3 children holding hands on beach

Does happiness affect diabetes?

Summary: Have you ever wondered if your emotions affect diabetes control? Here, I will be exploring 3 questions – How do our emotions (especially happiness) influence our blood sugar levels? Are there emotions that are “better” than others? What can we do to be happy?

How do our emotions influence our blood sugar levels?

Feeling dejected or distressed can make it more challenging to eat healthily, monitor sugar levels, and engage in exercise. In other words, it makes us less able to care for our health.

Negative emotions like stress, anger, or sadness can also increase the stress-related hormones (e.g. cortisol) in our body.

stress and blood glucose level

When the body is under stress, the adrenal glands (which are above our kidneys) release certain stress-related hormones such as adrenaline, glucagon, steroids (e.g. growth hormone), and cortisol.

Glucagon and adrenaline trigger more glucose to be released from the liver, while the growth hormone and cortisol can result in the body becoming less sensitive to insulin. Thus, when more glucose is released into our bloodstream and when we become less sensitive to insulin, our blood sugar level rises.

This may result in a vicious cycle, where negative emotions increase your sugar levels, making you even more upset, and leading to even higher sugar levels.

Are there emotions that are “better” than others?

You might be thinking, “If sadness and anger are associated with poorer blood sugar levels, what about positive emotions? Can happiness help improve diabetes control?”

A comprehensive review study by Dr Ed Diener (University of Illinois professor emeritus of psychology) of 160 papers highlight how happiness (“feeling positive about your life, not stressed out, not depressed”) contribute to better health outcomes.

Happiness reduces stress-related hormones in the body, hence reducing the chances of glucose being released into the blood stream and resulting in lower blood sugar levels! So yes, positive emotions are “better” than negative emotions with regards to lowering your sugar levels.

What can we do to attain happiness?

I will share one secret to happiness: Exercise.

Yes, I know, I can hear you going “Are you serious??” Well YES! Exercise improves people’s mood significantly more than medicine or therapy.

Exercising doesn’t have to involve running a marathon or hitting the gym. Here are some activities you can do to get your heart pumping: going for walks with your family on the weekends, and taking baby steps everyday while travelling to work or back home.

Simply being outdoors in a natural environment enhances your mood too. According to a study in 2013, you can be by the sea to experience the largest impact of increasing positive moods compared to other natural settings.

In conclusion, choose happiness and positive emotions. By managing your moods and choosing positive over negative emotions, you can lower your blood sugar levels! Try getting active as a way to increase happiness, or simply head to the beach. Give it a shot at being happy and see how your diabetes control improves 😉

Any thoughts or feedback about my article? Drop me a message at elizabeth.chew@holmusk.com and I’ll be happy (heh) to help.