You’ve heard about laughter as a form of healing; now happiness is being touted as the best medicine around. Feeling better emotionally has the ability to transform your overall health. Research shows by boosting our happiness, we’ll:
- cut our risk of heart disease in half
- lower our chances of developing cancer or diabetes
- extend our life by up to 10 years
So how does smiling more make you live longer? Happy people produce less of the stress hormone: cortisol.
What is Happiness?
According to Christine Carter, PhD, happiness is living a happy life filled with many different positive emotions, such as love and compassion. Happiness extends beyond the now. It must include attaching positive emotions to the past as well as the future. For example, attaching gratitude to the past and having positive feelings toward the future, such as hope, optimism and confidence.
Sustaining Happiness is the Key
If you find happiness in material things, you won’t sustain happiness. Activities which produce happiness cause real joy or lasting happiness. According to Dr. Carter, there are three primary reasons for unhappiness:
- Perfectionism – leads to dissatisfaction
- Materialism – focusses on getting not giving
- Entitlement – translates into disappointment if you don’t get what you expect
To boost happiness instantly, try:
- De-cluttering your mind
- Listening to music
- Sticking to a routine
- Practicing gratitude
Happiness Comes With Gratitude
You can improve the relationships in your life by fostering feelings of appreciation for loved ones. Express your feeling verbally, or on paper, and you’ll feel more happiness in your life.
You can boost your happiness further when you create a connection between mind, body and spirit. Changes in your nervous system can increase happiness, even if you can’t convince your mind to feel happier. Some ways to increase happiness include:
Forcing a smile
Hold a pencil between your teeth. You’ll activate your smile muscles, and, within minutes, your heart rate should go down and you’ll feel calmer and happier.
A 10-minute walk outside in the daylight can increase energy and decrease tension. Getting enough vitamin D in winter months is important, particularly in colder climates.
Eating good-mood foods
Eat foods high in omega-3s (like shrimp, salmon or snapper) or take an omega-3 supplement containing DHA. Good fats create calm and even have antidepressant effects.
By yawning our brain temperature decreases and this reduces stress, improves memory and stimulates alertness and concentration.
Getting (or giving) 8 heartfelt hugs a day
A pat on the back doesn’t cut it. A true hug stimulates the release of oxytocin which creates feelings of generosity and trust.
And, borrowing the song title from American vocalist Bobby McFerrin, Don’t Worry, Be Happy.