How do emotions affect physical health?
18 April 2018 - 5 min read
We all know that looking after our bodies means eating plenty of fruit, and vegetables, drinking lots of water, and exercising regularly, but did you know that taking care of your emotional health can have physical benefits too?
While we often think about mind and body as two different things, they are actually very closely linked when it comes to our health, and wellbeing. Your physical health can affect your emotions, and your emotions play a role in your physical health.
The effect of emotions on the body
Whether it’s with sweaty palms, or an outburst of laughter, our emotions are often accompanied by a physical response. We’ve probably all experienced a surge of nausea before doing something nerve-wracking, or a jolt of excitement at the prospect of an upcoming holiday.
But the quick flashes of emotion that we feel in our bodies are only a small part of the physical effect of emotions. Our bodies respond to our emotional health in many ways — if we’re feeling worried, or unhappy, we might experience physical symptoms such as constipation or insomnia, or even high blood pressure or stomach ulcers.
Poor emotional health can also impact on our immune system, which is why we seem to get more coughs and colds around exam time, or why we take longer to shake off infections when things are busy at work.
And of course, if we’re feeling a bit down, we’re less likely to want to participate in the things that promote physical wellbeing. If we’re feeling stressed, we might feel more easily tempted to reach for the ice cream, or an extra glass of wine. In this way, our emotions affect our decision-making in the moment which can have a knock-on effect on our physical health.
These physical ailments can be a helpful signal to us that something isn’t quite right with our emotional wellbeing, so we can think about taking action to improve it.
The physical benefits of positive emotions
It’s not all bad news though — there are long term physical benefits associated with emotional wellbeing too, and one of the biggest advantages of emotional health is the positive impact it can have on your physical health.
For example, you can probably imagine how falling in love leads to feelings of relaxation, and contentment, but did you know that it’s also thought to boost the growth of new brain cells, which helps improve our memory?
Research also shows that laughing leads to an increase in mood-boosting endorphins, and hormones that help us sleep. And similarly, focusing on feelings of gratitude can pep up our immune system, lower blood pressure, and increase levels of oxytocin, which helps reduce feelings of stress.
Caring for your emotional health
The flow of wellness between mind and body works both ways, so in addition to understanding how our emotions affect our bodies, we can use our physical health to improve our sense of emotional wellbeing.
Fuel your body with a healthy, balanced diet so you can live life to the fullest, and avoid smoking, and too much alcohol, which can lead to feelings of lethargy.
Regular participation in exercise that you enjoy will also have numerous psychological benefits — even a quick 10-minute walk can help boost your mental focus, mood, and energy levels.
Perhaps most importantly of all, the practice of taking care of your body affirms a sense of self-respect, which is the bedrock of emotional health.
For more tips on how to care for your emotional wellbeing, check out our top 10 ways you can improve your emotional health.