Thoughtful Thursday…Are our emotions linked to our longevity...?
Welcome to Thoughtful Thursday. This GreenNote Fitness newsletter mindfully gathers and distills useful information that is supportive to our journey. It is my mission to educate, inspire, and propel you into action that moves you towards your goals and life of purpose. Take control of your journey today.
If we have a sunny outlook does that mean fewer colds, less heart disease, and decreased mortality? Do happier people actually live longer?
Researchers are piecing together the biology of the relationship between emotions and longevity. Specifically, a 2007 study conducted by Laura Kubzansky of the Harvard School of Public Health found that emotional vitality - defined as a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, engagement in life, and ability to face life’s stresses with emotional balance - significantly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, even when accounting for healthy behaviors such as not smoking and regular exercise.
Additional scientific literature shows for example, "chronic anger and anxiety have been proven to disrupt cardiac function by changing the heart’s electrical stability, hastening atherosclerosis, and increasing systemic inflammation. Even the sustained activation of the body’s stress response system resulting from early life experiences such as neglect, violence, or living alone with a parent suffering severe mental illness has harmful effects on the brain and other organ systems."
Kubzansky, drawing on data from a nationally representative study of older adults, is now mapping what she calls “the social distribution of well-being.” She is working with information collected on participants’ sense of meaning and purpose, life satisfaction, and positive mood, then tracking how these measures manifest across demographic categories such as race, ethnicity, education, income, and gender so that she can show how social environments can confer a better frame of mind and thus better physical health.”
So what can we do increase our emotional vitality and impact our energy levels and how we feel? There are many things we can discuss such as music, acupuncture, meditation, yoga, visualization, gratitude journaling. To keep things simple, I’m going to give you a method that you can do anywhere and is readily available to you - breath work. One style of breath work that I do every single day is box breathing. It is a simple technique that can be used to calm the mind and body during extreme stress, such as exposure to intense cold, after a hectic meeting, or as a cool-down from an intense workout.
What does box breathing look like?
Close your mouth and slowly breathe in through your nose for four counts. Hold your breath for four seconds. Then slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of four. Hold the exhale for another four counts. Doings this a few times through will help you achieve a more relaxed state. I generally will go through 20 cycles of this style of breathing first thing in the morning. I use a five count instead of four. Starting out I recommend you use a four count breath.
Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine has an app that teaches you his style of box breathing complete with audio cues and timers. When I’ve attended his academies, Mark leads us all in this box breathing technique before we begin the day’s lesson or after we return from lunch. It’s something very powerful to get us all centered and prepared to learn. He also uses this before meetings with his team.
We often struggle with constant distractions. It’s easier sometimes to scroll through Facebook or keep our social calendars or work schedules jammed pack instead of being alone with our thoughts. Thoughts sometimes need to be tamed. It takes practice. Lots and lots of practice. It can be done, one breath at a time.
Enjoy your journey,
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Did you miss last week’s newsletter on Tiny habits for lasting change ……?