Most people at one time or another have all had the same things on their “to-do” lists:
- Save for retirement
- Lose Weight
- Find happiness
But it seems none of these bullet points is all that easy to come by, particularly that last one.
Why are humans perpetually seeking happiness? Why does it seem to evade so many? What is happiness anyway? And do we really need to be happy?
It seems hard to define happiness. We can say our family makes us happy, or cheeseburgers makes us happy, or sleeping in on the weekend makes us happy. Happiness is not one single state of mind, it would seem, but rather an umbrella term used to describe experiences of positive emotions such as joy, contentment and satisfaction.
Emerging research is now proving that being happy doesn’t just makes us feel good mentally and emotionally, it brings with it a host of health benefits as well. So, to answer the question, “Do we really even need to be happy?” Yes, we do, if we want to live a fulfilling, joyous and healthy life!
Here are some powerful ways happiness optimizes our health:
Supports the Immune System
It goes without saying that the root of good health can be found in our immune system. When our immune system is healthy, we’re healthy. Well, research is now suggesting that being happy is instrumental to immune system health. In fact, studies have found happier people are less likely to get the cold, flu, and other respiratory infections.
While the effects of happiness on the immune system are not completely understood, there is enough evidence to point to the importance of being happy for our health.
Happiness Promotes a Healthy Lifestyle
When we’re happy, we make healthier choices. Unhappy people tend to smoke, drink, overeat and are usually sedimentary. Happy people, on the other hand, typically take care of themselves by eating right, exercising, and staying away from tobacco products and other harmful substances.
When we make healthy lifestyle choices, we prevent common diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer. In this way, being happy can help us live longer.
Helps Combat Stress
Who among us doesn’t deal with our fair share of stress? It turns out, being happy may be a natural stress reliever.
When we are stressed, our bodies react by increasing levels of certain hormones in our body. These hormones are to help us fight or flee the situation.
Cortisol is one of these hormones and, when levels remain high from chronic stress, it can lead to disturbed sleep, weight gain, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
But numerous studies have shown that cortisol levels tend to be lower in happy people. In fact, one study found cortisol levels to be 32% lower in happy people, even though they and unhappy participants were all performing the same stressing tasks!
[Editor’s note: If life is currently so stressful that you find it hard to feel happy, we highly recommend Sonic Wave Relaxation Therapy. Just 10 – 15 minutes a day cuts down cortisol levels, lowers blood pressure, and protects your health in numerous ways. Click Here to find out more.]
Happiness May Help Reduce Pain
Researchers have found that a sense of happiness and well-being may reduce the pain caused by arthritis and other conditions such as stroke. While the exact mechanisms of this phenomena are unclear, researchers suggest that happy people may intuitively be able to develop coping strategies that reduce their perception of physical pain.
Happiness is Good for Your Heart
Happiness seems to be able to reduce blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. A study of over 6,500 people over the age of 65 found that positive well-being was linked to a 9% lower risk of high blood pressure.
But other studies have found happiness may also reduce the risk of heart disease, itself, which is the biggest cause of death worldwide. One study over a period of ten years showed happy people had a 22% lower risk of heart disease, even after risk factors were accounted for, such as age, cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Though more research is needed, it would so far appear that happy people have happier hearts.
So how can we be happier? Here are a few scientifically-proven ways:
Exercise helps our bodies release endorphins, which naturally give us a sense of happiness and well-being. Beyond that, exercise is a great stress reliever and just makes us feel good about ourselves and our body image.
Make Sleep a Priority
Too many of us burn the candle at both ends, and when we lack sleep, we aren’t our best selves. Not only is sleep necessary to heal and regenerate our body, it is necessary for our happiness. Studies have found sleep-deprived people have a harder time recalling positive memories and sensations. If you’re too tired to remember the good, you’ll wind up focusing on the bad. Try and get a solid eight hours of sleep a night.
Spend More Time with Friends and Family
Numerous studies have looked at what really makes us happy in life. It’s not cars, it’s not bigger paychecks, though those are always appreciated.
Nope, it’s the relationships in our lives. Spending more time with our loved ones makes us happier than just about anything. So, if you aren’t doing enough of it, make some changes.