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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Is Happiness Good For Your Health?

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 3rd 2006

Evidently the answer to the above question is yes, according to a study recently completed at the Carnegie-Mellon University Department of Psychology. The study found that people who scored high on positive emotional style were likely to resist colds and flu when they have been exposed. Positive emotional style was defined as being: lively, happy or calm. Negative emotional style was defined as being: tense, anxious, sad, depressed, angry, or hostile. In other words, the study demonstrates that positive emotions play an important role in helping people resist disease and remain healthy. Of course, there is never a guarantee that anyone will who is happy will never become ill.

The study lends further credence to idea that there is a direct connection between our emotions, stress level, level of depression and over all health. Many years ago a couple of psychologists (Rahe and Rahe) focused attention on the evidence that increasing amounts and types of stress have a cumulative negative affect on health when they occur in one year. Certain events like divorce, death of a spouse or loss of a job have a tremendous negative impact on our bodies.

But, What Can I Do If I have A Negative Emotional Style?

I can just imagine many people asking this question as they read this information. Actually, there are many things people can do to modify how they think and feel in the world.

  • There are many wonderful self help books on using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques. These techniques teach people to change automatic thoughts that cause them to feel depressed into more realistic ways of thinking that prevent depression.
  • The simple fact is that exercise is good for everyone and there is evidence that it reduces stress and depression. I often am told by people that they have no time to exercise but most of can find some time during the day when it is possible to go for a vigorous walk, or jog or do some other type of workout.
  • Meditation and Yoga are excellent ways to reduce stress and find a sense of inner peace. Meditation is something that can be done before going to bed and just after waking. It can also be used on the train or bus on the way to and from work. Here too, there are many books available to instruct people on how to do mediation.
  • Rhythmic breathing in which you slowly and deeply inhale as you count to five and exhale slowly, again counting to five, helps your body relax. Stress causes people to breathe in rapid and short breaths. Those rapid breaths actually increase stress and anxiety.
  • Use mental imagery to take yourself on a trip to a totally pleasant place and enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of that location. This can be a form of self hypnosis and also leads to a sense of well being.
  • Find leisure time to engage in favorite hobbies or do some fun activities.
  • Listen to soft and quiet music while relaxing.
  • Deep muscle relaxation, during which you tense and release pairs of muscles throughout your body, is excellent for releasing tension. This can even be done at work while sitting. It requires no equipment and is done in five minutes.
  • Laugh! And if you believe you have nothing to laugh about then watch funny movies, and read funny books and listen to funny comedians. We all need to laugh a lot more.
  • Make positive statements and repeat them to yourself during the day.

For example:

  • "I will let go of things I cannot control."
  • "I am healthy, vital and strong."
  • "There is nothing in the world I cannot handle."

Ultimately, it is important to seek psychotherapy if none of these things work in promoting well being and reducing depression, anxiety and stress. Professional help works well in helping patients learn how to cope with their lives. In addition, reducing depression and feeling good is important in maintaining good health.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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