How does mood influence health?

By María del Carmen Neipp López, Miguel Hernández University

Before answering the question with which we titled this article, we have to know what is meant by mood and health.

Mood is the emotional state that prevails in an individual at any given time. On numerous occasions it is confused with emotions and it becomes necessary, therefore, to establish the differences between both concepts.

Emotion is defined as an intense reaction of the organism to the evaluation of certain external stimuli that produces certain physiological changes (in the voice, in facial expressions) and psychological (for example, in attention).

Differences between emotion and mood

The main differences between the two are that the mood lasts longer, is less intense and specific and does not necessarily need a stimulus to appear. Therefore, sometimes it is difficult to identify its cause. In addition, the mood has no facial expressions of its own, while the basic emotions do have them, being universal and following a unique pattern in all human beings.

For example, a person can infer that another is in a cheerful mood by seeing different facial expressions of joy (smile, raised cheeks, wrinkles around the eyes, etc.), but there is no distinctive facial expression of joy. .

When it lasts too long

Moods have a certain valence, they are located along a continuum between a good mood (activated) and a bad mood (depressed). In psychology, when a mood lasts a long time, it generates significant discomfort and interferes in different areas of a person's life (family, social, work, etc.) It is called affective disorder or mood.

Once the concept of mood is clarified, let's explain what is meant by health.

At present, this concept is understood as “the highest possible level of physical, psychological and social well-being, and of functional capacity, that allow the social factors in which the individual and the community live immersed”.

The relevant aspect of this health concept is the acceptance that personal, group, social and cultural factors are involved in the state of health.

Therefore, there is no doubt that different moods can influence people's health and can facilitate or hinder the way people function in their daily lives.

Anger is not a disorder

Sometimes, some people may feel sad, angry or irritable and may say they are in a bad mood, but that does not mean they have a mood disorder. As I said before, in order for it to be considered a disorder, it is necessary that it lasts over time and hinders people's daily lives, interfering with personal, social or labor relations.

Traditionally, in the scientific literature, the influence of negative moods or affective disorders on health has been given greater importance than the influence of positive moods.

WHO indicates that affective disorders (depressive disorders and bipolar disorders) negatively affect health in all areas: mental, physical and social. That is, people who suffer from depressive disorders often have no interest in doing daily activities, are sad, have low self-esteem, have a hard time concentrating and making decisions, are irritable, feel tired, have trouble sleeping, often experience a lot stress and do not believe they are capable of handling these stressful situations.

To solve this, it is often necessary that they go to health professionals so that they can help them manage these states through pharmacological and psychological treatments.

Now, what happens when we are happy, happy and in a good mood? How does that influence our health?

In recent years, in psychology there is a tendency to investigate not only the negative and pathological aspects, but also the positive variables related to health. Thus, at the beginning of the 21st century, Positive Psychology appears, which is the scientific study of human strengths and virtues and positive experiences that help improve people's quality of life.

To more optimism, greater well-being

One of the central themes of the study of positive psychology has been moods and positive emotions (example: happiness, laughter, good humor, joy and tranquility, among others). The scientific literature indicates that these positive moods enhance health and well-being and favor feelings of satisfaction with one's life.

Being optimistic, having hope and feeling happier helps people to be able to properly handle stress and adverse situations. In addition, people who experience high levels of positive emotions tend to experience less pain and disability related to chronic diseases.

María del Carmen Neipp López, Professor of Psychology. Miguel Hernández University of Elche, Miguel Hernández University

This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original.