the traditional focus on avoiding or reducing negative welfare states, modern animal welfare concepts highlight the importance of promoting positive welfare states in laboratory animals. Reliable assessments of affective states, as well as the knowledge of how to elicit positive affective states, are central to this concept. Important achievements have been made to assess pain and other negative affective states in animals in the last decades, but it is only recently that the neurobiology of positive emotions in humans and animals has been gaining more interest. Thereby, the need for promotion of positive affective states for laboratory animals is gaining more acceptance, and methods allowing the assessment of affective states in animals have been increasingly introduced. In this overview article, we present common and emerging methods to assess affective states in laboratory rodents. We focus on the implementation of these methods into applied refinement research to identify achieved progress as well as the future potential of these tools to improve animal welfare in animal-based research.