Positive Emotions Essential for Good Health

Positive Emotions Essential for Good HealthPositive Emotions Essential for Good Health

Energy flows where attention goes, is a philosophy on well-being that resonates with individuals who are seeking positivity.

Now, a new review suggests this is the case when it comes to happiness and depression. It seems the same genes that steer us toward depression can also open us to positivity. Researchers call for a new framework that takes into account both cognitive and genetic factors as a way of developing personalized therapies.

The review is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry and is led by Prof. Elaine Fox, from Oxford University in the United Kingdom, and Prof. Chris Beevers, from the University of Texas in Austin.

Fox and Beevers say that there is a clear need to combine research on mental health genetics and cognitive biases, reported.

“Cognitive biases are when people consistently interpret situations through particular mental ‘filters’ - when people have a cognitive bias that emphasizes negative aspects or thoughts, they are more at risk of mental health disorders,” explains Beevers.

Health is more than simply the lack of disease, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among the resources for health, the CDC lists “positive emotions” as essential: “There is no consensus around a single definition of well-being, but there is general agreement that at minimum, well-being includes the presence of positive emotions and moods (e.g., contentment, happiness), the absence of negative emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety), satisfaction with life, fulfillment, and positive functioning.”

Fox notes that when “you take a gene that is linked to mental illness, and compare people who have the same genetic variant, it becomes clear that what happens to their mental health is based on their environment.”

She is currently conducting research into the combined genetic and environmental effect on mental filters. Called the CogBIAS project, it is funded by the European Research Council.

Fox and Beevers note that negative cognitive biases and genetic variation have been linked with risk of psychopathology in independent research lines. However, they believe these research fields can be combined.

They recommend cognitive processing of emotional information as a way to positively harness how differential susceptibility affects psychological well-being.

“We suggest that while no gene ‘causes’ mental ill health, some genes can make people more sensitive to the effects of their environment,” says Fox.