Does Being Healthy Increase Your Happiness?

Health and happiness are linked for quite a while and are believed to be synonymous. Laughter is the best medicine and has become a cliche for people backed up with several research studies. Good health is one of the strongest predictors of people’s mental, spiritual, physical well-being, and happiness.

Adverse effects on health hurt happiness levels too, at least temporarily. Poor health significantly affects almost every aspect of life, for example, your independence, your relationships, your self-image, your ability to work, and your ability to carry out basic activities. So it’s no wonder that when your health takes a hit, your happiness does too.

On the world happiness index chart, Finland, Denmark and Switzerland stand at the number 1, 2, and 3 spots, respectively. As of March 2019, India stands at 120th position on the health index. As of March 2020, India stands at 144th position on the world happiness index chart.

In this article, we will know what does happiness means, what are the sources of happiness, what makes us happy, and how to be healthy. We will also highlight the aspect of why people are healthy when they are happy, different criteria to sustain health and happiness, and does happiness leads to better health backed up with research studies.[1][2][3]

What Does Happiness Mean?

Happiness is the purpose and meaning of life, the whole aim and end of human existence as said by Aristotle 2,000 years ago. Most of the happiness research has focused on four primary points:

  1. Personal well-being: Personal well-being scrutinized subjective experience of joy, state of being content, and a sense of meaningful life.
  2. Happiness traits: Enthusiasm, humor, Optimism, gratitude, and a sense of hope.
  3. Positive emotions: happiness, excitement, love, affection, joy, and contentment.
  4. The physical sensation of being happy: how does happiness feel like? What sensory experience gives enjoyment and enriches our lives?

Research studies provide three primary factors contributing to a state of chronic happiness: Genetics, circumstances, and efforts.[4]

Sources of Happiness:

Research studies show that about 50% of our happiness is genetic, while the individual can control 40% of their happiness and 10% is circumstantial (where you work, live, earn and your marriage and health, etc.)[5]

A survey conducted in 2010 suggested that everyone attempts to find happiness in these three ways:

  • Doing good for others
  • Be a contributor
  • Cherish most important relationship

Doing things you’re good at:

  • Do more of good at and less of what you are not good at
  • Doing things good for you.
  • Take care of health and well-being, financial security, and work-life balance.[6]

What Makes Us Happy?

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California has identified significant eight behaviors that happy and mentally healthy people do:

  • Count your blessings: Remember good and worthy moments of your life.
  • Practice acts of kindness: Kindness makes you happy.
  • Thank a mentor: Show gratitude towards people who help you.
  • Take out time for friends and family: Where you live, how much money you make, your job, your salary, and even your health have surprisingly great effects on your satisfaction with life. The biggest factor is to build strong personal relationships.
  • Learn to forgive: Forgive those people who hurt you. if you carry the problem, it will hurt you even more.
  • Take care of your health and your body: Getting enough sleep, exercising, and laughing can elevate your mood and make your health good too.
  • Notice good things as they happen: think about good deeds every day and make them count.
  • Practice Positive Thinking: Learn to work with your worries, problems, negative thoughts, and stress.[5]

How To Be Healthy?

4 scientifically-backed healthy lifestyle changes are given below to help you find more happiness by being healthy:

According to research, when you’re happy, you tend to eat healthier food too such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, eggs, and chicken. Some people tend to eat sugary treats and dishes a lot. Research studies have found that individuals who eat more sweets are less happy.

  • When individuals are physically active it causes chemical changes in the brain which improve your mood. It also improves heart health, blood pressure, and joint pain.
  • When you build stronger personal relationships, you have the feeling of self-belonging and self-worth. You also feel happier and more secure by making stronger human and social connections.
  • The smallest act of kindness improves mental health. It can be a smile or holding a door for another person or feeding animals. When you truly give, it brings happiness.[7]

Why Are People Happy When They Are Healthy?

When people are in good health, they get engaged in physical activities that bring happiness like dancing, hiking, running a marathon, or climbing a mountain. They tend to enjoy a more active lifestyle.

