Happiness and Your Health
Find a happier and healthier you with a few simple strategies.
It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and lose sight of what makes you happy. Really happy. But making sure your happiness meter is giving optimal readings can provide many health benefits.
Happy people have younger hearts, younger arteries, and a younger RealAge. Happy people recover more quickly from surgery, cope better with pain, have lower blood pressure, and have longer life expectancy than unhappy people.
Studies also suggest that happy people may have stronger immune systems -- they're less likely to get colds and flu viruses. And when they do, their symptoms tend to be mild.
Not surprisingly, happy people are better at looking after their health, too. When people's happiness levels improve, so do their health behaviors. They exercise more, wear sunscreen, and go for regular checkups.
How to Get There
Everyone wants to be happy, and the benefits are clearly plentiful. But the fact is that people aren't always great at predicting what will make them happy. If it's long-term happiness you're after, you may need to learn a few new tricks.
What Is Happiness?
We all know when we're happy and when we're not. But ask a roomful of people what makes them happy and you're likely to get a wide range of responses, from "watching the sunset" or "spending time with good friends" to "finding a great shoe sale" or "winning the office football pool."
Defining happiness is no simple feat.
In an effort to narrow the definition, researchers have devised a series of questionnaires to measure life satisfaction, positive mood, and subjective well-being. Some scientists are even beginning to use brain imaging to better understand the physiology of happiness. And economists have jumped on the happiness bandwagon, too, hoping to calculate the value of happiness within a sociopolitical context.
So what have they discovered? What makes for a happy life?
It's Partly Your Genes
Your level of happiness is not entirely predetermined by your genes, but genes do play a part, just as they play a part in your general health. Some researchers estimate that as much as 40% to 50% of a person's capacity for happiness may be genetically predetermined. And although that means some lucky people may start off with a greater propensity for happiness, it's no guarantee they'll lead a charmed life. Fortunately, evidence suggests that even the gloomiest of us can learn to be happier.
And learn we must. Left to our own devices, we tend to focus our energies on things that will give us the greatest instant pleasure. Even when we know better.
Test Your Happiness Know-How
Think you know the secret to happiness? Check the happiness accuracy of some of these common answers. You might be surprised.
A Massage and Pamper Day at the Spa
Aahhh, yes. A day at the spa is not only pleasurable, it's also a great de-stressor. And keeping your stress levels under control will have a positive effect on your physical and emotional well-being.
Winning a Million Dollars
Winning a million bucks will make you instantly wealthy, that's for sure. But happy? Not so much. Read on to find out why money won't buy you bliss.
Renting a Beach House for a Week with Your Closest Friends
Spending quality time with good friends is one of the key components of a happy life. And taking time off to relax will also keep your stress levels low. But don't wait for rare opportunities like this to get together with your friends.
Losing 10 Pounds
It's important to your health and happiness to maintain a healthy weight. But yo-yo dieting and lose-weight-quick scams are likely to starve you of the happiness you're after.
A noble aspiration, but you might want to start smallsetting unrealistic goals may be a happiness deterrent. Do your part for peace by getting involved with an organization that promotes nonviolent conflict resolution or another peace-promoting issue you feel strongly about. Helping others and feeling a sense of purpose in life is linked to greater happiness.
Finally Getting the Garage Organized
It may not be glamorous but it certainly is gratifying. Cleaning out the clutter and creating a usable space will give you a sense of achievement that's guaranteed to boost your well-being.
Having Superhero Powers
Superhero powers would be super cool, without a doubt. But they might cause more stress than happiness. Plus, it's never going to happen. By focusing on more attainable goals, you'll be more likely to make them come true and that will make you happy.
A Long Walk (or Run) in the Park
Physical activity is a great way to instantly increase your sense of well-being. And by incorporating exercise into your daily routine you'll be both healthier and happier in the long run.
A Sharp Rise in the Value of Your Investments
It's wise to invest in your future but not so wise to link your happiness to the stock market. Contribute emotional capital to your relationships and personal growth and you may see a steady rise in your happiness levels.
Read on to find out more about what makes people happy, what doesn't, and what you can do to live a full and happy life.