6 Negative Emotions That Will Affect You Physically

I spent years in a clinical laboratory analyzing blood and every other bodily fluid that we humans can produce. I routinely saw lab results showing blood chemistries in or out of the norm as evidence of some disease or degenerative state present in each patient. During and after my laboratory years, I’ve been a seeker of information to help understand which life choices we can make that are more likely to lead to better health--and hopefully help keep those lab results within normal ranges.

Learning about the physical effects of our environment on our bodies has been easy to understand. Nutrients in the form of food and drink clearly have an effect on our health as well. But what has been most intriguing to me is the effect that our emotions play in our lives and which states of emotion might lead to a healthier life or looming disaster.

So what’s this about negative emotions affecting our health? Consider the following thought: “I’m ANGRY! So what? I have a good reason, it’s my reason and I’ll stay mad as long as I want.”

Have you ever had those type of thoughts---even for a minute or two? How many of us have sailed through life, and have never been scared, hurt, betrayed, or otherwise emotionally wounded by someone? Right...NO ONE. We’ve each had a lifetime of good, and even great reasons to carry grudges, resentment and anger--but at what cost?

If such negative triggering events are so common, can we handle them in a better way? It’s important because holding on to grudges, resentment and anger does not end inside our heads. It affects us physically, emotionally and spiritually. It can make us sick. A momentary flash of high negative emotion in rare, heated moments is normal and the effect on our mind and body can be fleeting with little to no lasting damage.

What can create chronic damage to our health is to hang on to negative feelings involving another person's words or actions from a past event and reliving the pain over and over in a mental movie in our minds for months or even years.

Yup. It Hurts Us. Not Them.

Really? How?

Here’s a list of strong negative emotions:

  • Anger (hate, bitterness, blame, etc.)   
  • Resentment
  • Vengeance (Vindictiveness)
  • Fear
  • Hurt
  • Guilt

Here’s a list of some physical effects on our body when we focus on any of those negative emotions:

  • Heart disease/Stroke (1), (2)
  • High blood Pressure (1), (2), (4)
  • Poor digestion (3)
  • Lessened ability to absorb nutrients properly (3)
  • Reduced immunological defenses/Reduced ability to heal (2)(4)
  • Increased hormonal imbalances (2
  • Headaches/back pain/general aches and pains (3) (5)
  • Sleep disorders/fatigue (3)

And that’s not all. Strong negative emotions like grudges, resentment and anger affect our brain by creating stress. According to Yale University -- "Key Factor In Stress Effects On The Brain Identified."

“Acute and chronic stress can have devastating effects on the brain, and researchers have now pinpointed one receptor that plays a key role in that harmful cycle. Uncontrollable stress is a major contributing factor for neuropsychiatric disorders such as major depression and post-traumatic stress disorders, which have been linked to cellular changes in the hippocampus.”

How does this happen?  

Thoughts and feelings -- all of them -- positive and negative, trigger our body to release a whole host of chemicals. Each chemical when triggered, has a specific physiological effect.

Over time, if the body is repeatedly bombarded with the effect of strong negative emotions like grudges, resentment and anger, physical symptoms will appear. No free pass.

Holding on to anger or other negative emotions aimed at some other person is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to suffer!

So, this means that even if we’re careful to keep toxins out of our environment, watch our diet, take the right supplements and get the right exercise to look and feel great, it may not be enough? Really?

That’s right. To look and feel really well and truly healthy as we age, we have to deal with any chronic, strong, negative emotions we’ve been holding on to. Stuff happens. Some bad stuff. Once the acute event has passed, it is now up to each of us to either keep the event current in our minds and relive the trauma over and over or move on beyond it.

 What keeps negative emotions triggered by past traumatic events current in our minds?

  • We keep it current by creating a mental movie in our minds of whatever the events were that triggered those strong negative emotions in the past.
  • We play the “movie” in a loop and that past event becomes of higher importance to us than the events of the present.
  • We actually filter and distort the present through the high emotions of the past by mentally replaying the movie over and over.
  • Through this movie we can repeatedly “feel” the high negative emotion surrounding “what happened” and who caused it.

