affective design

Exploring Emotional Design

Expressing Love May Lower Your Cholesterol Levels

How can designing for emotion help improve medical care? An article on Medical News Today describes a study in Human Communication Research that suggests expressing love may help lower cholesterol…In the study, participants spent 20 minutes writing about loved ones three times over a five week a period. Those who followed the study protocols had a significant decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. From the article:

“There are many studies showing that patients benefit from receiving care and attention during illness. Our research shows that it’s as rewarding to give as it is to receive.”

The results of this study lead me to wonder whether it’s the visualization of loved ones, rather than the expression of love through writing, is really the factor that leads to positive results. Both visualization and expression can involve positive emotions like love, but emotional expression is a by-product of emotional creation, while visualization is a way to trigger emotions that are then expressed.

Given the rising costs of health care and the growing interest in more holistic and complimentary approaches (which can serve to help put the focus on prevention), studies like this lead me to question… when will we see the addition of treatment options designed to help create positive changes in patient psychology? Changes in psychology can trigger changes in behaviour that produce beneficial results. Behavioural changes don’t need to be strenuous. Writing for 20 minutes, two or three times a week, could become the practice of journaling or keeping a diary.

Adding a “prescription” for writing about loved ones three times a week to a course of treatment for high LDL cholesterol would be an easy and cheap way to supplement the cholesterol lowering effects of statin drug treatment, with no potential side-effects. I’m eager to see medical professionals design treatment programs that address health issues from a number of perspectives, combining the use of medications with effective psychological and behavioural modification to produce better results for patients.

For more on emotions and health, see:
Emotions and the Immune System

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