We’ve all felt the physical effects of our emotions, whether we realized it at the time or not. Have you ever had sweaty palms before a big presentation or job interview? Have you felt your heart pound or stomach turn during a stressful situation? These are some physical ways that your body is responding to your thoughts and emotions.
What happens in our brains is deeply connected with our physical health, and research continues to reinforce this link. It’s important to realize how important this connection is, and how you can use it to your advantage.
How positive emotions can make you healthier
Health experts have speculated for years that positive emotions can make you healthier physically. And, recent medical studies have backed up this claim.
A study conducted on 817 people in Italy supports the notion that positive emotions lead to positive physical health. “Happiness is found to be the strongest predictor of health,” the authors state. The conclusions of this study suggest that happiness may help protect people from the negative health effects of stress.
A comprehensive review on emotions and health found that people who had a positive outlook on life had healthier immune and cardiovascular systems. They also engaged in healthier lifestyle behaviors overall.
Doing good deeds for others makes a person feel good mentally — and appears to help with physical health, too. Studies have found that adults who volunteer have better physical and mental health.
Stress and negative emotions can take a toll on health
Everyone deals with stress and negative experiences in life. But, if these issues are long-lasting, they can negatively affect your health in many ways. We know that chronic stress can lead to:
- Lack of sleep, which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other health problems. Lack of sleep also makes it more difficult to deal with stress and problems, as it interferes with normal brain function.
- High levels of stress hormones, which can cause weight gain.
- Digestive problems like nausea, constipation, heartburn, and diarrhea.
How to manage your emotions for better health
There is good news. If high stress or negative emotions are running your life, you can change it and get on a path to better health — starting today. Here’s how:
- Exercise. Physical activity can help you deal with stress, not to mention its obvious benefits for a healthy weight and muscle tone. It can also help you sleep better, which means you’re better equipped to manage everyday problems.
- Accept emotions and thoughts without judgment. A study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who were able to accept their emotions without judgment had better mental health. This led to fewer negative reactions to stress, which has health benefits both physically and mentally.
- Do something you enjoy. Find time to take a class, start a hobby, or visit with friends.
- Try deep breathing or meditation. These activities can help you calm your body’s stress response, and over time, can change how you deal with stress or anxiety.
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