If emotions have such a direct impact on our physical well-being and lifestyle, is the reverse also true? Does the way we live our lives the foods we eat, the physical activities we engage in, even how we worship influence our emotional health? The evidence says yes
If emotions have such a direct impact on our physical well-being and lifestyle, is the reverse also true? Does the way we live our lives the foods we eat, the physical activities we engage in, even how we worship influence our emotional health? The evidence says yes.
Our intake of vitamins and minerals stimulates the production of the neurotransmitters that regulate our physical and mental functions, including the way we process emotions. The minerals iron, magnesium and potassium serve as fuel for the brain, ensuring that it operates as it should. Particularly essential are B complex vitamins, such as Thiamine, Pyridoxine, Folic Acid and Vitamin B12. Even minor deficiencies of these nutrients can lead to depression and irritability, as well as hamper our ability to concentrate and stay motivated.
Unhealthy foods can adversely affect our emotional health. People who drink excessive amounts of caffeine demonstrate many of the same physiological and psychological symptoms as people suffering from *anxiety: increased blood pressure, a faster heart rate, muscle contractions *mood swings and irritability. A diet with too much sugar has been linked to depression, aggression and impaired judgment. In a famous experiment, a juvenile detention centre in Virginia cut back on sugary foods served to inmates. Candies, cookies and other sugar-rich desserts were replaced by wholesome snacks such as peanuts, cheese, carrots and popcorn, and instead of drinking soft drinks, the inmates started to drink fruit juice. After introducing the new diet, the detention centre saw a 77 percent drop in thefts and an 82 percent drop in assaults.
Exercise is another lifestyle factor that contributes significantly to emotional health. Numerous studies have shown that even short bouts of physical activity, ranging from eight to 10 minutes, can alleviate mild depression, calm aggression and reduce stress in people of all ages. By releasing endorphins in the brain, exercise causes our mood to elevate and gives us a natural high. A byproduct is that it makes us look better, helping us to feel better about ourselves.
Getting a good night's sleep refreshes and revives both body and mind, allowing us to think and understand our feelings more clearly. The hours of sleep an individual needs can vary, with some people requiring as little as five to six hours' rest and others requiring as many as nine or 10. Sleep-deprived people tend to become easily angered and have less perspective on their emotions than people who are well rested and maintain regular sleeping patterns.
Our surroundings also have a tangible effect on our emotions. Noise caused by increased urbanization has helped push people's stress levels to an all-time high, and poor air quality is another proven trigger for anxiety and aggression.
Cloudy, cold and rainy weather has been shown to make people feel gloomy, while sun and clear skies literally lead to sunnier dispositions. Many people find themselves depressed during the winter due to the lack of sunlight, a condition known as *Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
More and more experts have begun to acknowledge the role of spirituality in emotional health and, by extension, overall health. A 1995 study of elderly people who had undergone open-heart surgery found that those who received spiritual and social support from a faith community had three times the survival rate of those who did not. In a later series of studies, researchers at Duke University determined that people who followed a religion tended to have stronger immune systems than non-followers and were less prone to depression and high blood pressure. They surmised that the faith of religious adherents gave them an enhanced sense of well-being and helped to reduce their levels of stress.