Under the Hood

Health And Happiness: Study Links Possible Connection Between Positive Emotions And Wellbeing

Is the secret to good health actually just a mental state? A new study from researcher Jennifer Stellar, which will launch this fall, is examining the effect that positive emotions might have on our physical wellness.

Researchers will examine the effect of happiness and good feelings on health; specifically they're hoping they’ll be able to link a feeling of awe with lower levels of inflammation and cortisol as well as an overall calmness in the body.

happiness Does happiness lead to better physical health? Photo courtesy of Pexels

Stellar and her team will study the biological and emotional responses of 300 people recruited to view a Toronto art exhibit, and collect data on participants’ cortisol levels, proinflammatory cytokines, heart and respiration rates through saliva samples.

"My research examines whether feeling these positive emotions has positive measurable outcomes for markers of health," Stellar said in a press release from the University of Toronto Mississauga. "The hope is that we will see that feeling awe leads to lower levels of inflammation and cortisol, and that we will see the body calm down, too."

A lot of recent research has focused on negative emotions — like embarrassment, disgust, or shame — but Stellar hopes to flip this study pattern on its head. Researchers will focus on positive emotions spanning compassion, happiness, awe, and gratitude.

"These outcomes will help us to understand or legitimize these emotions and show that positive emotions have a relationship with physical health," Stellar said. "They are doing a lot of heavy lifting in ways we don't realize." 

Source: Stellar J. The positive effects of positive emotions. Health, Emotions, & Altruism Laboratory. 2016.

Read more:

Positive Social Connections Linked to an 'Upward Spiral' of Positive Emotions and Good Health

Study: Women's Brains Are More Sensitive To Negative Emotions; React Differently Than Men's

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