Article Discussion of “Emotional States and Physical Health”
The article “Emotional States and Physical Health” begins with the statement that “emotional states may promote healthy perceptions, beliefs, and physical well-being itself” (Salovey, Rothman, Detweiler, & Steward, 2000, p. 110). The authors of the article, while approaching their research topic, focused on several areas of psychological study such as; what the direct effects are of positive emotion on physiology, particularly on the immune system; the information value of emotional experiences; the psychological resources engendered by positive feeling states; the ways in which mood can motivate health-relevant behaviors; and the elicitation of social support (Salovey, Rothman, Detweiler, & Steward, 2000, p. 110). In accordance with the beliefs and philosophical studies of the classical Greek physician Hippocrates, positive emotions and healthy outcomes are linked. Overall, the article’s base of research is the examination of “emotional states on physical health and considers the range of physiological, cognitive, social, and behavioral factors that may serve to link emotional experience with health” (Salovey, Rothman, Detweiler, & Steward, 2000, p. 110). Through an analysis of the research of others, the article’s authors found that optimism, in general, benefits individuals physiologically and psychologically as well if they are faced with diseases such as cancer. It is also important to note that suppressing negative emotions is not beneficial, but rather, recognizing and expressing the negative emotions towards physical ailments helps to reduce those physical ailments and promotes healthy, more positive, mental states to deal with the ailments (Salovey, Rothman, Detweiler, & Steward, 2000).
I agree that with the findings of the article and the research that was used to support it. It is very interesting to find that a correlation does in fact exist between positive thoughts and positive outcomes when coping with physical ailments. I know that I have experienced this phenomena in the most basic and fundamental way. Whenever my state of mind is strongly negative such as in depression or long periods of stress, I inevitably become ill. Depending on how long the stress or depression lasts is almost always tied to the length of the illness. I find this interesting in light of the fact that “negative emotional experiences may not always facilitate care-seeking” (Salovey, Rothman, Detweiler, & Steward, 2000, p. 114). I know that this is true of myself and I have seen it in other people. People with negative emotional states not only disregard their symptoms, but refuse to acknowledge the possibility that the sources for their symptoms are serious physical ailments because they cannot mentally handle the implications, so they instead refuse to seek physician help, tests, and other sources that they would have to face. In contrast, “positive emotional states can facilitate healthy behavioral practices by providing the resilience that people may need to confront the possibility that they might have or develop a serious health problem” (Salovey, Rothman, Detweiler, & Steward, 2000, p. 115). In addition, the researchers point to evidence that reveals that interpersonal contact offers a final path through which emotional states can affect health. People who have a strong network of social support are less prone to illness and mood disturbances when faced with increased stress levels than individuals without considerable social support. Social support provides feelings of security for the individual facing health challenges, knowing that they can call upon those for help if needed and therefore being able to concentrate mentally on the recovery process. The article concludes by acknowledging that “our understanding of how positive mental states affect physical health has been informed not only by studying the positive, but by focusing on the negative as well” (Salovey, Rothman, Detweiler, & Steward, 2000, p. 117). The negative mental and physical side effects of negative emotional states become apparent with research, and through understanding the negative physical and mental effects of negative emotions and negative thought processes, one can work towards and consider how beneficial optimism is for health and wellbeing.
The article in question is based on years of peer-reviewed research from a number of various sources. I cannot find fault with their methods or their conclusions. In my opinion, which has been supported by the evidence presented here, I believe that it is very important for people to maintain optimistic attitudes for fostering hope, encouraging life-progress, recovering from physical ailments, and having the positive belief that life will, and must, continue after these physical or mental ailments are dealt with. As a final thought, the article sites an interesting study by Walter Cannon from 1957 in which he spent several decades studying voodoo death and the possibility that people can be literally scared to death; having the mental shutdown from fear of dying that results in physical shutdown. Cannon’s research and the research of others “help to illuminate mechanisms connecting all emotions, pleasant and unpleasant, to various physical health endpoints from well-being to mortality” (Salovey, Rothman, Detweiler, & Steward, 2000, p. 117). There is a definite connection, even if not totally understood, between optimism and its effects on our physical and mental states of being.
Salovey, P., Rothman, A., Detweiler, J., & Steward. (2000). Emotional States and Physical Health. American Psychologist, 110–121.