When we are in a good mood, we feel full of energy, vital and healthy. Conversely, when we are in a bad mood, we have the feeling that there is something wrong with our body. Why does this happen?
Last update: May 13, 2020
We have spent decades wondering if diseases or various ailments can be related to our emotions and feelings. Only in recent times, however, some of the research has been devoted to analyzing how mood affects health.
It is known that pain depends to some extent on our perception, as well as our state of mind. Although the biological origin of some diseases is known, this does not allow us to fully explain them. It is in these cases that many professionals identify a possible psychological origin of the disease.
In this sense, it is less clear what the mechanisms by which mood affects health may be. The difficulty in clarifying these mechanisms lies in the fact that a wide range of social, cognitive, physiological and behavioral factors must be considered. In addition to this, it is necessary to understand if these mechanisms have a direct or indirect influence on the disease.
How mood affects health
Emotions can affect the physiological functioning of our body. There is a lot of evidence that negative emotions are linked to vulnerability, the duration of infections and healing processes.
This may be due to the fact that a positive mood is accompanied by the secretion of an antibody: secretory immunoglobin A. This substance protects us from the common cold, for example.
The mood, therefore, would increase or decrease the response of the immune system. It has been found that people who have a negative mental state or who deal with prolonged stress over time are more sensitive to cold or are less resistant to more serious illnesses.
The subjective state of health
Emotions not only directly determine physiological factors, but also condition our thoughts. It means that a negative mental state would facilitate the formation of negative thoughts that recognize and interpret physical symptoms as a health problem.
Numerous laboratory studies of how mood affects health showed that when participants were induced to be sad, they indicated a greater amount and severity of disease symptoms. This occurs because people with a negative mood are more attentive to their bodily sensations. Any sensation, therefore, even if slight, will be interpreted as a cause for concern.
The search for medical assistance
In relation to the above, one might think that people who are more attentive to the reactions of the body and to their health tend to consult a doctor before others. Studies in this regard, however, show the opposite.
It seems that people who are emotionally worse off feel less capable of engaging in health care behaviors and go to the doctor less. It is as if they think that nothing (or little) can be done to get better.
Furthermore, they can attribute symptoms to mood and postpone medical consultation. Conversely, when a person is emotionally better, they are more motivated to stay healthy and take care of themselves.
On the other hand, it seems that mood and seeking medical care are linked to the ability to deal with possible negative news. Going to the doctor means exposing yourself to a threat, as you may receive worrying news.
When the mood is positive, you can better manage the information received because you have more resources to do so.
The mood, in addition to directly influencing the perception of the disease and the functioning of our body, also affects our behaviors.
In this sense, when we are in a bad mood, we tend to eat poorly, consume more alcohol, do less sports, etc. In the case of tobacco use, for example, most smokers say they use it to regulate or improve mood or to reduce stress.
In general, we can say that these behaviors are adopted with a regulatory function, that is to control in some way the influence of mood on health, to get better or to reduce negative feelings. There is no doubt that these behaviors are directly related to health.
It follows that if we increase unhealthy behaviors due to mood, our health will suffer both in the short and long term.
Mood and health: what to do?
In light of the above and knowing that negative emotions are inevitable, it is important to establish healthy habits.
These habits, although sometimes thwarted by our mood, will offset some of its negative effects. Moreover, even when the mood changes, if we have the right coping strategies, the suffering will be less as well as its effects.