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  • Did you know that astronauts in space

  • have a hard time communicating without words

  • because their weightless bodily fluids make

  • their faces all puffy and hard to read?

  • Have you heard that Botox can actually

  • improve your mood, and not by smoothing wrinkles but

  • actually by easing depression?

  • Or that this "come here" gesture is

  • common in the US but is considered so rude in the

  • Philippines that it could actually get you arrested.

  • Yeah. All true!

  • Emotions and the ways we express them

  • are strange and powerful things.

  • And emotions aren't just ephemeral psychological

  • phenomena, they affect our bodies and our health.

  • Because so many emotions have a certain

  • contagious quality, our feelings and the behaviors

  • they drive also affect the minds, and bodies,

  • and health of those around us.

  • This is true whether your emotions of the moment

  • are of the feel-good variety.

  • Or not.

  • The powers of both positivity and negativity are

  • stronger than you may know.

  • Lots of studies have shown that people with a positive

  • outlook on life tend to live longer, more fulfilling lives

  • than their mean and grumpy neighbors.

  • Fear, anger, and other more difficult emotions

  • and how we handle them are pretty closely

  • related to this thing called stress.

  • And stress is so powerful that it can straight up kill you

  • in any number of ways, given the right opportunity.

  • For better or worse we spend a lot of our lives

  • swirling around like leaves on the winds of

  • competing emotions. Before we can hope to harness

  • these feelings, we first have to understand them.

  • [Intro]

  • What do you think this person is feeling?

  • How about him?

  • And her?

  • What about this one?

  • It's not really hard to tell, is it?

  • Most of us are better than we think at

  • reading non-verbal cues and subtle expressions.

  • The understanding among some, but not all,

  • psychologists, like emotion expert Paul Ekman,

  • is that facial expressions are culturally universal.

  • So a Greek, Britain, American, Samoan, or Nigerian

  • would all be able to discern the same basic emotions;

  • happiness, sadness, disgust, anger, fear, and surprise,

  • just by looking at your face.

  • And our expressions don't just communicate emotions.

  • According to the Facial Feedback Hypothesis,

  • they can help regulate our emotions, too.

  • The act of smiling broadly, even if you aren't happy,

  • can actually lift your mood just as scowling can lower it.

  • This is how, bizarrely enough, a recent randomized

  • controlled clinical trial suggested that a little Botox

  • injection in the forehead might actually lessen

  • depression.

  • 'Cause it's apparently hard to feel down if your

  • frowny muscles are frozen.

  • Of course whether your face is paralyzed or not, some

  • people are better at reading your emotions than others.

  • For example, introverts are usually better at interpreting

  • people's feelings, while extroverts are often better at

  • expressing them.

  • And you've probably heard embarrassing stories or even

  • experienced first-hand how different cultures express

  • emotions through particular gestures that are far from universal.

  • For example, in the United States, this is a peace sign,

  • but you don't want to flip it around in the UK.

  • And the iconic thumbs up gesture means "good job" in

  • many cultures, but if you toss that thumb around in

  • Greece, well let's just say you won't make any new

  • friends.

  • But of course emotions involve a lot more than making faces

  • and hand gestures, they're also about our

  • conscious experience of what we're feeling.

  • So how do we actually feel all these feels, and how

  • many different emotions are there?

  • Back in the 1970s, American psychologist Carol Izard

  • identified ten distinct basic human emotions present

  • from infancy on.

  • They are: joy, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust,

  • contempt, shame, fear, guilt, and interest or excitement.

  • Others have since suggested that "pride" should be

  • added to that list, and still others believe that love should

  • be classified as a basic emotion as well, but Izard has

  • argued that these and other emotions are just familiar

  • combinations of the classic ten.

  • Today, some psychologists describe our emotional

  • experience as using a 2-dimensional model.

  • The idea there is that any of the emotions you might feel

  • while, like, reading Harry Potter or something are

  • expressed on a spectrum, and as a combination of

  • valence, roughly speaking "good" or "bad", and

  • arousal--excited or not excited, basically.

  • So if you're feeling both really excited and super

  • positive when Harry finally bested Voldemort,

  • you could say you were elated. On the other hand,

  • if you're at that part in Deathly Hallows when Harry, Ron

  • and Hermoine are just sort of wandering around on the

  • lam in a heavy mood, maybe your emotions fell more on

  • the opposite side of the spectrum.

  • In this instance, feeling depressed might be a

  • combination of negative emotion and lack of excitement.

  • So potentially every emotion can fall in degrees on this

  • 2-dimensional scale. Like being terrified means you're

  • more frightened than if you're just scared, just as being

  • enraged is a more extreme form of anger than simply

  • being mad. These polarities--positive versus negative,

  • high arousal versus low arousal--affect our psychological

  • states, and therefore our bodies as well. Because, you'll

  • remember that what is psychological is ultimately

  • biological. And when it comes to the physical effects of

  • our emotions, it pretty much goes the way you might

  • expect. Happiness is helpful while chronic anger or

  • depression makes us vulnerable to all kinds of problems

  • with health and well-being. The good news is that if

  • we're angry or sad, we often over-estimate the duration

  • of our bad moods and under-estimate our capacity

  • to adapt and bounce back from traumas,

  • even if things feel hopeless, depressing, or stressful

  • in the thick of it.

  • And we've all experienced stress before, sometimes on

  • a daily or even hourly basis. Much like anger or joy,

  • stress can slowly build and simmer, or it can

  • strike suddenly and with great intensity.

