Too Many Negative Emotions? Your Immunity Could Suffer A Setback
Keeping your spirits high in the face of adversity can be a real challenge sometimes. Some people manage to do so well. Sometimes, others' optimism rubs off on us, and that can be good too. A smiley face and vibrant attitude can even uplift others' moods.
Besides being a positivity icon, optimism also has other benefits, including those on health and immunity.
Let's see how negative emotions and immunity are inter-related, and how far a positive attitude can get us in terms of health.
Kill 'em with kindness
A study was conducted in 2006 to explore the link between emotions and immune response against viral infections. The participants of the study had different personality styles. It was found that the people having a positive personality were less prone to contracting the infection than their not-so-positive counterparts. Looks like being optimistic can pay off!
Another study conducted in 2008 showed that having a positive outlook towards life can reduce the levels of stress hormones in our body. Stress hormones can affect our bodies in the long term. Optimism can really sweep in and remedy the problem. Having an optimistic disposition can also reduce inflammation in the body.
With this being said, science has shown how sunny optimism can rain down on your immune system in long periods of stressful situations. The stress we will be talking about could be a prolonged or chronic disease or something that can harm our immunity.
Dealing with the ugly truth
When stressful situations are normal and easy to handle, an optimistic outlook can be good to adopt. But when things start to get ugly, it's better to face the music rather than hide behind a facade of hope. Having a generally positive attitude can set you up for disappointment when things are going bad. This is called the disappointment hypothesis. Studies have shown that in presence of a prolonged stressor, optimistic individuals have decreased immunity and are more vulnerable than pessimistic ones.
Disengaging and moving on
There's another theory as to why optimistic individuals are more vulnerable to a negative impact on the immune system in times of long stress periods.
At times, even the best of us cling to the tiny glimmer of hope even though we know what we hope for will never happen. So does an optimist. But no, not a pessimist. He will let go, move on, and find something else to sulk about. This can be a good tactic when faced with long-term stressors. Being optimistic has its charm and benefits, but being prudent in the face of a prolonged stressor helps even an optimist to let go and move on. Be optimistic about something else. Some situations are hopeless and have to be accepted.
We can now see that being optimistic has its pros and cons. Our advice would be to keep your sunny side up when things are smooth and easy, and your game faces on in tough situations. After all, now you know how negative emotions and immunity share a connection, and how too many negative emotions can actually affect your health.
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- What You Need to Know About Positivity and Health. Available from: https://www.totalwellnesshealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Positivity-and-Health-Guide.pdf.
- Steptoe A, et al. Positive affect and psychobiological processes relevant to health. J Pers. 2009;77(6):1747-76.
- Segerstrom SC. Optimism and immunity: Do positive thoughts always lead to positive effects? Brain Behav Immun. 2005;19(3):195-200.