How positive emotions build better health

Posted on 09.08.2020 |

Learn more about the many ways your emotions affect your physical health

What do you think when people tell you to “be positive” or “think happy, be happy”? Chances are, you hear it so often that you start to tune it out.

Next time, stop before you dismiss it. Why? Because there’s a growing body of research that suggests all that advice about positivity may actually be more helpful than we think. 

Studies have shown that having a positive outlook on life may be linked to better health not just mentally, but physically. Risk for conditions such as heart attack or high blood pressure is shown to be lower in people who experience more positive emotions than negative ones.[1]

Keep reading to learn more about the science of how positive emotions benefit your physical health—and what you can do to develop a positive outlook. 

What is a positive outlook?

A positive outlook is a mental viewpoint of optimism where you focus on the opportunities of a situation rather than the setbacks. People with a positive outlook go through life knowing they have the ability to get through any challenges they face.

It’s important to understand that having a positive outlook doesn’t mean you never feel negative emotions like sadness, anger, or fear. In fact, you need negative emotions to work through difficult situations and respond appropriately in the present. Where these negative emotions become problematic is when you over-obsess about the past or worry too much about the future. 

If you have a positive outlook, you’re able to see the good, or possibility for it, during the bad times. Positive emotions expand your awareness and make you more open to growth and change.   

If you have a positive outlook, you’re emotionally healthier as shown through your ability to be resilient, show gratitude for the good in life, and experience fewer negative emotions. You also have a stronger sense of meaning and purpose. 

The science 

Research has been conducted to understand how the brain physically responds to both positive and negative emotions. 

Positive emotions trigger reward pathways in the brain including an area known as the ventral striatum. People with a positive outlook have lasting activation of the ventral striatum which has been linked to positive changes in the body such as lower levels of stress hormones. The longer the ventral striatum is activated, the greater the feelings of wellbeing. 

On the other hand, negative emotions activate the amygdala, a region of the brain that plays a role in fear and anxiety. The amygdala recovers at a different rate for each person following a threat. The slower the recovery, the higher the risk for a variety of different health conditions. 

The benefits of a positive outlook

Let’s turn to how positive emotions benefit your physical health. While one does not directly cause the other, research has shown a clear association between having a positive outlook and good physical health.

It’s been linked to lower blood pressure, less risk for heart attack, healthier weight, better blood sugar levels, and a longer life.[2] 

How to improve your emotional wellbeing

Researchers are beginning to believe that wellbeing is a life skill—if you practice, you can get better at it. 

There are certain simple skills you can practice every day to improve your overall emotional wellbeing. Set the tone for your day by starting with a five to ten minute gratitude meditation to center yourself. Then try ending your day with a short period of self-reflection. There are even modern health technologies that can help you “train” your brain to be more positive.

Related: How BrainTap gives your brain the best workout

Social connectedness has also been linked to positive emotions and better health. It’s important to prioritize frequently connecting with friends and family, even if it’s virtually. If social connection isn’t an option, you can also draw benefits from thinking about happy memories or doing activities that you enjoy. 

To sum it up

Even without causation, there is a plethora of evidence that shows how positive emotions benefit your physical health. Focusing on developing a more positive outlook is a simple way to benefit both your mental and physical health.

Remember: it’s not about never feeling bad, it’s about focusing on the good as much as possible and doing things that bring you joy. 

We can help!

With a focus on mind and body health, the team at Natural Quanta can help guide you on your journey to find a more positive outlook on life.

Our Mind Balance program uses innovative science-based wellness technologies to conduct mental strengthening exercises that will help you optimize your health, both inside and out. 

Contact us today to get started!

Schedule your free 30-minute assessment 

Sources:

1: Health Psychology Review 

2: National Institutes of Health