Its stating the obvious but our bodies respond physically to how we think and feel. This is the 2nd article in a series of 4 describing how emotions impact health and how we can use this fact to improve our wellbeing. The first article is here.

Our emotions have a physical impact on our health and wellbeing, whether positive or negative, and whether we realise it or not. We might sometimes think we’re in control; my body, I know what it’s up to - I’m stressed, but I know how to manage it, it’s good stress, it’s driving me, it’s ok, I’ll relax on holiday, months away. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and so on…

But each emotion we feel has an impact. Let’s take a look at some common negative emotions and how they can affect our mental and physical health…

The Health Impact of Negative Emotions

Having an argument with a loved one or colleague – temporarily shuts down the body’s innate ability to heal.

Being stressed out – short bouts of stress can be good for us, it boosts the cells of the immune system and raises levels of disease fighting molecules in the blood. But long term, stress reduces our ability to heal. Sustained, chronic stress can cause memory loss, extreme tiredness and depression. And that’s not all – our reproductive ability can be negatively affected, and we have could develop an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Repressing anger or upset – keeping things bottled up might seem like a better idea than blowing our top or having an emotional outburst but it can be detrimental to our health too. Continually keeping things under our hats can increase our risk of dying from heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Similarly, holding back those tears can mean that we experience anxiety, stress, an impaired memory and poor digestion.

Sudden bursts of anger – on the other hand, giving in to an impulse to explode in a rage may be short lived, but that can raise our risk of a heart attack.

Feeling down – we all get the blues at times, maybe during the reality of going back to work after a holiday, or when things get on top of us. If we can’t shake off the blues, and we become depressed or apathetic, our levels of serotonin, our happy hormone, reduce. This can also cause our perception of pain to alter, making us feel more pain than usual. This is perhaps why 45% of patients with depression also report aches and pains.

Becoming consumed by jealousy – the green-eyed monster really can eat away at us. But more than festering in our mind, this gremlin also causes an increase in blood pressure, anxiety and a weakened immune system.

Being socially disconnected – humans are innately social creatures, and loneliness and social isolation and can result in depression, cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease and even premature death.
Allowing these negative emotions to build up and neglecting our emotional wellbeing inevitably leads to a weakening of the immune system. A weak immune system can make us more susceptible to coughs, colds and other bugs, especially bad if we’re already having a tough time. And so, the downward spiral continues – if we’re stressed, anxious or upset as well as feeling under the weather, we’re more likely to indulge in bad habits like eating junk food, drinking, smoking, taking drugs and not exercising.

Recognising the Link Between Poor Emotional Health and Poor Physical Health

If your emotional health is poor, then you’ll probably recognise some or many of the following physical health symptoms:
• General aches and pains including back pain, headaches, pain in the chest and a stiff neck.

• Gastric problems such as constipation, diarrhoea, upset stomach, indigestion, dry mouth, a change in appetite and weight loss or gain.

• High blood pressure

• Insomnia, extreme tiredness, light headedness, palpitations (racing heart), shortness of breath

• Excessive sweating

• Sexual problems including impotence and loss of libido

Positive Emotions, Health and Wellbeing

But, the good news is, positive emotions have positive health and wellbeing effects:

Expressing affection – a simple cuddle or telling a loved one how much they mean to you is a powerful thing and aside from making you feel warmth in the heart, can lower cholesterol levels too.

Falling in love – similarly, that heart warming feeling of falling in love with a special partner, new baby or a pet can raise levels of nerve growth factor which helps to restore the nervous system and improve memory by helping to grow new brain cells. Not to mention that wonderful calming effect on the mind and body.

Laughter – one of my favourite pass times, a big hearty laugh sends a surge of endorphins around the body, improving mood as they go. It can also increase levels of human growth hormone which aids restful sleep and allows the body to repair and restore itself. Even the thought of meeting friends and the anticipation of laughter reduces stress levels and even the risk of heart attacks.

Crying – this might seem like an odd one for the positive emotion list, but sometimes a good cry can be cathartic. Tears are an excellent release of stress and stress hormones.

Gratitude – being thankful and counting your blessings helps boost immunity, lower blood pressure and support healing. Gratitude releases the hormone oxytocin which is known as the ‘cuddle hormone’, which evokes feelings of blissfulness and happiness.

The solution to a happy balance between emotions and physical health is recognising the impact of underlying negative emotions and breaking the downward spiral.

This is known as Emotional Intelligence which can lead to a self-sustaining upward spiral of health improvements.

TrueTalk, an integrated emotions technology platform can help improve Emotional Intelligence significantly.

The next article in this series is here and discusses how to manage emotional intelligence to improve health and wellbeing.

Author's Bio: 

Adrian McKeon co-founded Infoshare and in early 2018 will launch TrueTalk, an emotions tech service letting individuals collect emotions data from calls, images, words and video to help manage health and well-being, relationships, work performance, educational learning and self-development.