We all know and love that Friday feeling. A hard week at work complete, the excitement of the weekend ahead, seeing your friends or going to a party - it definitely gives you a little buzz. But does the way we feel impact our body? How powerful are our feelings on our physiology? How can something so small such as a weekly feeling even help our immune system? Well, you’ve probably all heard of the placebo effect and that scientists have to control for it in studies. So, what is to say our mood and thinking can’t affect us more regular in daily or in this case, weekly Friday feelings?
Happy life, happy immune system?
Evidence from many studies suggests that mental states such as happiness can influence health considerably. Our mood can regulate and change our internal chemistry and release hormones such as endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine that effect the body physically. A long-term study found that happiness was associated with a 22% lower risk of heart disease over the 10 years. Further work is needed to understand the mechanisms fully but studies looking at happiness and the immune system susceptibility to infection have also been interesting. When 300 people were given the common cold via nasal dose, the study concluded that those with positive emotional style had a statistically lower risk of developing a cold. Furthermore, studies have even shown that vaccines have been more effective on individuals defined as positive.
Stress, the enemy of the immune system?
What we don’t fully know yet and haven’t been able to isolate is whether it is the happiness itself or the absence of negativity and stress that has the positive effect on the immune system. Stress and negative thoughts release hormones such as Cortisol. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is produced by your adrenal glands and is best known for helping your body’s fight or flight response. This is an important function in evolutionary terms as in cases of stress such as an imminent environmental danger, it can kick our body into gear and give us more energy. But it’s important that after the event, our cortisol and stress levels return to a normal balance. Today, we are often under chronic stress of work and life, which can lead to issues in the immune system and even can immunologically age our immune system. It has also been shown that stress can actually dampen our immune response which could lead to great risks of issues or infection.
A logical conclusion – don’t worry be happy.
So, could that little Friday feeling effect your immune system? Well, we are of course (not very scientifically) deducing that a feel-good Friday will make you feel happy and less stressed which has been shown to play a positive role in your immune function. A logical, if not quite scientific conclusion but an important one nonetheless as one study in older adults showed that those with negative thoughts down regulated the effectiveness of the immune system and specifically reduced the effectiveness of white blood cell cytokines when presented with a virus.