MAR 21, 2016 07:44 PM PDT

How Do Emotions Affect Your Physical Health


Emotions go beyond just "how you feel." They affect our minds, and, therefore, our physical health.

Studies have shown that people who hold a positive outlook on life, and are characterized by love and happiness, tend to live significantly longer and more fulfilling lives than those who are negative and grumpy.

Many in the former category probably already know that a smile can go a long way. According to the facial feedback hypothesis, smiling broadly can actually lift your mood. Perhaps that's why a randomized clinical trial found that botox injections in the forehead actually improved symptoms of depression. After all, it might be difficult to feel unhappy when you can't put your face into a scowl.

Researchers don't entirely understand how chronic negative emotional states also affect a person's health. The answer could lie in how the negative emotions affect a combination of lifestyle, behavioral, biological, and social factors that directly affect health. For example, distress could make it harder for a person to sleep. If that person feels distressed all the time, he or she could suffer chronic insomnia. Having insomnia raises the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and a list of other health problems.

Thus, anger and depression make us vulnerable to all kinds of problems to our health and well-being. The good news is that we often overestimate how long we'll be in a bad mood and underestimate our capacity to adapt and bounce back from trauma.

Psychologists would not define stress as an emotion. They would instead say it's "the process by which we perceive and respond to certain events or stressors that we view as challenging or threatening," according to the Crash Course video.

These stressors fall into three main categories: catastrophes, significant life changes, and everyday annoyances. Catastrophes include things like war, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks.They are unpredictable large-scale events. Significant life changes include moving and having a child. Everyday annoyances include getting caught in traffic or being late to work.

Stress is natural and can even be healthy. For instance, if you have a test coming up, you may be more alert than normal and study better.

So, watch your emotions. They could literally kill you.
About the Author
  • Julianne (@JuliChiaet) covers health and medicine for LabRoots. Her work has been published in The Daily Beast, Scientific American, and MailOnline. While primarily a science journalist, she has also covered culture and Japanese organized crime. She is the New York Board Representative for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). • To read more of her writing, or to send her a message, go to Jchiaet.com
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