Good physical health gives a range of new opportunities that demand physical fitness like a bodyguard or a firefighter. These new opportunities bring happiness to people.
The financial problems that millions of people are experiencing at the time of meeting the cost of medical health or fitness. This inability to cope with financial burden brings unhappiness. Money has power but it cannot buy you either health or happiness but it is one of the factors in the happiness equation.

People tend to enjoy better social life strengthening relationships when they are free from chronic pain.

Healthcare Criteria To Sustain Health And Happiness?

  • Being physically active.
  • Maintaining a work-life balance.
  • Coping up with stressful situations.
  • Seek spiritual and mental well-being.
  • Maintain a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins, avoid consumption of excessive caffeine and drink adequate amounts of water.
  • Research the genetic predisposition to illnesses.
  • practice adequate exercise, rest, and relaxation.
  • Eat foods from natural sources or consume meat-free nutrition to be in good health.[8]

Does a Healthy Lifestyle Lead To Greater Happiness?

A new review published in the Annual Review of Public Health describes the entire body of evidence on happiness and health to answer this question:

Happiness with decreased risk of mortality:

It was found that people who report the feeling of a stronger sense of well-being are less likely to die compared to those who do not.

Happiness with reduced risk of specific disease:

There are pieces of evidence that people with serious conditions like spinal injury, heart failure, and coronary artery disease tend to recover quickly when they have a feeling of happiness.

Happiness with reduced symptoms of depression:

There are shreds of evidence showing happiness results in reduced depression. It also leads to mental health well-being and life satisfaction for older adults.

With so much interesting research showing the positive benefits for health when we’re happy, here are the six proven health benefits:

Happiness with Improved Heart Health:

Many studies like Kim, Smith & Kubzansky (2014), Boehm et al (2011), Kubzansky & Thurston (2007), Davidson, Mostofsky & Whang (2010) have found the link of happiness with improved heart health and lower risk of heart disease by 13-26%.

Happiness with the ability to Combat Stress More Effectively:

Multiple studies myth et al (1998), Davydov et al (2005), Steptoe et al (2008) have found that happier individuals have lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone in their blood.

Happiness with a Stronger Immune System:

Some research studies including Stone et al (1987), Cohen et al (2003), Marsland et al (2006) have indicated that happiness can support a strong immune system, and the ability to fight infections or disease effectively.

Overall Healthier Lifestyle:

Research studies include eating a healthier diet by Dubois et al (2012), engaging in more physical activity by Sapranaviciute-Zabazlajeva et al (2017), and overcoming poor sleeping habits by Steptoe et al (2008) promotes a greater sense of well being.

Happiness can help reduce pain:

Research studies including Fredrickson (2004) and Berges, Seale &Ostir (2014) have shown that happier individuals experience lesser pain in chronic conditions such as arthritis as they have a better perspective to accept new thoughts.

Happiness with Increased life longevity:

Research studies including Carstensen et al (2011), Lawrence, Rogers & Wadsworth (2015), Chida & Steptoe (2008) have found the association of happiness with life longevity. Happiness has an impact on the above health benefits which results in longer life.[9][10]

Summary:

Laughter is the best medicine and has been a cliche now for a particular reason. As everybody wants to be happier but they don’t know what will make them happy.

Research studies generally focus on 4 factors including, personal well-being, happiness traits, positive emotions, and physical sense of being happy. Individual happiness is determined genetically 50% but 40% of happiness is completely in control of an individual so make it count. There are criteria to sustain health and happiness including, being physically active, mitigate stress, finding genetic predisposition to illness and maintaining work-life balance, etc. Several proven health benefits result in happier individuals. As we know adverse health harms the happiness level too. Some of the proven health benefits of being happy are reduced symptoms of depression, stronger immune system, improved heart health, and increased life longevity, etc. Several research studies have backed up these health benefits which clearly explains good health increases the level of happiness.

References:

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