Why Does Good Feelings Benefit Our Body and Mind?
In order to have good physical health, we need to eat proper food and be physically active. However, research says that good health requires positive emotions as well. According to a newer study, positive emotions make people more socially connected. (1)
For the sake of the study which was published in Psychological Science, 65 people were divided into 2 groups. The participants did not have previous knowledge or experience of meditation. One group got training in loving-kindness meditation, and the other one was on the waiting list for the training. (2)
The group attended an hour-long class every week for 6 weeks, and they needed to practice meditation at home too. Also, the participants were asked to submit reports of how much time did they spend meditating, what did they feel, and the social interactions.
The results showed that when compared to the people on the waiting list, people engaged in the loving-kindness meditation showed increased positive emotions such as admiration, amusement, and gratitude.
Likewise, these people felt more socially connected, so as a result, their heart rate was also improved. So, authors Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kok reported that the heart rate and overall physical health could be improved by positive emotions.
Positive Emotions that Improve Your Health and Prevent Illnesses
1. Optimism Protects the Heart
Being an optimist is not just looking at the bright side of life. In fact, people who are optimists, provide protection for their hearts. According to a review of literature back in 2012, many studies showed that optimists had lowered the risk of heart problems. (3)
Interestingly, another study revealed that the language we use on Twitter may save us, or kill us. (4) For instance, if we utilize optimistic language we get a lower risk of mortality. Also, optimism may improve the function of our immune system and get us a longer life. (5)
2. Awe Lowers Inflammations Associated with Autoimmune Illnesses
Some of the things we experience in life that make us alive and joyful are hiking, walking, listening to moving classical music, participating in a spiritual or religious ritual, etc.
According to studies, experiences of religion, art, as well as philosophy stimulate awe – a sense of wonder and a connection to something bigger.
As revealed by a study at Berkley, people who had experienced awe showed decreased levels of cytokines which are inflammatory markers that cause the development of autoimmune illnesses, and many other diseases such as heart problems, depression, as well as Alzheimer’s.
3. Compassion Improves the Heart Rate
Compassion is when someone shows concern for other people, and this feeling can make us positive towards ourselves as well as other people. Also, we improve our overall health.
And, according to Barbara Frederickson, the improvement of the vagus nerve benefits physical health as well as the feeling of love and connection with other people. (6)
4. Gratitude Benefits the Health of the Heart and the Immune System
Just like optimism, being grateful and showing appreciation towards good things in our life has important physical and mental advantages. In fact, gratefulness improves our immune system, sleep quality, and it lowers our stress levels. (7)
5. Self-Compassion Improves Our Overall Health
Those people who were kind towards themselves and their bodies prevented many negative physical and mental outcomes.
According to a study from 2013, self-compassionate people asked for medical help for symptoms they were experiencing and were less likely to experience depression than those who were not self-compassionate. (8)
After all, we can see that being an optimist in life may make us healthier. And, according to Barbara Frederickson, we need the negative emotions in our life to help us grow, so we should not eliminate them, but we need to make a balance with the help of positive emotions.