Shaping our emotions – how positive emotions, outlook and behaviors affect our overall health and well-being, as well as can impact those around us.
In the last few years, medical and psychological research is growing on how positive emotions, outlook and behaviors affect our overall health and well-being, as well as can impact those around us. Similarly, look at those who volunteer regularly or who practice random acts of kindness as part of their daily lives — all tend to have a positive outlook on life. They are also usually more content, fulfilled and happy. These same people tend to “go with the flow” and “ride the tide” with more ease than those who do not, but what does that really mean to our overall health and well-being?
“I’ve never doubted the ripple effect of kindness, but now there’s even a scientific term for it:
“Moral elevation is a specific emotional state triggered by witnessing displays of profound virtue and moral beauty.”
Acts of kindness can spread surprisingly easily between people — just by observing someone else being generous. They activate parts of the brain involved in motivating action and of social engagement, a new study finds. In turn, we are also more likely to ‘pay it forward’. Scientists call this the ‘moral elevation’ effect. The first evidence from the lab of this effect was found in 2010. When people gave selflessly to others, researchers could see this act of kindness spreading from person to person. One act of kindness was ultimately tripled in value by people subsequently giving more and more.”
Think about how you feel when you participate in a random act of kindness, because that is a of your daily life or because you noticed someone else doing so. Usually, we feel good inside, pleasure, happiness, and more confident about ourselves; even if for a brief few moments because we did something kind and unselfish. We made someone else feel good and we feel good as well. Hence, the ‘moral evaluation’ effect, as stated above, results in a positive change in our emotions.
Still, how does all of this affect our overall health and well-being?
Read the below excerpt from an article called, “The biology of emotion—and what it may teach us about helping people to live longer” by the Harvard School of Public Health:
“A vast scientific literature has detailed how negative emotions harm the body. Serious, sustained stress or fear can alter biological systems in a way that, over time, adds up to “wear and tear” and, eventually, illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Chronic anger and anxiety can disrupt cardiac function by changing the heart’s electrical stability, hastening atherosclerosis, and increasing systemic inflammation.
Focusing on the positive
“But negative emotions are only one-half of the equation,” says Laura Kubzansky, HSPH associate professor of society, human development, and health. “It looks like there is a benefit of positive mental health that goes beyond the fact that you’re not depressed. What that is still a mystery. But when we understand the set of processes involved, we will have much more insight into how health works.”
Kubzansky is at the forefront of such research. In a 2007 study that followed more than 6,000 men and women aged 25 to 74 for 20 years, for example, she found that emotional vitality—a sense of enthusiasm, of hopefulness, of engagement in life, and the ability to face life’s stresses with emotional balance—appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The protective effect was distinct and measurable, even when taking into account such wholesome behaviors as not smoking and regular exercise.”
What are the keys to shaping our emotions, focusing on the positive & finding happiness?
The above quoted article by The Harvard School of Public Health goes on to state that “research suggests that certain personal attributes—whether inborn or shaped by positive life circumstances—help some people avoid or healthfully manage diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and depression. These include:
Emotional vitality: a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, engagement
Optimism: the perspective that good things will happen and that one’s actions account for the good things that occur in life
Supportive networks of family and friends
Being good at self-regulation, “bouncing back from stressful challenges and knowing that things will eventually look up again; choosing healthy behaviors such as physical activity and eating well; and avoiding risky behaviors such as unsafe sex, drinking alcohol to excess, and regular overeating.”
How are positive emotions, healthy behaviors and moral evaluation all tied together?
Having a positive attitude and adopting healthy behaviors provides a stronger sense of happiness and contentment, thus affecting our overall health and well-being. If we feel happier, healthier, and more fulfilled; our behaviors and optimism brush-off on those we come across in our daily lives. The positive energy that stems from a positive attitude and healthy behaviors propels the giving of ourselves to others (ie. through time, money, information, someone to talk to, etc.).
When we regularly give of ourselves to others through charity work or random acts of kindness, our focus changes from our own struggles to helping others. This has proven to be incredibly therapeutic and beneficial to our overall health, because doing good makes us feel good — both mentally and physically. Consequently, those who we have given freely to strive to do the same. It’s an energy that is contagious and a cyclical system that enhances our overall health and well-being.
To read more about the benefits kindness and optimism can benefit your overall health and well-being, I’ve included a few good articles & resources below:
– PUSH: 30 Days to Turbocharged Habits, a bangin’ body, and the life you deserve (book) by Chalene Johnson. You can also visit her website by going here & reading over her numerous person and business coaching seminars, many of which she offers free.