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Why Happiness Makes You Healthier (And How to Be Happier)

04 Jan, 2018
By Andie Reeves
Happiness isn't just good for your mental state; it's good for your health too. There have been countless studies proving the link between a happy life and a healthy life, yet it's never the first thing we work on when working on our health. And if it's that important, how can we become happier to ensure a healthier life?
 
We unpack all the research on how happiness really does improve your health and well-being, and give you some easy suggestions on how you can keep happy and fit for the rest of your life.

How Being Happy Improves Your Health

It seems obvious that having a healthy body would make you happier, but what about the other way around? Here are 6 ways that personal happiness has been proven to improve everything from your heart to your actual lifespan:
 
  • A happy mind means a happy heart

    Historically the heart symbolises love and emotions, even though we all know the brain is the organ responsible for those feelings. Your heart is, however, connected to your emotions in the sense that a happy life has health benefits for your heart.

    In this study 2000 people were asked to talk about their work life to researchers, who rated their general happiness. After ten years the people were interviewed again and it was found that those who were rated as happier initially were far less likely to have developed heart disease.

    Another study shows that happy people will have lower blood pressure and a better heart rate.

  • Being happier encourages healthy behaviours

    Happier people are more inclined to look after themselves.

    If you’re in a good state of mind you’re more likely to be motivated to go for a run or to take the time to cook a healthy meal. A happy person is more likely to have a grip on unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking or taking drugs.

  • Boosting your mood boosts your immune system

    There’s a reason why the happiest people you know are rarely sick (and the grumpy people are always complaining about some kind of ailment). Being happy has been proven to improve your immune system and having negative thoughts can be linked to having poor health.

    In this study participants were exposed to the common cold (with their consent, and a large amount of money we hope!). The participants who had been rated as more positive people were considerably less likely to develop flu-like symptoms while the more negative participants did.
 
  • Happiness is great for eliminating stress

    We usually consider stress something that is just in the mind, but stress actually has a huge impact on the state of your body. It can mess with your sleep patterns and keeps your body in fight-or-flight mode, which is exhausting.

    Stress has also been linked to causing high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and diabetes, and happiness is the most natural way to combat constant worry.

Read More: THIS Is the Real Reason You’re Always So Tired
 
  • Unhappiness can cause you actual pain

    People who are happier are known to experience far less pain and discomfort than those who have a more negative life.

    One study got participants to rate how often they experienced positive feelings recently. A few weeks later they were asked to list any negative symptoms (ranging from muscle pain to heartburn) they had experienced since the initial interview.

    Those who were the happiest at the beginning of the study not only experienced less negative symptoms than the participants who were less happy but their health actually got better. The health of the more negative people actually declined, making a pretty strong case for happiness being good for you!

  • Happier people live for longer

    A pretty famous study linking lifespan and happiness took place in a nunnery. Nuns were asked to write an essay when they entered the convent at age 22. Researchers discovered that those who had been upbeat, funny and positive in their essays lived for up to 10 whole years longer than the less cheerful nuns.

Read More: Be Body Positive - Do You Know How to Love Yourself?

How to Be Happier

Okay, so now you’re convinced that happiness and health go hand in hand, how do you get happier? Here are a few ways to add extra joy into your life:
 
  • Spend time with happy people

    Research has shown that happiness is contagious. But unlike a disease, you’re probably only too happy to catch a bit of happiness that is going around.

    Spend time with friends who lift you up and make you feel energised rather than drained. We don’t mean cut out your sad friends completely though, but it’s worth it to have a conversation with them where you both agree to try be more positive when you hang out. This means less gossiping and complaining and more laughing and sharing good news.

  • Spend less time on your phone

    The people who are the most genuinely happy are not the ones constantly posting about how happy they are on social media.

    Studies show that spending too much time on your phone leads to FOMO-induced anxiety because you find yourself feeling like everybody else is living their best life while you’re just sitting at home on your phone.
    It also makes you more likely to compare your life to the perfect versions of their life people share online, and could have negative effects on your studies or work.

  • Get into meditation and mindfulness

    There’s a reason why statues of Buddha are always smiling; meditation makes you a much happier person.

    Start getting more in touch with being mindful and present by practising meditation. Try downloading an app, like Headspace, that will guide you through the whole process. It’s only a few minutes out of your day and the benefits are so worth it.
 
  • Exercise

    If you’re unfit it might be hard to fathom a "runner’s high" but it’s totally real, and totally achievable (even if you’re not a runner).

    The endorphin rush you get after an exercise session is an amazing mood-booster. You don’t have to push yourself completely out of your comfort zone, just do something that gets your heart racing four times a week and watch your spirits lift.

    Also, exercising improves the way you feel about your body, which obviously has a huge impact on your state of mind. This study shows that women who exercise regularly feel better about their bodies, even if their bodies didn’t necessarily ‘improve’ or change from it!

  • Get some rest

    You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that a bad night’s sleep means you’re in a bad mood for the next day. Getting your 6 to 8 hours every night is crucial for your mood. Your brain needs this time to reset and rest, especially in the highly stimulating world we live in today.

    It has also been proven that napping can do wonders for your happiness. People who took an afternoon nap during this study were shown to be less affected by negativity and feel more positive than those who didn’t nap.

Read More: Tired of Being Tired? 11 Easy Things You Can Do to Sleep Better
 
  • Reach out and help others

    Your mother wasn’t lying when she told you “it’s better to give than to receive”. The feeling of giving makes you warm and fuzzy inside, while the high you get after buying yourself something is generally pretty short-lived and empty.

    According to experts two hours a week is the perfect amount of time to dedicate to making someone else’s life better. Try volunteering at a dog shelter if you love animals, doing your grandmother’s weekly grocery shop or offering your time at a local hospice.

  • Go outside

    Studies show that the sea and the sun are big contributors to general happiness. Even if you’re a city slicker at heart, the great outdoors has an undeniably good impact on your mood.

    Double up on happiness points by doing your mood-boosting exercise in a mood-boosting area, like in the park or on the mountain.
 
  • Make the time to see your friends

    Like we said earlier, your health improves when your general satisfaction with life improves. And do you know what one of the things that people on their deathbed felt least satisfied with when asked to look back on their lives? Their social life.

    People always regret not spending enough time with friends. Don’t spend your weekends lying in bed alone watching series; get out of the house and be sociable. You’re not going to be on your deathbed feeling glad that you watched all 9 seasons of The Office now are you?

  • Spend your money wisely

    They say money can’t buy you happiness and that’s mostly true. However, if you spend your money in the right way it can.

    Instead of buying material things use your money on experiences. This could be anything from a weekend away to taking your best friend wine-tasting. As long as by the end of it you have stories and memories, instead of simply a material object.

  • Keep a gratitude journal

    Get into the habit of writing what you are grateful for in a journal every day. It could be three things or ten, whatever you have the time for. It has been proven that counting your blessings makes you feel happier.

    It’s easy to feel down after a long day of work in a job you hate. But writing down what you’re grateful for you will be forced to see the positive. The fact that you have a comfortable bed or that you never have to worry about where your next meal will come from is pretty great in itself.

Read More: Want to Make Your Life Easier? Nail Your Signature Beauty Look
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