As you’re reading this, take a quick moment to frown. Did you know that it takes 43 muscles to frown, but only 17 muscles to smile? For many of us, negative emotions are not hard to come by. Stressors often appear out of nowhere, in response to a person, situation, or thought. According to a 2015 study published in the journal Psychological Science, negative emotions predicted poorer health in the United States than in Japan. Cultural differences and societal perceptions can certainly have an impact on the way emotions influence us; if you’re looking to enhance your health in recovery, focusing on incorporating positive emotions could generally help.
Previous research has shown that positive emotions such as joy, interest, contentment, love, and more all not only affect us at the moment but may flourish and contribute to us long-term as well. A study conducted by a researcher from the University of Michigan emphasized that while negative emotions (which may stem from stress) narrow our perspective on life experiences, positive emotions undo lingering negative emotions and broaden our perspective – making room for even more happiness, growth, and healing.
When we experience a lot of stress, our body elicits a response from our immune system, which therefore causes the body to release pro-inflammatory cytokines – which help the body fight against infection. If we experience stress for prolonged periods of time, however, this constant release of cytokines can be very bad for the body and your overall health. According to the Scientific American, this can lead to weakened immune system support, heart disease, osteoporosis, and autoimmune diseases including type 2 diabetes.
A 2015 study published in the journal Emotion sought to explore how positive emotions can affect this interaction between stress and cytokines release; researchers found that not only did positive emotions predict lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokine release, but the emotion “to be in awe” was a key contributor to this! Try to focus on the positives as much as you can. Allow yourself to feel and experience stress and negative emotions, but always seek support and other healthy outlets so that your situation doesn’t become so severe that you develop a mental illness or other health condition.
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