Would you describe yourself as a generally happy person? Are you essentially content with your life? Do you feel like you are in a good mood most of the time? If you answered yes to these questions, you are likely not only in great shape mentally, but also helping your physical health as well. According to new research, a strong case can be made for the positive effect of happiness on your well-being.
The study, which was conducted at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, found that a person’s perception of their happiness may make a considerable impact on how healthy they are.1 Diener, Ed; et al. “If, Why, and When Subjective Well-Being Influences Health, and Future Needed Research.” Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. 14 July 2017. Accessed 26 July 2017. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/aphw.12090/full. While this has been debated before in research, this investigation makes a strong case for its outcome because it is based on an extensive review that includes a wide variety of studies relating to happiness and health that used different research methods.
The researchers focused on “subjective well-being” by analyzing how the subjects reported their satisfaction with their lives and overall happiness. Then, they compared these evaluations against a number of measures of physical health. The evidence demonstrated a clear link between a positive outlook on life and better health in general.
Although the study does not explain why this association exists, the investigators do offer several possible reasons that may be influential. One somewhat obvious factor might be that happier people are simply more interested in taking good care of themselves. Therefore, they would likely adopt healthier practices on a regular basis, such as eating nutritiously, working out, and getting sufficient sleep, which would all promote better health in the long term.
In addition, happiness has been shown in a number of studies to have a direct impact on certain elements of health. For example, a 2012 study at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts found that happiness can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.2 Boehm, JK and Kubzansky, LD. “The heart’s content: the association between positive psychology well-being and cardiovascular health.” Psychological Bulletin. July 2012. Accessed 27 July 2017. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22506752. And a 2013 study at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill confirmed what Jon Barron first said almost a quarter of a century ago: that people who feel satisfied with their lives benefitted from positive effects to their immune function and all the way down to their genes.3 Fredrickson, Barbara L.; et al. “A functional genomic perspective on human well-being.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 13 August 2013. Accessed 27 July 2017. http://www.pnas.org/content/110/33/13684.
Of course, it is also possible that the current study’s premise is backwards and people in good health are happier simply because they’re in good health. To a certain extent this is likely true, but that definitely does not mean that the reverse isn’t true as well. After all, if you wake up feeling good every day, you are probably going to be in a fairly good mood. But then again, we all know people who are perfectly healthy yet are still miserable, suffer from depression, or feel their lives aren’t satisfying because they don’t have all of the things they want.
What it comes down to is actually striving to focus on the positives in your life the same way you might work toward improving your diet or strengthening your body through exercise. While it may come more easily to some people than others, we can all do things to improve our overall mindset. For those with depression or other mental health difficulties that might impact happiness, consider increasing your physical activity, which has been shown to provide more of a mood boost than pharmaceutical drugs—not to mention, improving your health at the same time.
Individuals without psychological issues can also benefit from taking action to experience more happiness in life. Spend time with people you love—real quality time talking and having fun, not on your phones checking social media. Remember, studies have shown that happiness is contagious. Make memories by traveling or trying new activities. Bring your stress levels down with exercise, yoga, or meditation so you’re not spending as much time worrying about things out of your control.
Feel free to let loose with a belly laugh when something strikes you as funny. And stop comparing yourself to others as much as you can because even if your life is better in many ways, there will always be some area in which you fall short and that shouldn’t be your focus. People are happiest when they are content. So strive to attain that type of contentment because it can do wonders for your mindset as well as your physical health.
|↑1||Diener, Ed; et al. “If, Why, and When Subjective Well-Being Influences Health, and Future Needed Research.” Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. 14 July 2017. Accessed 26 July 2017. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/aphw.12090/full.|
|↑2||Boehm, JK and Kubzansky, LD. “The heart’s content: the association between positive psychology well-being and cardiovascular health.” Psychological Bulletin. July 2012. Accessed 27 July 2017. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22506752.|
|↑3||Fredrickson, Barbara L.; et al. “A functional genomic perspective on human well-being.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 13 August 2013. Accessed 27 July 2017. http://www.pnas.org/content/110/33/13684.|