‘Emotional Diversity’ Is More Important Than Happiness

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By Crystal Ponti | The Science of Us

Happiness may be a state of mind, but it’s also a state of body. We already know that stress is bad for our health, and in recent years, a growing collection of research has taken things a step further, suggesting that beyond a simple lack of stress, it’s happiness that holds the key to health. The emotion doesn’t just make life more pleasant, studies have found; happier people feel better and live longer, too.

Well, maybe. In a new study published in the journal Emotion, a team of researchers made the case that happiness is hogging more than its fair share of the attention as the emotion most strongly connected to a healthier body. Rather, the study authors found, the ability to feel a wide range of positive emotions — what they termed “emotional diversity,” or “emodiversity” — may be the link to better health.


Lead author Anthony Ong, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology and professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, compares our emotional landscape to an ecosystem: “Emodiversity draws from research in the natural sciences on the benefits of biodiversity,” he says. An environment is healthier when various species all serve their own functional roles, and suffers when any one species is depleted or becomes overabundant, throwing off the balance. Similarly, he explains, emotions serve functional roles for people, helping them prioritize and regulate behavior to adapt to a given situation.

From a scientific standpoint, the biological processes that allow our emotional experiences to influence our health outcomes still aren’t very well understood. This latest study focused on one potential pathway: systematic inflammation, an immune response that’s been linked to chronic diseases like diabetes and osteoporosis, as well as increased risk of premature death.

Ong and his colleagues recruited 175 participants between the ages of 40 to 65 and asked them to keep a log of their emotions for 30 days. Each evening, participants rated the extent to which they had experienced 16 positive emotions that day — happiness was one of them, but the list also included enthusiasm, determination, pride, inspiration, and strength, among others. They also recorded any negative emotions they’d felt that day, like sadness, anger, shame, and guilt. Emodiversity was measured by the number of different emotions a person felt, as well as the overall distribution and the number of times each emotion was experienced. (“Specifically, low emodiversity is characterized by emotional experiences that are relatively homogeneous and concentrated in a few emotion categories,” Ong explains, “whereas high emodiversity reflects emotional experiences that are relatively diverse and distributed more evenly across categories.”)

Participants also had their blood drawn at two different points, once at the beginning of the 30-day study period and again six months later. When the researchers  analyzed the blood samples for three different markers of  inflammation, they found that the people with the lowest rates of inflammation were the same ones who reported a wide range of positive emotions.

[Read more here]

Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield (MA), and New England. He can be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail.com.

 

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