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Emotions have big benefits on our immune system, scientists say

  Positive emotions motivate us to broaden our horizons [Courtesy, Freepik]

Studies by emotions scientists have found that feelings such as laughter, curiosity, amusement and awe have big health benefits on our immune system. From reduced inflammation, and pain relief to increased levels of dopamine, there are tangible benefits behind these emotions. 

Emotion scientists (Affective science is the scientific study of emotion or affect, which includes the study of emotion elicitation, emotional experience, and the recognition of emotions in others), say these feelings carry big benefits as they inspire us to explore places like the ocean, while improving memory and immune functions.  

This is because positive emotions motivate us to broaden our horizons as they are particularly potent in inspiring us to explore, learn, and connect to others and the bigger world. 

“Emotions of wonder often involve a violation of expectation, when you encounter something you don’t expect or that leaves you clueless or speechless, with the unexpected, and the ‘wow!’ built into our brains do not only make us happy but also carry health benefits,” says Scientist Robert Fuller, a professor of religious studies at Bradley University. According to the Professor, such emotions are the engine behind some of our world’s great minds. “A wonder and curiosity for the physical world drove Sir Isaac Newton to study and discover the laws that govern our universe., while a sense of awe for space exploration inspired engineer Yvonne Brill’s pioneering work on propulsion systems for rockets,” he says. 

Here’s a scientific look at how the wondrous emotions enrich our lives. 

Surprise: Although shock may be accompanied by fear, surprise triggers interest and enhances memory, learning, and focus. 

Interest: Emotion experts consider interest the first emotion, as seen in a newborn’s wide-eyed focus on a parent’s face. Research has revealed that curiosity can have two “faces”: a positive face—a desire that anticipates pleasure at finding out about the unknown—and a negative face, a hunger for knowledge that’s not satisfied (like children impatiently waiting to unwrap holiday presents that have been sitting out for weeks). 

Amusement: You may not assume so, but having fun is good for your health. It lowers stress levels, helps you foster better relationships, and can help you get better sleep, positively affecting both your mental and physical health. The scientists further say the ability to manufacture and feel amusement can help us tamp down a negative emotion, a type of emotional regulation. 

Awe: According to Scientist and Researcher, Dacher Keltner, co-director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley, “Awe is the emotion that occurs when your expectations are blown out of the water, it is how you feel when watching the sunset, being at a sports event with 10,000 other fans, experiencing a spiritual ritual”.  

Survival strategy: Emotion scientists say that emotions are very complex and operate on many levels: through our facial and body movements, our autonomic nervous system (which controls involuntary functions such as heartbeat and breathing), our somatic nervous system (involving five senses and voluntary muscle movements), and in our conscious and subconscious minds.


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