Research has found a link between an upbeat mental state and improved health, including lower blood pressure, reduced risk for heart disease, healthier weight, better blood sugar levels, and longer life.
By using brain imaging, researchers have found that positive emotions can trigger “reward” pathways located deep within the brain, including in an area known as the ventral striatum
One of these researchers (Davidson) says: “Individuals who are able to savor positive emotions have lasting activation in the ventral striatum. The longer the activation lasts, the greater his or her feelings of well-being.”
Continued activation of this part of the brain has been linked to healthful changes in the body, including lower levels of a stress hormone.
Negative emotions, in contrast, can activate a brain region known as the amygdala, which plays a role in fear and anxiety.
“We’ve shown that there are big differences among people in how rapidly or slowly the amygdala recovers following a threat,” Davidson says. “Those who recover more slowly may be more at risk for a variety of health conditions compared to those who recover more quickly.”