  • And yeah, stress, certainly the chronic or extreme type

  • can be bad for your health, but defining stress

  • is trickier than you might think.

  • Psychologists would define stress as the process by

  • which we perceive and respond to certain events, or

  • stressors, that we view as challenging or threatening.

  • In other words, stress isn't technically an emotion, it's

  • more of a reaction to a disturbing or disruptive stimulus.

  • And our reactions stem in part from our appraisal of that

  • stimulus. A person can either roll with, or get worked up

  • about a missed flight, an increased workload, or a

  • strange thump in the house. These external stressors

  • typically fall into three main categories: catastrophes, or

  • unpredictable large scale events like war, natural

  • disasters and terrorist attacks; significant life changes,

  • things like moving, having a child, losing or getting a

  • job, or the death of a loved on; and then just everyday

  • inconveniences like getting caught in traffic, running

  • late, or feuding with your roommates.

  • Any of these stressful events, big or small, even the

  • good things, can fire up your sympathetic nervous

  • system and trigger that old fight or flight response.

  • In this way, it's important to understand that stress

  • is ultimately natural. You experience it for a reason

  • and a bit of short-lived stress can actually be a good

  • thing. It can make you active and alert when you need to

  • be, like an upcoming chemistry test might be stressing

  • you out, but that might help you find focus so you can

  • dominate that thing. And in your body, moderate stress

  • can kick the immune system into action to do things

  • like heal wounds, and fight infections. It does this by

  • triggering the release of stress hormones like

  • adrenaline and cortisol. These chemical messengers

  • are what get your organ systems to respond the way

  • you need them to when you're getting charged by a

  • bear, or focusing really hard on the gas law

  • for your chemistry test. But to also why chronic stress

  • can really wreck a body and mind, research has shown

  • that abused children have a high risk of chronic disease

  • and people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,

  • PTSD, which we'll talk about in an upcoming episode,

  • experience higher rates of digestive, respiratory,

  • circulatory, and infectious diseases. A lot of these

  • negative connections between your body's systems

  • have to do with the fact that many of its most basic

  • functions, like blood pressure, breathing, body

  • temperature, digestion, and heartbeat, are in part

  • regulated by the autonomic nervous system.

  • We've talked before about how the sympathetic side

  • of that system cranks you up, and the parasympathetic

  • arm calms you down, but both those systems also

  • interact with the so-called "brain-in-the-gut", the enteric

  • nervous system, which helps regulate gastrointestional

  • functioning. And it's this brain-gut connection that

  • explains how stress causes digestive problems,

  • because when that werewolf pops out of the bushes

  • and a wave of cortisol washes through you, your body

  • wants to focus its energy on sending blood to your

  • muscles so that you can react quickly.

  • Which is good, right?

  • But it may do that partly by shutting down digestion

  • or decreasing the amount of digestive secretions

  • and making your colon spasm; an anxious mind can

  • lead to an anxious gut. Stress is an even bigger risk

  • factor in North America's leading cause of death:

  • heart disease, because it contributes to increased blood

  • pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels in a number

  • of different ways. Essentially, when your stressed out

  • nervous system is redirecting all of its energy sources to

  • your muscles and brain, it pulls flow away from your

  • other organs. And one of those organs is the liver,

  • whose job includes removing the fat and cholesterol

  • from your blood. So basically, when a stressed liver

  • can't filter properly, that extra fat and cholesterol

  • ends up circulating in your blood, which can settle

  • around the heart.

  • Don't believe me?

  • One study monitored the blood cholesterol and clotting

  • speed of 40 male tax accountants throughout the year,

  • and it found that their cholesterol and clotting rates, and

  • thus risk of heart attacks, increased dramatically during

  • the weeks before tax day as they stressed out about

  • finishing their work.

  • And physiologically speaking, it's worth pointing out that

  • some close relatives to stress, when it comes to their

  • effects on the body, are pessimism and depression,

  • which also have been linked to stress and heart

  • disease. Many types of studies have found that people

  • characterized by their optimism, happiness, love, and

  • positive feelings often live significantly longer than their

  • grumpy, dour counterparts. Researchers

  • don't quite know exactly how chronic negative emotional

  • states influence health, but it may be some combination

  • of lifestyle or behavioral factors, like neglecting your

  • health, or not taking your heart meds when you're

  • feeling blue, or social factors like the way the depression

  • can be isolating and thus prevent others from helping

  • you out. Or biological factors, like increases in certain

  • kinds of inflammatory proteins released by the immune

  • system in response to stress and sadness.

  • So in the end, while stress may not directly cause

  • disease, you could say that the two walk hand-in-hand.

  • In that way, it isn't a stretch to say that chronic stress

  • can kill, so go ahead

  • take a deep breath,

  • feel your emotions,

  • appreciate them,

  • but don't let them run your life.

  • Today, we talked more about how our emotions work

  • and how we use facial expressions to help us

  • communicate. We also looked at the 2-dimensional

  • model of emotional experience and how anger,

  • happiness, and depression can affect our health.

  • We also discussed what stress does to your nervous

  • system and how chronic stress can damage the

  • functioning of your biological systems.

  • Thanks for watching, especially to our Subbable

  • subscribers who make Crash Course possible.

  • To find out how you can become a supporter just go to

  • subbable.com.

  • This episode was written by Kathleen Yale,

  • edited by Blake de Pastino

  • and our consultant is Dr. Ranjit Bhagwat.