Interestingly, when the conscious or unconscious mind releases negative emotional signals, (fear, jealousy, and sadness) our body responds. The stress from negative emotions increases the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in our bloodstreams, hormones that are often called stress hormones, which prepare us for a quick and powerful reaction to whatever is causing us stress. That reaction includes redirecting the blood supply from the organs deep within our bodies to the places where it’s most needed in such times: the muscles, limbs, and extremities that we use to either confront the source of our stress or run as fast as we can to get away from it—our instinctive fight-or-flight response. Although there are times when this reaction may be helpful for short periods of time, the release of vital chemicals that support healthy functions like immunity and anti-aging is dramatically reduced.[ii]
So one particular key to optimum healthy may be found by minimizing the physical manifestations of negative emotions while increasing the positive. In the study, published online in Psychological Science[iii], researchers divided 65 people into two groups. One received training in the ancient practice of loving-kindness meditation; the other was put on a waiting list for the meditation training. People in the loving-kindness meditation group showed greater increases in positive emotions like amusement, awe, and gratitude over the course of the training. The authors of the study state, “Recurrent momentary experiences of positive emotions appear to serve as nutrients for the human body,” they write, “increasing feelings of social belonging and giving a needed boost to parasympathetic health, which in turn opens people up to more rewarding positive emotional and social experiences.” These results offer some of the strongest evidence to date that positive emotions can enhance physical health.
Steps to improving emotional health:
Enhance feeling of connection with others
One telling study (link is external) showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. On the flip side, strong social connection leads to a 50% increased (link is external) chance of longevity. When communicating, be present in conversations, pay attention to your body language, and always emphasize the positives while actively searching out environments that provide opportunity to connect with others.
Take good care of yourself
When you feel good about yourself, it’s much easier to cope with life’s little ups and downs. Drink plenty of water (half your body weight in ounces), eat fresh food (2/3 of plate),get plenty of sleep (7-8 hours per night), exercise daily (do what you enjoy), and set and maintain healthy boundaries (learn to say no).
Manage Your Stress
The events and chaos of life may not be as crucial as how you perceive them. Stress occurs when you perceive that demands placed on you — such as work, school or relationships — exceed your ability to cope. But by finding positive, healthy ways to manage stress as it occurs, many of these negative health consequences can be reduced. Helpful ways to cope with stress include reframing the situation in a positive context, guided meditation, yoga, embrace support from friends and family, find a hobby that relaxes you.