Why would we do that?

  • Because we have not yet chosen to focus on healing.
  • Because we haven’t chosen to focus on finding the motivation to heal.
  • Because we haven’t gotten started. It takes emotionally healthy work to heal a traumatic wound and replace a “movie” of the past with the reality of life in the present.

How do we heal and turn the movie off?

  • We end the movie loop through Forgiveness. Forgiveness is the key. Forgiveness will heal.
  • Learn what forgiveness means and what it does not mean.
  • Learn that forgiveness is for your benefit. Not the person who wronged you.
  • Forgiveness doesn't erase what happened. It allows you to accept it.
  • Forgiveness allows you to move forward with your life.

What help is available to get started towards healing?

  • Get lots of information from the internet. Key words: Resentment and Forgiveness.
  • Seek professional help if it’s available to you.
  • Talk with your spiritual and religious counselors if they are part of your life.

Why would we want to expend the considerable energy it may take to change the way we handle negative events from the past?

  • We want to be healthier
  • We want to look and feel better.
  • We want to have better relationships.
  • We want to be happier.

We can’t change the fact that some bad things have happened to us in the past. We can’t change how they affected us in the past. We can change how they affect us today. We can learn how to harness the power and freedom of forgiveness.

Emotions do affect our health. We can't control every aspect of our health but we can do a great deal by making life choices to help tip our genetic scales in our favor. We can do the best we can to eat and drink healthfully, lower the level of toxins in our environment, exercise our bodies, and get restful sleep.

But that's not all we can do. Just as importantly, by embracing forgiveness, we can spare our bodies the harmful physical toll that chronic negative emotions create.


  1. http://corporate.dukemedicine.org/news_and_publications/news_office/news/8164
  2. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Anger_how_it_affects_people
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychogenic_pain
  4. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692
  5. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-causes-and-effects.htm
8/25/2021 8:00:00 AM
Janet Valenty
Written by Janet Valenty
Former medical technologist with extensive drug testing and clinical chemistry experience. Traded the white coat for a business suit as Director of Marketing of a leading clinical lab with two billion in revenues and left that way back in the 90's. These days, doing more reading and publishing when not chasing grandchild...
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Posted by Ric Clayton
All nice said and done, but what still haunts me to this day is the EVIL that was done to me as a child by a family member and a friend of the family, yet could not trust, much less tell them, for I would have been seen as a liar. SAD
Posted by slient fury
Some people suffered protracted periods of violence, abuse and trauma early in childhood. The brain "circuitry" became hard-wired for these unfortunate souls during during their vulnerable formative years. The techniques outlined in this article, albeit good for mainstream cases, do NOT work for these terminal cases. I know because I'm one of them! Resentment, anger, hostility, guilt, anxiety, shame and depression are "baked in". I would like to see a cure if one even exists. I've tried exercise, prayer, counseling, yada, yada.
Posted by Mikle Kosir
This is a great article. I guess Jesus has been right all along we need to forgive so we are not the one still suffering.
Posted by Heather
I needed this so badly!!
Posted by Regena
I think it is also very important know that some negative events can actually become physically locked into our memories. EMDR is a great tool for post traumatic stress disorder and many other past negative or traumatizing events. Sometimes you can't just "think it out" , you actually have to work it out physically.
Posted by Sandra
I found this very interesting. Forgiveness is Healing!
Posted by Eric Sherfield
I have struggled with the concept of "forgiveness" for years and years, if not decades, and tried every strategy and even re-thinking every concept, to no avail. I have recently just "decided" that I "have to" forgive because my Chrisitan faith "requires" it. Simple as that.

I also think I have trouble "forgiving" certain people and fully moving on because I have not learned how to "fight fairly" and how to break away from people. I have never felt "closure" with certain people sometimes because I did not even have an opportunity to confront them or speak with them about our "separation." I am more mindful of making sure I get my feelings and thoughts all out whenever that happens again, even if it is in extreme (but never violent) anger. I have the right to honor and express my feelings, even if some people choose to label feelings as positive or negative.
Posted by Cary Miller
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