The Inn of the Sixteenth Happiness
There are many states of happiness, but experiencing a diversity of emotions reduces your vulnerability to illness. The trick is, to prevent any one emotion from becoming dominant.
A study carried out by Weill Cornell Medicine found that recording your feelings and emotions of happiness, excitement and amusement actually reduced inflammation.
Unexpectedly, negative emotions like fear, shame and guilt had no impact on inflammation, which has always been linked to early death and chronic diseases like diabetes and osteoporosis.
Over a thirty-day period the researchers analysed the diaries of 175 people aged between 40 and 65. At the end of each day, the study’s participants rated the extent to which they had experienced 16 positive emotions during the previous 24 hours, ranging from interest and determination to happiness, excitement, amusement, pride, cheerfulness, and strength.
The participants also rated their experience of 16 negative emotions they felt that day, including fear, guilt, distress, nerves and sadness.
Six months later, blood samples from the participants were collected and tested for inflammation markers.
The results revealed that experiencing a wide range of positive emotions significantly reduces a person’s levels of inflammation. But experience of negative emotions had no effect on inflammation whatsoever.
It has long been known that emotions affect individual’s health, helping them to prioritize and regulate their behaviour in ways that help them to adjust to situational demands. This new research suggests that either a depletion or an overabundance of positive emotions has consequences for individual’s health.
The daily practice of identifying and categorizing feelings in specific terms may also help us experience different emotions in varying contexts.
Of numerous studies investigating the association between having a sunny disposition and improved health, 65% found a link. Researchers from the Universities of Utah and Virginia believe that happier people are more inclined to live a healthy lifestyle and that being content may directly benefit the health of the heart and immune system.
The researchers admit that the real extent of the benefits of being cheerful on our health is unclear. That is almost certainly because all human beings are different – both physically and mentally. Bodies age at different rates and have different susceptibilities to disease and illness and they experience different lifestyles, with all their ups and downs and of course individuals have different expectations of life.
The Weill Cornell Medicine study was published in the journal Emotion.
The 16 positive emotions that boost health – and the negative ones that have no effect:
POSITIVE [healthy impact]
Enthusiasm, Interest, Determination, Excitement, Amusement, Inspiration, Alertness, Activeness, Strength, Pride, Attentiveness, Happiness, Relaxation, Cheerfulness, Being at ease, Calmness.
NEGATIVE [no impact]
Being scared, Being afraid, Upset, Distress, Jitters, Nerves, Shame, Guilt, Irritation, Hostility, Tiredness, Sluggishness, Sleepiness, Feeling blue, Sadness, Drowsiness.