Emo­tional E ect

Your emo­tions have a much big­ger im­pact on your phys­i­cal health than you might think

Women's Weekly (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS -

How your feel­ings ma­jorly af­fect your phys­i­o­log­i­cal well­be­ing

WHEN YOU’RE AN­GRY Your body ex­pe­ri­ences a surge of testos­terone and your heart rate and blood pres­sure in­crease.

The health risk: You’re al­most five times more likely to have a heart at­tack in the two hours af­ter an an­gry out­burst, and your risk of stroke is three times higher. And anger mo­ti­vates us to seek re­wards, which is why a glass of wine might look more ap­peal­ing than ever.

Re­gain con­trol by: Ask­ing your­self if you’re hun­gry. Hunger re­duces the brain’s sero­tonin lev­els, which af­fects our abil­ity to reg­u­late anger, so to avoid los­ing your tem­per, don’t skip meals. And try us­ing your non-dom­i­nant hand as much as pos­si­ble – peo­ple who did that for 14 days were bet­ter at con­trol­ling their ag­gres­sion.

WHEN YOU WORRY About things be­fore they hap­pen or when you make a mis­take, the de­ci­sion-mak­ing part of your brain strug­gles, forc­ing other brain re­gions to work harder.

The health risk: Your brain won’t per­form as well on ev­ery­day tasks and gets fa­tigued quickly. Plus, if wor­ry­ing raises your stress lev­els, your risk of Alzheimer’s rises, with re­search prov­ing that women who tick both of those boxes dou­ble their de­men­tia risk.

Re­gain con­trol by: Writ­ing down what’s wor­ry­ing you, which phys­i­cally clears brain space for other tasks. And don’t shelve the worry – sup­press­ing it in­creases anx­i­ety.

WHEN YOU FEEL JEAL­OUS Or en­vi­ous, your brain’s an­te­rior cin­gu­late cor­tex fires up. The same re­gion is ac­ti­vated by so­cially painful sit­u­a­tions, like be­ing os­tracised by friends, which ex­plains why jeal­ousy evokes such strong re­ac­tions. And if you’re tak­ing a con­tra­cep­tive pill that con­tains oe­stro­gen, your re­sponse could be even greater.

The health risk: Jeal­ousy makes you blind to ob­jects in your line of sight be­cause your brain is dis­tracted by pro­cess­ing its green-eyed thoughts. That’s dan­ger­ous dur­ing tasks that de­mand at­ten­tion and carry a risk, like driv­ing.

Re­gain con­trol by: Turn­ing “ma­li­cious envy” (the bit­ter va­ri­ety) into “be­nign envy” (think: “If they can do it, I can too”). Dutch re­search con­firms the shift in think­ing trans­lates into real re­sults. And have a so­cial me­dia detox. More than 30 per cent of users feel frus­trated when they visit Face­book and the big­gest rea­son is envy of friends’ posts.

WHEN YOU FEEL EM­PA­THETIC Your brain in­creases pro­duc­tion of the hor­mone oxy­tocin and trig­gers a net­work of brain neu­rons, si­mul­ta­ne­ously sup­press­ing the net­work you use to an­a­lyse things.

The health kick: Feel­ing em­pa­thetic in­creases how gen­er­ous you feel to­wards other peo­ple, which im­proves your health and life span. You’ll feel hap­pier on av­er­age, too. In­crease the feel­ing by: Read­ing a book. As long as it’s fic­tional, read­ing gives the brain’s em­pa­thetic re­gion a work­out. WHEN YOU’RE STRESSED

Your body is flooded with adrenalin and nor­ep­i­neph­rine, which makes your heart beat faster, and cor­ti­sol, which shuts down non-es­sen­tial body func­tions. And your brain’s pre­frontal cor­tex suf­fers, so pay­ing at­ten­tion and think­ing clearly be­come dif­fi­cult. Long-term stress switches on genes that are nor­mally silent, up­set­ting the body’s bal­ance of hor­mones.

The health risk: You’ll make riskier de­ci­sions and might de­velop sleep brux­ism, so you grind your teeth at night. You’ll also get more headaches and are more likely to catch a virus. In the long term, stress in­creases the risk of agere­lated mem­ory loss, type 2 di­a­betes, heart dis­ease and de­pres­sion.

