What is Happiness?
Happiness is a feeling which comprises of positive and good emotions, like satisfaction, contentment and joy. Happiness is the one elusive thing that everybody wants and chases it; but how can one find lasting happiness? Do you know that happiness also makes you healthy? Studies have shown that happiness can make a person healthy too and also has many other health benefits.
So how exactly does happiness lead to good health? Read on to know more.
How Happiness Leads To Good Health?
Happiness Leads to a Healthy Lifestyle
A happy person tends to make the right choices in life ergo a healthy life. A person who is happy consumes a healthy diet that consists of more whole grains, vegetables and fruits.(1,2)
A research done on 7,000 participants has shown that people with a positive attitude were 47% more likely to eat fresh vegetables and fruits when compared to people who were less positive.(3)
So, when you follow a healthy diet consisting of vegetables and fruits, it naturally will improve your health by decreasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.(4,5)
The same research also revealed that positive people were 33% more likely to exercise or be physically active than others. When you engage in consistent physical activity, it increases your energy levels; gives strong bones, lowers blood pressure and decreases body fat.(6,7,8) Also, when a person is happy, his/her sleep habits are good; thus, resulting in more productivity; concentration and a healthy weight and life.(9,10,11) Another study has shown that sleep problems like falling asleep and staying asleep were more in people who were less positive.(12)
Happiness Protects Your Heart Health
Happiness can protect your heart health by lowering your blood pressure, which is a primary risk factor contributing to heart disease.(13,14) Being happy can also cut down the risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death all over the world.(15)
Research of nearly 7000 participants above the age of 65 showed that people who were happy and positive were associated with a 9% lower risk for hypertension.(16)
It is also thought that being happy helps in protecting patients already suffering from heart disease.(17)
Point to note is that these heart friendly effects can be a result of increase in healthy activities, such as exercising and eating healthy and quitting smoking, which are associated with happy people and which help with reducing the risk of heart disease.(18) However, more studies are needed for definitive link between happiness and heart disease.
Happiness Strengthens Your Immune System
Studies have has shown that happy people tend to have a strong immune system; and we all know how important it is to have a good immune system for good health.(19)
A strong immune system decreases the risk of developing cold and infections.(20)
A study of more than 300 healthy participants, where they were given cold virus via nasal drops to assess their risk of developing a cold, showed that people who were not happy were thrice likely to develop cold when compared to happier people.(21)
Another research showed that 81 students were given hepatitis B vaccine and happier individuals were 2 times more likely to develop a high antibody response, which indicates a strong immune system.(22)
Happiness Defeats & Reduces Stress
Happiness leads to decreased stress levels.(23,24) When a person suffers from extreme stress, then cortisol levels increase in the body resulting in more negative effects of stress, such as weight gain, disturbed sleep, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. A study showed that happy people had lower cortisol by 32% compared to unhappy people.(25,26,27)
Another study has shown that when a person is happy, their cortisol levels are lower and this is another way how happiness leads to good health.(28)
Happiness Can Increase Your Life Expectancy
Happiness can lead to longer life.(29,30) A study has shown the effects of happiness on the life expectancy of about 32,000 participants. A broad review of about 70 studies researched the link positive well-being and life expectancy healthy people as well as those people who had a pre-existing health condition.(31)
The death risk over a study period of 30-years was about 14% more in people who were not happy when compared to happy participants.
Being positive and happy showed to have a favorable effect on longevity; cutting down the, death risk by about 18% in healthy participants and by about 2% in people who had pre-existing medical issues.
Happiness Leads to Decrease in Pain
Arthritis is a joint condition where there is degeneration and inflammation of the joints resulting in stiffness and pain in the joints that worsens as a person ages. Many studies have shown that happy and positive people tend to have less pain and stiffness associated from arthritis.(32,33,34) Happiness also seems to improve the physical functioning in individuals suffering from arthritis.
A study was done in more than 1,000 participants suffering from painful knee arthritis and it was found that people who were happier walked extra steps each day, about 8.5% more than patients who were unhappy.(35)
Happiness also helps in pain reduction in other medical conditions. Another study showed that in about 1,000 patients recovering from stroke, the patients who were happier had about 13% less pain after about three months of discharge from the hospital.
Experts think that happy people tend to suffer from less pain because their positivity helps in increasing their perspective and giving way to new thoughts and ideas. This is thought to help people construct good coping strategies that can reduce their pain perception.(36)
Other Health Benefits Of Happiness
- Happiness Can Protect Against Stroke:(37) When there is hindrance in the blood circulation to the brain, then it causes a stroke. A study has shown that people who were positive and happy had about 26% reduction in their stroke risk.
- Happiness Can Decrease Fragility:(38) Fragility is a condition where a person experiences decrease in strength and balance. Studies have shown that happy individuals had about 3% lower risk of fragility over a study period of 7 years.
How to Boost Your Happiness: Six Scientifically Proven Methods for A Happier You
- Be More Active:(39) Engaging in physical activities and exercising regularly is the most effective method for boosting your happiness. You can also play tennis and do some walking, which will not only improve your physical health, but also give you a better mood.
- Get Out Of Your Home:(40) Sitting and steeping inside your home causes brooding and breeding of negative thoughts. Get outside and take a stroll in the park or do some gardening. Just about 10 minutes of outdoor work or exercise helps in improving your mood drastically.
- Healthy Diet:(41) Consuming healthy food items, such as fruits and vegetables can lead to more happiness along with improving your general health.
- Express Gratitude:(42) Focusing on the things that you have and are grateful for is a good way to increase your happiness. You can practice gratitude by keeping a journal and writing three things that you are thankful for before going to bed each night.
- Rest & Sleep:(43) Lack of sleep leaves you cranky, irritated, moody and unhappy. Getting a good night’s sleep is imperative in boosting your happiness as well as your overall health.
- Meditation:(44) Meditating daily is very important and beneficial for boosting happiness. Meditation also helps reduce stress and improve sleep.
Being happy not only is good for your emotional health, but also your overall health and this has been proven with many studies. Being happy encourages a healthy lifestyle, which will boost your immunity; reduce stress, reduce pain, protect your heart and increase your longevity.
However, more research is needed to completely understand the methodology behind all this; however, it doesn’t mean you should delay happiness. Start working on the above-mentioned tips by practicing gratitude, exercising, spending more time outside to improve your life and definitely improve your mood and happiness.