The Biology of Joy

Image Caption : Our feelings of joy have many facets: compassion, love, happiness, laughter, contentment. These positive feelings are a message from the limbic area of the brain, telling us that things are going well. Current research is exploring how the hormones and neurotransmitters connected with our joyful feelings-especially dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin--may influence our longevity and quality of life. Joyful people have been found, in some studies, to have less pain, better cardiovascular health, and better memory.


Highly pleasant emotion characterized by outward manifestations of gratification; joy.

National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine

Mental Health

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhoodand adolescence through adulthood.

Mental illnesses are serious disorders which can affect your thinking, mood, and behavior. There are many causes of mental disorders. Your genes and family history may play a role. Your life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, may also matter. Biological factors can also be part of the cause. Mental disorders are common, but treatments are available.

"The Mind-Body Connection"

Doctors have pondered the connection between our mental and physical health for centuries. Until the 1800s, most believed that emotions were linked to disease and advised patients to visit spas or seaside resorts when they were ill. Gradually emotions lost favor as other causes of illness, such as bacteria or toxins, emerged, and new treatments such as antibiotics cured illness after illness.
More recently, scientists have speculated that even behavioral disorders, such as autism, have a biological basis. At the same time, they have been rediscovering the links between stress and health. Today, we accept that there is a powerful mind-body connection through which emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect our health.

Mind-body medicine focuses on treatments that may promote health, including relaxation, hypnosis, visual imagery, meditation, yoga, and biofeedback.

Over the past 20 years, mind-body medicine has provided evidence that psychological factors can play a major role in such illnesses as heart disease, and that mind-body techniques can aid in their treatment. Clinical trials have indicated mind-body therapies to be helpful in managing arthritis and other chronic pain conditions. There is also evidence they can help to improve psychological functioning and quality of life, and may help to ease symptoms of disease.

MedlinePlus / Friends of the National Library of Medicine (FNLM)

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