I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.
What words of wisdom! It’s true that happier people have a higher level of well being; they are healthier.
So if you want to ‘be well’, do you have to be happy? Studies show that it helps.
A 2010 study (authors: Quoiabach, Berry, Hansenne & Mikolaijczak) had interesting outcome. The study investigated the impact of regulting positive emotions on two aspects of well-being:
A total of 282 people participated in the study.
On the other side of the coin – if the participants got distracted, ‘positive affect’ diminished. Further, focusing on negative details, or having negative thoughts, reduced ‘life satisfaction’.
The bottom line: capitalizing on good news and living in the present moment can make us happier.
But does happiness make us healthier?
A 2005 sudy (authors: Steptoe & Wardle) says YES! The study noted:
‘There is accumulating evidence that positive affect may protect against ill–health and risk of disease.’
The study collected data from middle-aged men and women. The ‘positive affect’ was assessed through repeated ratings of happiness over the period of a working day. The results state that greater happiness is associated with lower cortisol readings both on working and non-working days. Theses incredible findings also showed reduced stress responses and lower heart rate in men. These effects were independent of age, socioeconomic status, body mass and psychological distress.
At least part of ‘being well’ has to do with happiness. Sometimes life circumstance can make it tougher to be happy.
Are there steps we can take to make ourselves happier? According to science, there is….
Spend Time Outdoors
Get some of the sunshine vitamin! One of the many things that vitamin D deficiency can lead to is depression. The truth is, deficiency can also lead to diabetes, hypertension, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis and neuro-degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Mayo clinic and others, there are over 3 million diagnosed cases of vitamin D deficiency per year! Vitamin D deficiency is an ignored epidemic! Vitamin D is ‘the sunshine vitamin’.
According to the International Journal of Health Sciences:
Exposure to sunshine each day helps human body to manufacture the required amount of vitamin D. However, due to fear of developing skin cancer most people avoid the sun exposure. To prevent vitamin D deficiency, one should spend 15 to 20 minutes daily in the sunshine with 40% of the skin surface exposed.
So get outside! Have some fun! Run with your dog or your kids, ride your bike and feel the sunshine on your body. You will be happier for it!
When we exercise, our brains release endorphins, the ‘feel good’ chemical. Ever heard of ‘runner’s high’; that comes from endorphin release in the brain. Endorphins improve mood and promote feelings of euphoria. Endorphins are so powerful, scientists compare their euphoric properties to that of opiates.
In an article in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychology, author CH Hawkes, says:
‘Exercise produces a sense of well-being and at least three exercise related phenomena may involve endorhins; the ‘athlete’s high’, increased pain tolerance and addiction to exercise.’
The author goes on to say:
‘It appears that high intensity exercise elevates plasma B-endorphins in 30 -60 seconds.’
There’s another reason to try HIIT (high intensity interval training)! It goes to show you that it doesn’t take a lot of time to reap this particular benefit of exercise. When we exercise hard, our bodies burn cortisol, the stress hormone. High cortisol levels leave you feeling ‘stressed out’. Those feelings of anxiety, nervousness and negativity all come from cortisol. Exercise can help! Working out, not only benefits your body but your brain – consider exercise your ‘happy hormone’.
Spend Time with Family and Friends
This tip is one that makes me happy! I love cooking big meals for my family and friends. I love having a group of people I care about around the table enjoying a delicious, healthy meal, chatting and having a great time! I am not the only one who is happy spending time with loved ones, thank goodness! It’s a scientific fact that we are happier when we relate to family and friends.
I recently read an interview featuring Harvard University Professor of Psychology, Dan Gibert. Professor Gilbert has a nickname: ‘Professor Happiness’. His book, ‘Stumbling on Happiness’, spent six months on the New York Times best seller list. In this New York Times interview, writer, Claudia Drefus, asked a great question.
‘As the author of a best seller about happiness, do you have any advice on how to achieve it?
His answer was:
‘We know that the best predictor of human happiness is human relationships and the amount of time that people spend with family and friends.
We know that it’s significantly more important than money and somewhat more important than health. That’s what the data shows.
Feeling down? Call up your buddies and have them over for dinner. Or, have a real family sit down dinner. I make sure that my husband and I do this every night that one of us is not traveling. The re-connection after the day of work (or play) is too important to our, you guessed it, happiness.
Give to Others
When I was in the 10th grade, we as students, had to volunteer our time 2- 3 hours per week. It was a prerequisite to move on to the 11th grade at the school I attended. We could choose from a list of local care facilities.
Work choices were:
You get the idea…. My bestie and I chose for the daycare. Our primary job there was to help feed the kids. One adorable boy of about 8, who had severe retardation became our favorite one day. It was the day, we finally got him to put a spoonful of food in his mouth on his own. We jumped for joy that day! We got to stay and tell his mom; she cried big fat tears of joy! I will never forget that! It made us SO happy!
My friend and I are not unusual. According to Harvard Business School and many others, being charitable makes us happier. Here’s a few examples of ‘happiness science’ that I found that relates to charitable giving.
the brain related to pleasure, social connection and trust.
Helping others is the way to help ourselves as well.
As Mahatma Ghandi said:
‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’
If you want to up your ‘happiness factor’, there are some sure fire ways to do it.
Commit to BE happier; you will be healthier for it.