How Does Happiness Affect Your Health?
Happiness is a big deal. Everyone strives to attain happiness. Many people live lives that are designed around the pursuit of happiness. Happiness makes us feel good and for some people a life without happiness is no life at all. It’s no wonder that there is a happiness industry. There are books which claim to help you achieve happiness and to understand the art and science behind happiness. If you are so inclined, you can even sign up for happiness courses and seminars! Happiness makes us feel good so we can’t blame people for wanting more happiness in their lives. We tend to associate happiness with mental wellbeing but are there any physical health benefits to happiness? The answer, of course, is yes! Health and happiness go hand in hand.
What is Happiness?
We all have a pretty solid idea of what happiness generally is: a good life with no suffering and full of pleasure and well-being. It is possible to break happiness down even further into different categories of happiness such as hedonic happiness and eudaimonic happiness. Hedonic happiness refers to a selfish happiness; a happiness that is derived from doing something for yourself only. Eudaimonic happiness is a happiness that comes from activities and pursuits that don’t just benefit an individual. This is the type of happiness that has been linked to good health.
How Happiness Affects Your Health
Finding happiness does not solely rely upon individuals making themselves happy; there is a genetic component to happiness too. Some scientists believe that there is a “happiness gene”. Since we all have some understanding on the role genetics plays in determining our health, it’s no surprise then that happiness can also factor in to how good or bad someone’s health is. Let’s look at five health areas affected by happiness:
- Be Happy & Live Longer – Apparently, the happier you are, the longer you will live! Even people with certain chronic illnesses who report that they are happy will live longer than others with the same conditions but who are less happy. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint exactly why happiness can extend a person’s life. When you look at all the health areas happiness improves, it may be the combination of some or all of these factors which results in a longer life.
- Hearts & Happiness – Eudaimonic happiness is said to keep down inflammation in the human body, which is linked to heart disease. Happiness can keep a heart healthy as people who display happiness tend to have lower blood pressure and a lower heart beat rate. Happiness can have such a profound impact on heart health that people who are known to have heart disease actually test healthier on days they self-reported that they were happy!
- The Immune System & Happiness – If you were to test a person’s immune system on a happy day and on a grumpier day, this person’s immune system will have a better and stronger response on the happy day. This research seems to give happiness a cellular dimension: happiness appears to actually increase the amount of antibodies in a person’s body leaving them with a more robust immune system and a greater ability to physically fight bugs and germs.
- Stress & Happiness – This one seems like a no brainer: happiness can reduce stress levels. Studies have shown that happy people have lower levels of the stress-causing hormone, cortisol. Similar levels of cortisol have been found in happy people who are both regularly experience stress and people who are in a one-off stressful situation.
- Pain & Happiness – In studies, people who self-report the highest levels of happiness felt fewer aches and pains than their less-happy peers. Unhappiness is usually considered to be a feeling which is only felt emotionally but more and more research is suggesting that there is a physical feeling behind unhappiness too. Unhappy people report feeling pains such as headaches, muscle pain, period cramps and indigestion more intensely than happy people.
How Can You Make Yourself Happy?
You are possibly now wondering “how can I make myself happier?”. Unfortunately, the key to an individual’s health and happiness lies solely within them and it isn’t really possible for another person to tell you what will truly make you happy. If happiness is something you struggle with and you believe your health is being impacted by this, there are resources available that can help you make yourself happy. However, you may also just want to increase the amount of time doing things that you find joy in such as going to gym or a walk in a park and spending more time with friends and loved ones.
Feeling better about your health or fitness shouldn’t be a chore. If you ever need some extra support, come by BEFIT to speak with one of our trainers or simply fill out a Free Consultation Request by clicking the link and a fitness professional will reach out to you within 24 hours.