Is a Bad Mood Bad “Body Food”?

Five Dramatic Impacts of Your Mood on Your Body (And What To Do About It)

Posted Sep 09, 2010

When we are having a "bad day" psychologically, we often forget about the impact of our "moods" on our bodies. Yet "mood" is processed in the brain which is in the same container we call body." It is no surprise then, that our bodies can be railed on by our moods, and here are seven situations when this occurs.

1. Anger: We know that when we are demonstrably angry we are often releasing pent-up rage, and this catharsis feels good, but may not necessarily be the best things for our bodies. Studies have shown that constructive anger decreases resting blood [1, 2] whereas destructive anger does not. In fact, low anger control predicts adverse events on the heart [3] and may also trigger a heart attack [4].

To Do: It is important when angry to have a positive goal attached to it. One way to do this is to start a conversation letting the person who made you angry know that you would like to talk about the anger, but that you only want to start doing this after you establish how this could bring you closer together, even though you don't feel close at that time.

2. Cynicism: Interestingly, cynicism leads to greater heart reactivity when it occurs along with being angry. That is, blood pressure fluctuates more. However, when a person is cynical but not angry, blood pressure fluctuations are actually less [5]. Cynicism though, has been found to be associated with diseases of the muscle and bone in women, and diseases of the heart in men [6].

To Do: Be aware of your burnout level and make the necessary adjustments to your workload or effort to feel less overwhelmed. If this is impossible, adjust your attitude to know what is possible and what is not prior to increasing your effort. Taking a step back from huge expectations can being much relief at a time when all you feel is gall.

3. Jealousy: Jealousy can cause greater physiologic reactivity in both men and women. Specifically, fears of infidelity cause heart rate and blood pressure both fluctuate more when people are activated by fears of infidelity [7]. Other than that, remember that jealous is also sometimes accompanied by fear and anger; hence the effects on your body are accentuated by those feelings.

To Do: Do not blame yourself for being jealous or judge this, but do try to reframe your feelings and get to the root of it. Living in a chronic state of jealousy may destabilize your physiology more than it is healthy for you.

4. Grief: Grief can hardly be described as an unnecessary "bad mood" as it is provoked by loss. However, holding onto grief without processing this can be harmful to your body. Grief may predispose to coronary heart disease [8]. This emphasizes the importance of dealing with grief rather than ignoring it. Having an eye on moving out of the grief state by talking about it and thinking about it deeply and learning how to let go is important.

To Do: Often, grief is the one feeling that people can associate with a lost loved one. As a result, they hold onto this. Grief, while normal and important after a loss, if it stays on too long, may jeopardize your physical health as well. Thus, grief counseling may be helpful if t seems like the grief is not going away.

5. Fear: In my book "Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons To Overcome Fear" I outline the effects of fear in great detail. The book shows how fear impacts the brain and what to do about this. One of the major problems with fear is that it can act completely outside of awareness. Even blind people may be able to detect a fearful face. Fear can impact the body in direct and indirect ways. For example, a recent study showed that children with asthma tended to exercise less due to fears of their parents [9]. Fear and anxiety may increase the sensation of pain [10]. Fear of falling in well elderly people affects the way they walk considerably. Fear can burden heart rate and breathing [11].

To Do:  Handling fear is very important.  Learning brain-based strategies by reframing your fears, refocusing on solutions and resolving conflicts can help re-engage your brain's attentional system to decrease fear.  Where fear and anxiety are intense, medications may be helpful.  Psychotherapy (CBT and other forms of therapy) can also be very helpful.

Thus bad moods can be bad body food and paying attention to your moods can improve your physical health. 

References

1. Davidson, K., et al., Increasing constructive anger verbal behavior decreases resting blood pressure: a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled hostility intervention. Int J Behav Med, 1999. 6(3): p. 268-78.
2. Davidson, K., et al., Constructive anger verbal behavior predicts blood pressure in a population-based sample. Health Psychol, 2000. 19(1): p. 55-64.
3. Haukkala, A., et al., Hostility, anger control, and anger expression as predictors of cardiovascular disease. Psychosom Med. 72(6): p. 556-62.
4. Fernandez, A.B., et al., Tendency to angry rumination predicts stress-provoked endothelin-1 increase in patients with coronary artery disease. Psychosom Med. 72(4): p. 348-53.
5. Why, Y.P. and D.W. Johnston, Cynicism, anger and cardiovascular reactivity during anger recall and human-computer interaction. Int J Psychophysiol, 2008. 68(3): p. 219-27.
6. Honkonen, T., et al., The association between burnout and physical illness in the general population--results from the Finnish Health 2000 Study. J Psychosom Res, 2006. 61(1): p. 59-66.
7. Harris, C.R., Psychophysiological responses to imagined infidelity: the specific innate modular view of jealousy reconsidered. J Pers Soc Psychol, 2000. 78(6): p. 1082-91.
8. Jurkiewicz, R. and B.W. Romano, Coronary artery disease and experiences of losses. Arq Bras Cardiol, 2009. 93(4): p. 352-9, 345-52.
9. Williams, B., et al., Low exercise among children with asthma: a culture of over protection? A qualitative study of experiences and beliefs. Br J Gen Pract. 60(577): p. 319-26.
10. Abbott, A.D., R. Tyni-Lenne, and R. Hedlund, The influence of psychological factors on pre-operative levels of pain intensity, disability and health-related quality of life in lumbar spinal fusion surgery patients. Physiotherapy. 96(3): p. 213-21.
11. Van Diest, I., et al., Fear-conditioned respiration and its association to cardiac reactivity. Biol Psychol, 2009. 80(2): p. 212-7.