Positive Feelings and Your Wellbeing: What the Science Shows
How often do you associate positive feelings with your overall well-being? Common discussions will consider the impact of areas such as nutrition and activity on our health. Strong mental efforts such as hard work, dedication, goal making, and knowing one’s purpose can even find a place here.
But what about our emotions? Do they lead or follow our state of wellbeing, and if they can lead what’s the application of this in your life? Let’s look at what science and the latest studies have to tell us.
What does the research say?
Research around the impact of our emotions has been increasing year over year, with more individuals concerned about the growing rate of mental health problems.
An article titled “The neuroscience of positive emotions and affect: Implications for cultivating happiness and wellbeing” (Rebecca Alexander, et all) looked at the neurophysiological correlations that positive emotions have on a person’s well-being.
Overall, from study to study, the consensus has shown that positive emotions do lead to upticks in a person’s physical and psychological state.
The impact on resilience.
One key characteristic of those who experience a higher rate of positive emotions is resilience. Resilience is an individual’s ability to bounce back from negative stimuli. In a world where many of the interactions we have are uncontrollable, resilience would stand out as a priceless thing to have.
The quicker one is able to come back from a potentially damaging circumstance has not only psychological benefits but also benefits them at a professional and relational level.
The impact on our physical health.
When it comes to the physical side of our well-being, we see a continued correlation between positive feelings and a person's health. These benefits include lower blood sugar, reduced risk of heart disease, healthier weight control, and even lower blood pressure. This goes to show the importance of prioritizing a positive mindset when approaching matters of health.
A neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Richard J. Davidson, talked about the link between the activation of a person’s reward centers and the use of positive emotion. In this scenario, we see a decrease in the hormone that induces stress, thus offering a correlation between adopting a more positive state of mind and aiding one’s well-being.
In contrast to the benefits of positive emotions, we also can study the negative impact of emotions such as fear or sadness on an individual. Depression and anxiety can influence the body in harmful ways, also often leading to the use of prescriptions, abuse of substances, and even lifestyle choices which can present their own damage to the human body.
How we can impact the outcome.
Meditation and methods such as self-affirmation have been shown to encourage change in a person’s brain structure. Studies have looked at alterations in a person’s reward pathways, which encourage positive behavior, leading them towards more powerful positive emotions.
Some studies have used mediation to develop positive emotions, leading to lowered heart rates. Others like Dr. Emily Falk have focused on self-affirmation and how it can increase a person’s willingness to receive and accept health-related advice.
Looking at all the data that is currently available to us, it would be irresponsible not to consider the impact of positive emotion on a person’s well-being. The need to approach our health holistically has never been more important than it is today, with more and more pressures and problems weighing against the human mind.
Set aside time for yourself, understanding that the way you think, and the emotions that you harbor can either be used to harm or benefit you.