The correlation between positive emotions and good health is well known. What is less known is how these emotions impact health. An article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science points out how positive emotions may be acting as an antidote to stress, pain and illness—especially against poor health among the aged. The article suggests that the emotional health of people could affect their lifestyle choices: they could be exercising regularly and making sure they sleep well. Further, because of their stable emotional state, they could also be avoiding unhealthy habits such as smoking and risky sex. The benefits of these choices are most evident in old age, when people are more susceptible to ill health.
Positive emotions are also known to lower the level of chemicals that are associated with stress-related inflammation, and can even reverse, to some extent, the physical damage caused by stress.
One proof of this effect is pointed out in the paradox of ageing, where, despite significant loss of bodily function, a person’s emotional capacity seems to stay consistent with age. Therefore, as the study points out, people can extend their years of satisfied life despite old age just through the power of thought.▪