Without health there can be no happiness according to Thomas Jefferson, famed American president. Living in the 21st century we are bombarded with a variety of viewpoints about the effect of emotions on our weight, heart health and mental health. But Science now proves the contrast and impact of overall positive mood on our health. Happiness is a vital component to maintaining our physical health. Our team investigates the mind-body connection and the science behind body wellness.
What is Happiness?
Defining Happiness has always been difficult as every person looks at this in a different light. Is it regarding the amount of money you have? Is it whether or not you have someone to smile with each day? Or is it simply knowing that you have the essentials you require to be at peace each day. Depending on your priorities and current state of well-being it may even differ throughout your life. Defined in the dictionary as “the quality or state of being happy” as well as “good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy”, but does it truly reflect your personal state of mind? Driven to attain more and measure our own levels of happiness against others, it can even add to added stress to achieve the pinnacle of contentment.
How Do We Measure Happiness?
Psychologists agree that in order to measure happiness, researchers can use 5 different methods to predict how happy someone is:
- Biological (ex. hormones, serotonin levels that can help determine depression)
- Behavioral (ex. smiling and laughing)
- Implicit Measures (ex. “reaction time to connect positive and negative terms”)
- Reports from others (ex. friends, family, loved ones)
- Self-Reports (ex. reflecting on own life)
When we understand that there are ways to measure it, we can begin to understand how happiness truly affects the body and heart health.
“We know that up to 80% of visits to primary care doctors are due to conditions that are caused or exacerbated by unmanaged stress,” said psychiatrist Dr. Francoise Adan, director of the Connor Integrative Health Network of University Hospitals in Cleveland. “Being happy doesn’t just make us feel better, it improves our health. It helps us eat healthier, be more active and sleep better.”
The Effects of Happiness on Your Health
Research completed by teams of doctors, mental health professionals and scientists all agree that not only do we generally ‘feel’ better, but our body reaps the benefits too. These include:
- Strengthening your immune system
- Improving sleep
- Reducing stress levels
- Reducing pain
- Improving productivity
- Improving mental health
- Lengthening your life expectancy
- Improving your heart health
The Effects of Happiness on Your Heart Health
It has been determined that when a person is happy, they often show signs of a lowered heart rate and lowered blood pressure. This means that your heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body, and it lessens the strain or pressure on the arteries and blood vessels.
The effects of happiness on your heart is quite the opposite of those of stress (which tend to increase the likelihood for heart disease). When this risk of heart disease is lowered, the likelihood of experiencing a stroke or cardiac arrest also decreases, leaving you to live a long and healthy life.
How to ‘Be Happier’
- Do What You Enjoy
When we spend all of our time doing the things we (eg: dread getting up every morning to go to a job we despise), our happiness (and heart health) suffers. One way to increase your happiness is to do things you enjoy. Find joy in hobbies, outside activities and social gatherings.
- Love and Connect with Others
There are a number of studies that have researched the link between love and heart health too. Surround yourselves with positive people who give you love and whom you can return that love to.
- Live a Healthy Lifestyle
Change your lifestyle to include weekly exercise, a balanced diet, and time getting fresh air. Sitting on the couch eating junk food leads to weight gain, sluggish and tired feelings that eventually leads to unhappiness.
- Reflect and Be Grateful
Reflecting on the things you are grateful for can improve your mood. Gratitude can be practiced through the use of thank-you cards, keeping a journal of the things you are thankful for, meditating, praying, or choosing to see the positive in each situation.
- Ask for Help
If you have been struggling to find happiness in your life, asking others for help is a good first step. Find a friend you trust, speak with a family member, or set up a time to meet with one of our team members at German Heart Centre. It is important that if you are struggling with depression or another mental health issue to seek support. Improving your mental health is another great way to boost your happiness as well as help your heart.