It’s clinically proven that our emotions drastically affect our biology and sometimes the things we need to detoxify have nothing to do with our physical health.
That’s what we’re discussing today – the power of emotions has been shown by clinical studies and methods to detox and improve them.
Emotion is defined as a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.
Anastacia Stephen, from Psychologies in the UK, dives into the clinical studies about how emotions directly affect our physical health.
As I just mentioned, emotional and physical health are inextricably linked. Whether we’re happy or sad, our bodies respond physically to the way we think, feel and act so we’re going to dive into some common emotions.
Our emotions have a capacity to harm and heal – not just psychologically but physically.
Research has shown that having to deliver a speech can double the severity of allergy symptoms for two days, while crying is soothing because stress hormones are carried out of your body in tears.
U.S. biochemist Dr. William Frey compared the tears of women who cried for emotional reasons with those whose eyes welled up on exposure to onions.
Emotional tears were found to contain high levels of the hormones and neurotransmitters associated with stress.
Frey concluded that the purpose of emotional crying is to remove stress chemicals.
Holding back tears leaves the body prone to anxiety, including weakened immunity, impaired memory, and poor digestion. This might be one reason why women live longer than men – because they cry more often.
According to a study reported in the Journal of Human Communication Research, expressing the affectionate feelings you have towards your partner lowers cholesterol levels in as little as five weeks.
Conversely, according to scientists at Ohio State University, a 30-minute argument with your partner can slow your body’s ability to heal by at least a day. If you argue regularly, that healing time is doubled.
The Damaging Effects of Chronic Stress Research at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that short bouts of stress can boost immunity and raise levels of cancer-fighting molecules – and the effect lasts for weeks after the stressful situation ends. However, long-lasting or chronic stress is a different matter.
‘Stress leaves you in a fight-or-flight state in which your body turns off long-term building and repair projects,’ says Robert Sapolsky, professor of biological sciences at Stanford. ‘Memory and accuracy are impaired. Patrols for invaders aren’t sent out, you tire more easily, you can become depressed and reproduction gets downgraded.’
Exposure to chronic stress has been found to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
When it comes to venting our anger or holding it in, the jury’s out as to which works best or worst for us.
A long-term study in Michigan looked at women who suppressed their anger in confrontations with their partners and found that they had twice the risk of dying from conditions such as heart attack, stroke or cancer.
Yet giving in to impulses to shout abuse could cause problems, too. Angry outbursts may last only a few minutes, but they can cause surges in blood pressure and heart rate, raising the risk of heart attack by 19 percent, concludes a study at University College, London.
Subtle forms of anger, such as impatience, irritability, and grouchiness, damage health, too.
According to researchers at the University of Pavia in Italy, falling in love raises levels of nerve growth factor for about a year. Nerve growth factor, a hormone-like substance, helps restore the nervous system and improves memory by triggering the growth of new brain cells. What a fun way to get healthy!
It’s also associated with the feeling of being loved-up and contented, inducing a calming effect on both the body and the mind.
When you’re feeling down… Depression, pessimism, and apathy affect our health in several ways.
‘‘Low mood is linked to low levels of serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain,’ says London GP Dr. Jane Flemming.
‘Serotonin plays a role in regulating pain perception and could be the reason why 45 percent of patients with depression also suffer aches and pains.’
Keep the fits of giggles coming!
In a study on the effects of laughter, Dr. Lee Berk of Loma Linda University discovered that levels of mood-boosting beta-endorphins increased by 27 percent, while human growth hormone, a substance that aids sleep and cellular repair, rose by 87 percent.
The effects were achieved by watching a humorous film. In another study, the mere anticipation of laughter was enough to reduce levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
Cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that laughing can reduce the risk of a heart attack by curbing unwanted stress.
Jealousy is one of the most powerful and painful human emotions – and the most difficult to control. Women’s jealousy is usually triggered by the suspicion of emotional betrayal, while men typically become jealous when they suspect they have sexual competition.
Jealousy is a complex mix of fear, stress, and anger. These three states trigger the fight-or-flight response usually in quite an intense way. Someone in the grip of jealousy is likely to suffer raised blood pressure, heart rate and adrenaline levels, weakened immunity and anxiety.
Researchers reporting in the International Journal Of Psychophysiology found that it’s not just angry outbursts that cause blood pressure to rise – during the course of a week, every time their subjects recalled the situation, their stress levels soared. Better not to relive but to truly learn to let it go – forgiving others and yourself. We’ve got an excellent blog post on this with a detailed forgiveness process put together by a PhD in neuropsychology.
Feelings of gratitude boost immunity, lower blood pressure and speed healing.
Dr. Rollin McCraty of the Institute of HeartMath in the U.S. is studying the link between emotions and physical health and has found that, like love, gratitude and contentment also trigger oxytocin.
‘Oxytocin is secreted by the heart whenever you feel open and connected,’ says McCraty.
‘It switches off stress by causing the nervous system to relax. Oxygenation to tissues increases significantly, as does the healing. We’ve found that gratitude is also associated with more harmonious electric activity around both the heart and brain – the very state in which these organs operate most effectively.’
Now, what can we actually DO with this information?
Emotions are the engines of creation and manifestation. They are not just responses to thoughts or external happenings. They actually create our experiences and act as messengers.
When we feel a positive emotion, it’s a signal that we should be doing more of what makes us feel positive. When we feel a negative emotion, it’s a signal to try something different.