In the international bestseller, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell explains how researchers who study mind-reading using body language and facial expressions found that the old clichéd advice to smile when you're feeling down really works.
Just moving those facial muscles into a happier position can actually perk you up mentally and emotionally, say the researchers, who are finally beginning to understand and accept the link between mind and body.
Other research has found that simply recalling one episode of anger depresses the immune system for up to seven hours ? but one episode of feeling compassion or caring enhances the immune system for about the same amount of time.
A happy outlook towards life appears to trigger the release of endorphins. Endorphins relax the cardiovascular system and cytokines, which alert the immune system to pay attention in detecting abnormalities like cancer cells.
Even though the physiological make up of emotions themselves have not yet been identified, some researchers suspect that a small portion of the brain called the insular cortex may be the key.
The insular cortex regulates the autonomic nervous system, which controls the automatic functions of our body such as breathing heartbeat and blood pressure. It also plays a role in higher brain functions and helps to process anger, fear, joy, happiness and sexual arousal.
When the insular cortex is stimulated for long periods of time, it can change heart rate and blood pressure and even cause a kind of damage to the heart muscle that is similar to sudden cardiac death. Its not surprising then, that sorrow, anger and other negative emotions can cause a malfunction of the insular cortex.
Whatever happens in those six inches between your ears, one thing is certain. Optimism, laughter, love and other positive emotions can counteract many harmful effects at any age, even in your sixties, seventies, and eighties, and beyond!
Research has shown that positive attributes as dependability, trust, agreeableness and open-mindedness are associated with a two to four year increase in life expectancy.
Let's explore some tips for developing a better outlook on your world.
Listen carefully to yourself. If you have put yourself down since childhood, over a lifetime negative subliminal message can take their toll by turning you into a pessimist.
Spend one week writing down the phrases you use in your "self talk." Chances are you will find that you repeat a dozen or so phrases over and over again that reinforce that negative image. If you know about them, you can change them.
If an issue is not resolved it will continue to plague you and you will relive the negative emotions tied to that issue over and over again. Write yourself a letter spending about 20 minutes a day for four days and write about what you feel. Forget grammar, punctuation and so on. No one else will see this but you and you can throw it away when finished.
Once you begin to write, don't stop until the time is up. This exercise will help you organize your thoughts and get them out of your system. By the end of the four days most people feel much better about themselves.
Seek out new challenges and opportunities. Always have something that is a goal just over the horizon. When you begin to close the gap and reach that goal, set another and another. Keep yourself consistently moving ahead.
Try and do one new thing every week or month. Visit a museum, go to the zoo, go to a book signing or lecture. The goal here is to eliminate monotony, which is a sure killer of optimism.
Look for a new marvel of nature each day. Discover an abundance of happiness. Spoil your pet or if you don't have one, visit the human society and adopt one.
Learn to laugh at yourself. Allow yourself to experience grief but don't let it control you.
Find someone who is worse off than you and lend a hand. Volunteer at a hospital; visit a nursery or a shelter.
Have a healthy sex life. Sex at middle age can actually become better and more satisfying than ever before.
Don't wait to plan for your retirement. Waiting until you are 60 will have very bad repercussions on the quality of life for your remaining years.
Here are a few quick tips for increasing joy, hope and optimism that will work no matter what your age:
Make a list of at least 50 great things that happen to you every day.
Laugh a lot. You'll heal your body and your mind.
Discover a new challenge each month.
Try meditating for just five minutes each day.
Copyright © 2005 Priya Shah
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