Finding a Link Between Happiness and Health

Like so many of us social media users, I am addicted to Pinterest.  I’m addicted for many different reasons, but lately, I’ve been spending my time browsing inspirational quotes, and repinning my favorites so I can revisit them when I need a motivational pick-me-up.  Recently I came across a pin that I found particularly striking:

“I have decided to be happy because it is good for my health.”

happy 

I liked this quote (loosely translated from Voltaire) immediately – I believe that the health of the mind and body are connected, and it’s a great reminder to keep balanced when life gets particularly stressful.  But this pin really got me thinking – can one’s happiness directly influence health?  As it turns out, research suggests that happiness can actually help protect our body from sickness like common colds and even heart disease!

Could happiness actually help our physical health?

Laura Kubzansky, associate professor at Harvard’s school of public health, is at the forefront of this research and has found that happiness does matter when it comes to bodily health.  In a 2007 study, she found that emotional vitality and optimism appears to significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.  Another 2013 study found similar results, stating that positivity was associated with a 13% reduction in incident Coronary Artery Disease in a national probability sample, independent of preexisting risk factors.

For more common ailments, a 2004 study conducted at Carnegie Mellon found that people who are happy, lively, calm or otherwise positive are less likely to become ill when they are exposed to a cold virus.  This bit of information is a part of a growing research on how happiness influences health, but this is already enough to convince me to take my happiness more seriously!

But how do we keep ourselves happy?

woman jumping at the beach

We all know that sometimes “being happy” is easier said than done, but there are ways that we can set the stage for our happiness to thrive.  Dr. Oz had happiness expert Christine Carter, PhD as a guest on his show, who says smiling (even when you don’t want to,) spending time in the daylight, eating omega-3 rich seafood and even yawning can all help boost your mood.

For me, I like to exercise and spend time outside (especially with my dog!) even when I don’t feel like doing it.  It doesn’t really matter what helps you unwind and makes you smile - the point is to stick with healthy habits that will give you boosts of happiness for many days to come!

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