You’ve probably heard the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.” But this isn’t just a well-known saying; numerous studies have continually proven the benefits of happiness and optimism on health. Not only does a happy, upbeat mood make you feel good emotionally, but it can also make you a healthier person physically.
A few of the health benefits of happiness include:
Lower stress levels.
High levels of stress can wreak havoc on your health. Those who are frequently under stress have higher rates of heart disease, higher blood pressures, and greater changes of developing a stroke during their lifetime. On the other hand, those who are happy tend to experience less stress and are not as likely to develop serious stress related health problems.
Lower incidence of disease.
Stress also weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to common illnesses and diseases, ranging from the common cold and flu to more serious maladies. When you can’t fight infection, you put yourself at greater risk for hospitalization. On the other hand, happiness is associated with lower stress levels and a more robust immune system.
If you’ve ever been stressed out or depressed, chances are you either lost weight due to loss of appetite or gained weight. Many people gain weight when they are unhappy or depressed because the body creates excess amounts of the hormone cortisol when we experience stress. This hormone often results in craving sweets and other unhealthy foods and causes the body to store more fat.
Happy, active people, on the other hand, produce more dopamine and endorphins. These hormones are what causes you to feel happy. “Runner’s high” is a real phenomenon that refers to the body’s release of the pleasure hormone dopamine. This leads to increased activity levels and healthier weights overall.
Happiness and longevity are also associated with a longer lifespan. In fact, one study found that those who rated themselves as generally happy overall lived an average of 7.5 years longer than their more depressed peers.
Those who are happy and optimistic have better resilience, meaning they are able to cope with tragedies or life stresses and bounce back faster than those who are not as happy or optimistic. People who are more resilient in stressful situations are also able to bounce back from illnesses faster than those who are not as happy or optimistic.
Improving Your Happiness
If you want to increase your happiness—and your health—there are plenty of ways to do so. These include:
- Counseling. Calgary residents who feel depressed should seek professional help. Depression is a treatable disease and can help improve physical as well as emotional health.
- Exercise. Exercise increases endorphins, the “feel good” chemical in the brain. Regular exercise can help you become healthier and happier.
- Develop a support system. Surrounding yourself with close friends and family members is good for both emotional and physical health.
- Find new hobbies. Pursuing interests and hobbies you enjoy will also make you a happier person overall.
- Be optimistic. Practice looking at the glass as half full instead of half empty. Once you get in the habit of this kind of thinking, you will be happier overall.
When you’re happy, you not only enjoy an improved mood, but also better physical health.
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