Thursday, August 5

Is having a good mood good for your health? This says science

Good humor has health benefits. Numerous scientific works agree that facing the different circumstances of life with a positive attitude helps to enhance well-being, reduce the risk of physical or mental problems and make these can be better faced or solved more quickly.

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The expression good humor refers to a state of mind. That is, it is not about a particular emotion, which generally needs some specific external stimulus and is rather temporary. Good humor is a less intense and specific situation, but one that lasts for a longer time.

This state is manifested through signals or emotions that, in the case of good humor, are usually smiles and laughter, joy, tranquility, generosity and, in general, a feeling of well-being.

Satisfaction with one’s life

Good humor and the emotions that accompany it “enhance health and well-being and promote feelings of satisfaction with one’s life,” he explains in a Article the psychologist María del Carmen Neipp López, professor at the Miguel Hernández University, based in Elche.

Such positive emotions contribute to an increase in the production of endorphins, neurotransmitters with analgesic effects that generate well-being and even euphoria.

Its positive effects have repercussions not only at the brain level – in the limbic system – but also reach the endocrine, digestive, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, as indicated in a interview Begoña Carbelo, doctor in psychology and author of the book ‘Humor in the relationship with the patient’.

In addition, Carbelo adds, positive feelings also intervene in “the evolution and recovery of disease processes”, since they increase motivation, confidence and energy both cognitively and emotionally. In this way, the possibilities of achieving “a better and more agile adaptation” are increased.

Benefits of positive psychology

Until a few years ago, psychology and medicine in general had dealt almost exclusively with negative issues: identifying diseases, disorders, and problems and trying to cure them, or at least mitigate their effects.

However, since the beginning of this century, so-called positive psychology has gained more and more space, a trend that seeks to broaden that focus and “address the question of how to build and maintain a good life.” With those words they explain it, in a study, experts from the University of Michigan, in the United States.

What is a “good life”? Well, an existence that implies more than the mere absence of evils: it is a happy, healthy, productive and meaningful life. For this reason, positive psychology aims to study “what makes life worth living” and “people being and giving the best of themselves”.

The document clarifies that it is not a question of denying human problems and suffering, but of considering that “the good in life is as genuine as the bad and, therefore, deserves equal attention from psychologists.”

Techniques to strengthen good humor

Professionals who follow this trend have developed some intervention techniques that can, “in the short term, increase well-being and reduce problems such as depression.” Some of those techniques are:

-Tasting. They call this the exercise of “becoming aware of pleasure and deliberately trying to make it stay.” That is, “savoring” positive events. Those who share the good feelings with other people, create memories of those events (through photos, diaries, etc.) or pay more attention to the perceptions during those good times, generally feel more satisfied.

-Gratitude. The active decision to feel grateful for positive events, experts say, “increases optimism and satisfaction with life.”

All this, of course, makes good humor a positive state of mind. “Being optimistic, having hope and feeling happier – points out Neipp López – helps people to be able to adequately handle stress and adverse situations”, and also “they tend to experience less pain and disability related to chronic diseases”.

The sense of humor, also of great help

The sense of humor also plays an important role in this regard. This is, not good humor as a state of mind and the emotions and attitudes that derive from it, but as the ability to laugh, even in times of difficulty.

“The sense of humor and laughter are postulated as factors promoting resilience and as protective factors,” says a job by Argentine researchers published in 2019. The text points out that “people could increase control over their own physical health by cultivating experiences of positive emotions, thus creating a better quality of life.”

And he adds that, among other things, through humor one can “discharge anxiety, fear and anguish, as well as facilitate the expression of hostility, anger or aggressiveness in a socially accepted way.” Likewise, “it allows to appreciate the positive side of a situation, allowing to point out inconsistencies or contradictions”.

“You also need to laugh at misfortune,” emphasizes Begoña Carbelo. “Humor relieves tension and insecurity, balances the mood and makes it possible to compensate for unfortunate circumstances,” adds the specialist, who describes the ability to laugh even in those moments as “a gift of our human nature.”

The positive effects of laughter

The physiotherapist Cristina Sánchez Explain that the sense of humor also “allows us to experience peace and happiness even when faced with adversity.” And he lists the many positive effects of laughter:

-At a psychological level, it serves to reduce stress, improves self-esteem, activates regression processes (“at a previous level of mental or emotional functioning, generally as a mechanism to alleviate a reality that is perceived as painful or negative”), allows externalize emotions and feelings and alleviates depression.

-From the physical point of view, laughter works as an analgesic (thanks to the aforementioned endorphins), it strengthens the immune system and also the respiratory and circulatory systems. It also has the effect of a massage for the spine, improves digestion and even helps you sleep better.

-And it also has benefits at the social level, since, being contagious, it helps to change tense, sad or uncomfortable situations, disinhibits, improves communication and, consequently, strengthens interpersonal bonds.

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