In Part Four of our anti-aging series we looked at sleep and its surprising contributions to anti-aging. To wrap up this series, we will now turn our attention to your emotional reserves and how to build them in a way that contributes to wellbeing and anti-aging.
What exactly are emotional reserves? First of all, at the most simplistic level, it means that your basic emotional and physical needs are being met. If this is not the case, then any stressful event in your life, even relatively minor ones, can easily threaten your ability to face life head on and to build a better quality of life for yourself and your family. If you feel constantly under threat, then your body goes into stress response mode. One of the many things that happen when you are under stress is that your sympathetic nervous system signals your adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenalin and cortisol into your bloodstream.
Your body is simply trying to protect you from the signal it is getting from your brain…that you are under a threat of some kind. And no matter that this threat is probably not the threat of bodily harm. Most likely the threat is entirely mental…stemming from worries over financial pressures, relationship difficulties, concern over children, elderly parents (or both!) and a hundred other things most of us face from time to time.
In the short term, adrenalin will help you run fast if you cross paths with a hungry bear while walking in the woods. Cortisol helps to regulate a variety of bodily systems, including blood sugar regulation, and helping to metabolize fats, carbohydrates and protein. But if your emotional reserves are depleted and stress becomes chronic, these hormones can wreak havoc on your body, including elevating your blood pressure, suppressing your immune system and literally speeding up the aging of your cells.
For now, let’s assume your basic emotional and physical needs are being met. What if you could build an even larger emotional reserves reservoir that would be there in case of a major life event? The good news is that you can!
We’ve already covered many of the important ways to do this in this series, including regular exercise, adequate sleep and proper nutrition but there is another way to add to your emotional reserves that goes beyond these basics: Taking advantage of positive emotions.
In 2001, psychologist and researcher Barbara L. Fredrickson postulated a new theory on the role of positive emotions on physical and mental health, specifically their ability to build psychological resilience, in other words their ability to strengthen and build your emotional reserves. Since then, her findings have led to a whole host of other studies supporting her work and researchers continue to investigate the best ways to apply her findings.
I plan on addressing positive emotions and how to experience them regularly in your life in another article. Meanwhile, I’d love to know any thoughts you have on our anti-aging series in the comments below!