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Positive Emotions Like Joy and Humor Help People "Get the Big Picture" and Live Longer

You may recall one of the more popular articles I've posted in recent months: A pair of studies that demonstrate how positive emotions can lead to a far healthier quality of life as well as slow down the aging process. Along those same lines comes a new study from the University of Michigan that demonstrates how emotions like joy and humor work to help people better understand "the big picture" that can eliminate societal problems like racial bias.

Joy and happiness go far to promote the long-term survival and big-picture thinking that makes people more gregarious and inclusive and notice more details about the world around them. Viewing the world this way prevents people from thinking, for example, members of other races "all look alike," according to the lead researcher. On the other hand, negative emotions create a kind of "a tunnel vision" that's only useful for short-term situations, like the immediate danger one might feel being chased by a dangerous animal.

To simulate the quick glance of a stranger, scientists flashed photos of individuals for about a half second in random order after reading a book or watching a movie that would influence their emotions positively, negatively or neutrally. Although participants recognized members of their own race 75 percent of the time, they only noticed members of another race 65 percent of the time. However, researchers found positive emotions boosted that recognition of cross-race faces about 10 to 20 percent, eliminating the gap.

Just another great example conventional medicine is starting to come around to my way of thinking, meaning the strong connection between the healing process and emotional health. If you read my blog often, you know how much I believe the spirit within us works in concert with our bodies to strengthen the whole person. And that negative thoughts and emotions eventually hurt your body in some way.

Some tools to help you maintain a positive outlook and improve your overall health:

EurekAlert February 1, 2005

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