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Resilience: Physical Health Benefits

Harry Mills, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 4th 2016

The first reason you should work to become more resilient is that the positive moods that you'll enjoy more of when you become more resilient are really good for your health.

Accumulating research suggests that the positive emotions (happiness, contentment, joy, etc.) are associated with healthy immune system functioning. Conversely, the negative emotions are associated with weaker immune function, greater production of stress hormones such as Cortisol, and greater incidence of illnesses. These findings suggest that how you habitually feel is much related to how vigorously you can resist illness.

To illustrate, consider that in one study depressed women suffering from breast cancer were found to have fewer immune system cells and weaker overall immune functioning when compared to non-depressed breast cancer sufferers. Because the immune system's job is, in part, to hunt down and kill cancer cells, depressed breast cancer sufferers weaker immune function means that their bodies are less likely to be able to resist their cancers. Another study found that depressed bone marrow transplant patients were significantly more likely to die during the first post-treatment year than were non-depressed transplant recipients.

Positive emotions are not just window-dressing; they are intimately tied up with your immune function efficiency and your physical health. If you can learn to cope better with stress so as to avoid becoming depressed, and to lessen the time you spend feeling negative you can have a positive impact on your emotional and physical health.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Literature and Personal support for EI - - Aug 20th 2006
Lots of papers on EI: I did a quick search on Emotional Intelligence on "BIOSIS Previews" which is a database of scientific papers of this type and it returned 37 results (probably about 2/3 journal papers i.e. peer reviewed). It seems to be an accepted term in research and academic circles even if it is not understood at group meetings. On a personal note, I can vouch for the 'oneness' of a healthy mind and a healthy body. I was ill and off work for about 4 years and only recovered when I got a sense of purpose by working as a part and then full time student and then going back to work.

EI? EQ? Now, ER? - BT Durham - Aug 16th 2006
I recently attended an Academy of Management Conference where a number of presentations were highly critical of emotional intelligence assessments, defintions, and utility. The most significant thing I heard during the symposiums was this: "Perhaps we should stop using the term "Emotional Intelligence" to label things which have less to do with intelligence -- and more to do with the Big 5." The term "Emotional Resilience" seems to work well as a descriptive label. However, the definition you presented appears to be a little imprecise for describing a state of being, competency, or personality factor. I wonder if anyone has put out a peer-reviewed paper on "Emotional resilience"?

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