How Positive Emotions Lower Inflammation
By: Dr. Libby Darnell
Picture this: You’re having a great day at work, loving life, you have some pep in your step, and suddenly your boss storms out of her office upset about something, and POOF! Your positive mood is destroyed.
Now the entire office is walking on eggshells, and your positive energy has plummeted. Studies have long documented how negative emotions like sadness, anger, and grief have a negative impact on our health. Yes, your angry boss can affect your health!
Emotions, positive or negative, have the ability to drastically influence our overall health. That is why I focus on mindset when I first start working with clients.
No amount of customized healing protocols can restore a person’s health if they have a negative mindset. If a client is doing everything in their power to get well, yet they have a friend or spouse constantly undermining their goals, more often than not their progress will stall.
Protecting your mind is JUST as important as protecting your physical body when it comes to the healing process.
A new two-part study recently conducted at the University of California – Berkeley has demonstrated that if you have health goals there are certain emotions that will help you lower inflammation faster.
These studies measured the levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a marker for inflammation that is a reflection of the body’s immune system. Both studies demonstrated that positive emotions were associated with lower levels of IL-6, which translates into lower levels of inflammation within the body.
Researchers went even farther to see which emotions were associated with the lowest IL-6 levels. Results showed that joy, awe, pride, and contentment performed the best! Overall, awe had the largest impact on lowering levels of inflammation in the body.
This leads to the question, “How can I experience more awe in my life?”
Can you think of the last time you felt in awe of something or someone? I believe it’s different for everyone. For me, seeing people display their God-given talents is awe inspiring.
When I watched Idina Menzel belt out “The Wizard and I” in the musical Wicked I truly felt awe. At the same time, watching a street performer execute a flawless dance routine has the same impact. Even watching “American Ninja Warrior” makes me in awe of the raw talent those athletes possess.
What is awe inspiring to you?
Typically awe is felt in social settings, surrounded by friends or family, and as a shared experience. When I work with clients one-on-one I have them fill out my Happiness Journal, which is a series of daily questions and “homework.”
The homework is usually centered around serving others with the talents God has given us. Often times, when someone is sick it is easy to stay focused on ourselves, and lose sight of how much we can still help the people around us.
If you’re looking to experience true awe I would encourage you to find a way to serve. Gather a group of friends or family and check out Volunteers of America, a volunteer ministry with offices all over the The United States. Another great resource is Ample Harvest, which is a directory of American Food Pantries that can use your help volunteering.
What is truly amazing is that helping others will actually help you. Becoming awe inspired as your community pulls together to help those in need will lower inflammation in your body, and help you feel better faster.
How amazing is that? Take a minute to think about some other ways that you personally become awe inspired and make it a new goal to incorporate those activities into your week.
I always say if you don’t schedule it, it simply won’t happen. Open your calendar, find a free afternoon, and get awe-inspired.
Cheers to your health and happiness!
Don’t forget to download my 4 Minutes to a Happier You Journal
and start increasing your happiness and health today!
- Murray, Michael ND. The Importance of Being Awe Inspired. Well Being Journal. March/April 2017. P 22.
- Stellar JE, etc. Positive Affect and Markers of Inflammation: Discrete Positive Emotions Predict Lower Levels of Inflammatory Cytokines. Emotion. 2015: 15(2): p 129