The positive correlation between happiness and health long recognized as folk-wisdom has been put to the scientific test in recent years. Rigorous studies confirm that laughter is indeed the best medicine. That’s why one of the most important elements of an Inclusive Health lifestyle is making time for the things that make you happy.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF BEING HAPPY
Being happy may not only improve the emotional quality of your life, but also your physical state, mental capacity and how long you live. A recent five-year study by University College London found that, during the study period, older people were up to 35% less likely to die if they reported feeling happy, excited, and content on a typical day. And this was true regardless of chronic health problems, depression, and stress incident to financial insecurity.
Another study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness and engagement in life, when coupled with an emotionally balanced reaction to life’s stresses, appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
So, how happy are you?
Because happiness is a subjective and dynamic state it is hard to measure but easy to recognize. Take this brief quiz below, created by Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor at the University of California Riverside, to find out how happy you are:
- On a scale from 1 (not a very happy person) to 7 (a very happy person), I consider myself a number:
- On a scale of 1 (less happy) to 7 (more happy), when compared with most of my peers, I consider myself a number:
- Some people are generally very happy. They enjoy life regardless of what is going on, getting the most out of everything. On a scale of 1 (not at all) to 7 (a great deal), to what extent does this characterization describe you?
- Some people are generally not very happy. Although they are not depressed, they never seem as happy as they might be. On a scale of 1 (not at all) to 7 (a great deal), to what extent does this characterization describe you?
To calculate your score, add up your response to each question and divide by 4. Then find yourself on the chart below:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Unhappy Average Extremely Happy
The average happiness score runs from about 4.5 – 5.5.
If your score is low and you are nearer to the unhappy end of the scale, there are a number of relatively easy things you can do to improve how you feel.
HOW TO BECOME A HAPPIER PERSON
One of the insights I often share with patients is “Why have a bad day when you can have a good day?”
Having a wonderful day or a terrible day is less a matter of circumstances than it is of choice. You can choose to have a good day – or not. It’s entirely up to you. This is a key part of the thinking behind my philosophy of Inclusive Health. The positive health benefits of improving your mental outlook can be tremendous.
Here are some areas in which you can start changing your life for the better:
- Emotional Vitality: Having a sense of hopefulness, enthusiasm for life and engagement with community. Volunteer to help a local charitable organization to help boost your emotional vitality.
- Optimism: Approaching life from the prospective that good things will happen, and that one’s actions can have a positive impact on the future. What are some of the good things that have happened to you lately and what are some of the best things you are looking forward to?
- Support System: A positive and supportive network of family, friends and co-workers. Staying in touch with and doing activities with loved ones is a great way to strengthen your support system.
- Self-Regulation: The ability to bounce back from life’s challenges knowing that things will eventually be positive again. Life throws you curve balls – you have to learn to hit them out of the park.
- Physical Health: Choosing healthy behaviors such as eating well and exercising regularly. Eating your water (water-rich raw fruits and vegetable, for example), is on way to very quickly improve your overall health.
- Being in the moment. The ability to be completely present in this moment, without thinking of what has happened in the past or what is coming up in the future. Practicing meditation and/or yoga is a good way to learn to enhance your capability for mindfulness.
When you “detoxify your brain” by thinking positively, every cell in your body will be healthier.