Living a healthy lifestyle includes many things. Some, like celery and exercise, are important…though not much fun. But there is a simple way to improve health that doesn’t require time, energy, money, or athletic ability: happiness. Staying happy has been proven to help us stay healthy and that’s a win/win.
A study from Harvard Medical School indicated “Scientific evidence suggests that positive emotions can help make life longer and healthier.” Results were shown to come when participants were feeling good, doing good, and engaging fully with life. But, they admit, “people tend to be poor judges of what will make them happy” and often hope that money, material things, youth, or children will bring them joy.
Happier people incorporate healthy things into their lives in a variety of ways, say researchers for Healthline. “Being happy promotes a range of lifestyle habits that are important for overall health. Happy people tend to eat healthier diets, with higher intakes of fruits, vegetables and whole grains… Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have consistently been associated with a range of health benefits, including lower risks of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.”
Their study also showed that “individuals with a positive well-being were 33% more likely to be physically active, with 10 or more hours of physical activity per week. Regular physical activity helps build strong bones, increase energy levels, decrease body fat and lower blood pressure.”
An improved mood can even result in improved sleep. “Being happier may also improve sleep habits and practices, which is important for concentration, productivity, exercise performance and maintaining a healthy weight. One study of over 700 adults found that sleep problems, including trouble falling asleep and difficulty staying asleep, were 47% higher in those who reported low levels of positive well-being.”
Happiness also strengthens the immune system, reduces blood pressure, manages pain, and combats daily stress. “Normally, excess stress causes an increase in levels of cortisol, a hormone that contributes to many of the harmful effects of stress, including disturbed sleep, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. A number of studies demonstrate that cortisol levels tend to be lower when people are happier…These effects appeared to persist over time. When the researchers followed up with the same group of adults three years later, there was a 20% difference in cortisol levels between the happiest and least happy people.”
It can also help people live longer, likely due to the “increase in beneficial behaviors that prolong survival, such as not smoking, engaging in physical activity, medication compliance, and good sleep habits and practices.”
Healthline doctors recommend starting in simple ways. Express gratitude, get active, spend time outside, meditate, get a good night’s rest, and eat a healthier diet. “Focusing on the things that make you happy will not only improve your life—it may help extend it too.”
But what IS happiness? Northwestern Medicine explains that “For most people, happiness is a sense of purpose and well-being. This positive attitude translates to a variety of effects on a person’s health both physically and mentally…It provides us with a sense of optimism, a ‘take on the world’ attitude and a positivity that can be infectious.”
When you’re happy, it opens your mind to optimism and vitality, they explain. It also improves problem-solving ability and builds “physical, intellectual and social resources: This allows people to learn better because they seek other positive-minded people.”
To improve your happiness, they suggest practicing:
- Resilience, a function of the brain, resides in the ability to bounce back from adversity.
- Positive outlook lies in a person’s ability to see the positive, both in people and in experiences.
- Attention, or a lack of, can affect a person’s well-being. Being more attentive and using better listening skills can make a person more focused and positive.
- Generosity equals a sense of well-being. Acts of kindness make others and yourself happy.
And though it’s easier said than done, just paying attention to your body and mind can make a world of difference. “Your own well-being shouldn’t be mysterious. Know what works for you and what doesn’t, and remove the barriers that are preventing your happiness. Be content with your life choices. Your health and well-being are dependent on it.”
Of course, living a happy life isn’t a magical cure-all. If you have issues with balance, pain, mobility or want to safely recover from an accident or surgery, give Dr. Chani Henderson at Family & Sports Chiropractic Clinic a call today. Let her help you get to the bottom of what’s going on so you can find that happy spark once again.