- James Leigh Hunt
Over the last 10 years, happiness has become a hot topic, creating a whole industry of movies, books, and courses.
People have become more aware of mental health issues. They want to relieve their depression, anxiety and stress, and create more happiness.
Interesting to note: your health is directly related to your level of happiness.
A 2011 study found that healthy people are 20% happier than average. That’s a pretty convincing argument to start going to a yoga class, or hitting the gym.
The opposite is also true. When you become happier, you also tend to improve your health.
In this article, you will discover some fascinating facts about the link between health and happiness - plus some helpful tips to improve your happiness.
The Science Of Happiness
It is needful to have the instrument in good order.”
- Henry Ward Beecher
Researchers from Harvard studied the link between emotional and physical health. They found the main characteristics of happiness include:
- Emotional vitality: As defined be a generalized sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness and engagement.
- Optimism: The perspective that good things will happen, and that one’s actions account for the good things that occur in life.
- Meaningful relationships: Characterized by the presence of supportive networks of family and friends
- An ability to “self-regulate”: The ability to bounce back from stressful challenges, knowing that things will get better.
- Choosing healthy behaviours such as physical activity and eating well. And, avoiding risky behaviours such as unsafe sex, drinking alcohol to excess, and regular overeating.
5 Scientifically-Proven Ways Happiness Affects your Health
1. Happiness Improves Heart Functioning
This study demonstrates the protective effect happiness has on the heart.
Another study from 2005 found that happiness is a major contributor to a lower heart rate and blood pressure. In the study, participants rated their happiness over a span of three years.
The participants who were happiest at the beginning had a consistently lower heart rate at the end of the study (about six beats slower per minute), and also had better blood pressure.
2. Happiness Boosts the Immune System
After being exposed to the common cold virus, the participants who reported to be happier were found to be less likely to develop a cold.
Another study from 2006, gave 81 graduate students the hepatitis B vaccine. After receiving the first two doses, participants rated their happiness.
The ones who were high in positive emotion were nearly twice as likely to have a high antibody response to the vaccine -- a sign of a healthy immune system. Their happiness seemed to boost their immune system on a cellular level.
3. Happiness Decreases The Intensity Of Pain
This study followed a group of women with arthritis and chronic pain, who rated themselves weekly on positive emotions.
Over the course of the study, the happiest persons were less likely to experience the highest levels of pain on a ratings scale.
4. Happiness helps combat the effects of stress
Graduate students who scored higher on happiness questionnaires were able to stay calmer and recover more quickly from stress. When measured, they also had reduced heart rates and high blood pressure.
Meanwhile, students who rated lower on the questionnaire suffered more physical effects of stress, for longer periods of time.
5. Happiness Lengthens Our Lives
The most famous study of this connection looked at the life expectancy of Catholic nuns. This study tracked the amount of positive emotion the nuns expressed in an autobiographical essay written when they entered the convent decades earlier.
After combing through these journal entries for signs of happiness, researchers found that the happiest-seeming nuns lived a 7-10 years longer than their "sad" counterparts.
How To Increase Happiness And Live A Healthier Life
1. Focus On Positive Relationships
Whenever possible cut off toxic relationships. When that is not possible or in the case of family or colleagues, try these strategies:
- Let go of expectations. If a person is difficult, don't expect him/her to be any different. Instead of reacting negatively to the same old thing, change YOUR response. Give a little chuckle, share some kindness and positivity and then move on.
- Practice not taking things personally. People’s opinions are just that. You decide how you feel about yourself.
- Avoid complaining. You may want things to be a certain way but you can’t change or control others. There's always positive and negative in every situation. Look for the positive, and make an effort to comment on that, instead of its opposite. Everyone will appreciate it.
- Be OK with saying no. You don’t have to do everything that others want you to do. Put yourself first.
2. Slow Down
Choose to slow down. Taking a few minutes every day to reconnect with your breathing, and practice mindfulness, are both great ways to boost happiness.
If you haven’t already, start a meditation practice. Even 5 minutes a day has been proven to have positive results on mental health. Everyone has 5 minutes they can spare.
Look for ways you can savour the present moment. This could be eating slowly, or leaving your phone at home while you visit a friend. Take the more scenic route through life.
3. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is the quickest way to change a negative state into a positive one. When you focus on the good in your life, rather than the bad, you tend to feel better. This is not rocket-science technology.
There have been many studies about the impact of gratitude practice, and most have found that practicing gratitude a minimum of once per week can have long term benefit by:
- Making you feel happier and more optimistic
- Improving relationships
- Strengthening emotions and helps you to bounce back quicker
- Reducing materialism
- Increasing self esteem
- Improving your sleep
- Boosting your immune system
- Increasing your energy levels
- Helping you to relax
Pretty impressive! So grab that journal and write down 3 things that are currently in your life that you can feel grateful for right now. You’ll instantly feel more happiness.
4. Put Your Body Into Balance
When the body is in chronic pain, it is in a state of stress -- one critical factor influencing the state of depression. More significant, however, is that when both are present, their coexistence tends to further aggravate the severity of both disorders.
In short, when your body is experiencing physical pain, your mood is affected. And when you are depressed, the opposite is true -- you are more likely to experience pain in your body.
Related to the logic above, working with a chiropractor can help improve your well-being, thereby affecting your ability to be happy. Chiropractors reduce pain by addressing the tension and imbalance that shows up in the body.
At Back2Health, we understand the mind-body connection. We are 100% dedicated to your happiness levels -- by reducing your pain and suffering using physical modalities (like chiropractic adjustments and soft-tissue therapies), and/or by teaching health and wellness principles that maintain/sustain a healthy balance.
Call our clinic today (604-742-0111) if you think you might benefit from our services. It would be our sincere pleasure to help.
Dr. C. Guenette
Owner, Back2Health Chiropractic+