Recently, a critical mass of research has provided what might be the most basic and irrefutable argument in favor of that feeling we all chase, happiness: Happiness and good health go hand-in-hand. Several scientific studies suggest that happiness causes better health; others suggest that the two are most definitely correlated—perhaps good health causes happiness. Happiness and health may indeed be a virtuous circle, but researchers are still trying to untangle their complex relationship. In the meantime, if you need some extra motivation to prioritize your happiness and health today on International Happiness Day, check out these four ways that happiness has been linked to good health.
1. Happiness protects your heart – Stress and it’s accompanying feelings of anger, depression and hostility are known risk factors for heart attack and stroke, while people who consistently experience emotions like happiness, contentment, and enthusiasm have been found to be 22% less likely to develop heart disease over a ten-year period.
2. Happiness strengthens your immune system- In recent studies, individuals who were exposed to the cold and flu virus were less likely to get sick when they watched humorous videos and looked at mood-lifting imagery before exposure. If they did get the virus, they reported it to be less severe than those who did not get a dose of the funnies before exposure. It appears that laughter truly is the best medicine!
3. Happiness combats stress- Stress is known as the “silent killer,” as it’s consistent presence in one’s life can open the door to a whole host of negative effects on health, from depression to heart disease to weight gain to chronic headaches. Happiness leads to laughter which leads to serenity, and serenity is the best weapon against the sneaky effects of stress.
4. Happiness lengthens our lives- Happiness doesn’t just improve the quality of your life, it can also play a major role in quantity, as well. In a recent study, seniors who reported feeling happy, excited, and content on a typical day were 35% less likely to die over the course of a five-year study. “It’s no surprise to me that happiness has been proven to extend our years,” says Stephanie Maxwell, Executive Director of Schonberg Care community Ashton Manor in Luling, LA. “I have found through my years serving seniors in the assisted living industry that our residents who find the beauty in every day and spend lots of time laughing and engaging positively with others tend to live long, healthy lives- which is why we do everything we can to put smile’s on our resident’s faces and joy in their hearts!”
With its incredible disease and stress-fighting powers, happiness isn’t just something we want, it is something we truly need. And it’s not as hard to capture as you think- little things like getting adequate sleep, practicing active gratitude through daily journaling or affirmations, watching a funny video, performing a random act of kindness, and carving out quality time with the people you love all fill up your happiness bank quicker than you realize.
Here’s to your health and happiness!