Your body responds to the way you think, feel, and act, because your emotional and physical health are inextricably linked. This is one type of “mind/body connection.” When you are stressed, anxious, or upset, your body reacts in a way that might tell you that something isn’t right. For example, you might develop high blood pressure or a stomach ulcer after a particularly stressful event, such as the death of a loved one.
In order to improve your emotional health, try to recognize your emotions and understand why you are having them. Sorting out the causes of sadness, stress, and anxiety in your life can help you manage your emotional health.
Poor emotional health can weaken your body’s immune system. This makes you more likely to get colds and other infections during emotionally difficult times. Also, when you are feeling stressed, anxious, or upset, you may not take care of your health as well as you should. You may not feel like exercising, eating nutritious foods, or taking medicine that your doctor prescribes. You may abuse alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
So, just how do feelings affect our health?
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. Researchers tested couples with a suction device that created tiny blisters on their arms. When the couples were asked to talk about an area of disagreement that provoked emotion, the wounds took about 40 per cent longer to heal than those of the control group. This response is caused by a surge in cytokines, the immune molecules that trigger inflammation. High levels of cytokines are linked to arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
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. Exposure to chronic stress has been found to raise risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
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. It’s also associated with the feeling of being loved-up and contented, inducing a calming effect on both the body and the mind.
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, Serotonin plays a role in regulating pain perception and could be the reason why 45 per cent of patients with depression also suffer aches and pains.
Feelings of gratitude boost immunity, lower blood pressure and speed healing.