Re­gain con­trol by: Do­ing more ex­er­cise. Phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity re­or­gan­ises the brain to be more re­silient to stress, by train­ing it to au­to­mat­i­cally switch off re­gions that pro­mote anx­i­ety when it’s ex­posed to stress­ful sit­u­a­tions.


Your brain strength­ens struc­tures linked with so­cial aware­ness and em­pa­thy, and the re­gion that pro­cesses re­wards.

The health kick: Feel­ing grate­ful equals feel­ing hap­pier. Ver­bal­is­ing it by say­ing thanks not just rids you of toxic emo­tions, but can boost your re­la­tion­ships.

In­crease the feel­ing by: Writ­ing down five things you’re grate­ful for ev­ery week. You will feel 25 per cent hap­pier in just 10 weeks. And get enough sleep – sleep de­pri­va­tion has been dis­cov­ered to have a link with the ten­dency to feel un­grate­ful.


The parts of the brain re­spon­si­ble for be­ing able to think pos­i­tively (the ros­tral an­te­rior cin­gu­late cor­tex and amyg­dala) fire up.

The health kick: Pos­i­tiv­ity im­proves your im­mune cells’ re­sponse to virus or bac­te­ria. You’ll also find it eas­ier to make healthy food choices be­cause feel­ing op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture boosts self-con­trol.

In­crease the feel­ing by: Watch­ing a funny movie. Af­ter just 15 min­utes, your “hope­ful­ness score” will be higher. Re­searchers say it works be­cause hu­mour in­hibits neg­a­tive thoughts.


Your brain releases a com­bi­na­tion of neu­ro­trans­mit­ters, in­clud­ing dopamine, sero­tonin and en­dor­phins. And lev­els of cor­ti­sol, the stress hor­mone, fall.

The health kick: You’ll stay health­ier and live longer. Plus, com­pared to happy peo­ple, un­happy ones are 80 per cent more likely to de­velop age-re­lated health prob­lems.

In­crease the feel­ing by: Play­ing some up­beat mu­sic and mak­ing a con­scious de­ci­sion to be hap­pier – done to­gether, it’s a com­bi­na­tion that works. Or catch up with a friend. That in­creases pro­duc­tion of pro­ges­terone, a hor­mone that boosts feel­ings of well­be­ing.


Your body pro­duces adrenalin and nor­ep­i­neph­rine in the early days, which make your heart race, and dopamine to make you feel eu­phoric. Oxy­tocin and va­so­pressin, which cre­ate feel­ings of well­be­ing and se­cu­rity, take over in es­tab­lished re­la­tion­ships to main­tain the bond.

The health kick: Newly paired cou­ples have a higher pain thresh­old be­cause in­tense love stim­u­lates ar­eas of the brain tar­geted by painkillers. In the long term, love re­duces your heart-dis­ease risk and pro­tects against a mid­dle-age de­cline in life sat­is­fac­tion. It also min­imises how much cor­ti­sol you pro­duce un­der stress.

In­crease the feel­ing by: Watch­ing and talk­ing about movies with your part­ner where re­la­tion­ships are the fo­cus. When cou­ples did this five times for one month they im­proved their re­la­tion­ships and halved their risk of split­ting up. Sin­gle? Book in for a mas­sage or hug a pet – both strate­gies in­crease oxy­tocin lev­els, the hor­mone re­spon­si­ble for a lot of love’s health ben­e­fits.


A few dif­fer­ent brain re­gions are ac­ti­vated, in­clud­ing one that sub­con­sciously spurs you to do nice things for the per­son you’ve wronged, even be­fore you’re ready to own up or apol­o­gise.

The health risk: Guilt makes you feel phys­i­cally heav­ier so you’ll avoid ex­er­cise, say US re­searchers. You’ll also fo­cus on small de­tails at the ex­pense of the big­ger pic­ture, so in­stead of de­clin­ing a choco­late bar, you’ll scru­ti­nise the calo­rie con­tent of dif­fer­ent bars, be­fore pick­ing one to eat. Re­gain con­trol by: Own­ing up to what­ever’s mak­ing you feel guilty, but make sure you spill all the beans. Con­fess­ing does pro­vide re­lief, but guilt es­ca­lates when you only tell the par­tial truth.

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