Happy, Healthy and WiseApril 25, 2012 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Happiness seems like it has little to do with the modern health care system. But, in medicine, as in life, appearances can be deceiving. Statistics reveal that people who have a positive outlook are more likely to be in better physical health. Now, some theorize that happy people are healthier because they take better care of themselves. Simply put, they have more of a reason to want to live longer. There’s certainly some truth to that assertion. However, recent developments in the field of psychology explain that the link between contentment and wellness may very well be a two way street.
Men and women who score highly on tests pertaining to psychological well-being are more likely to have healthier blood test results as well. Current research reports that markers associated with chronic disease such as inflammatory proteins, triglycerides and waist circumference are lower in happier individuals. Scientific reviews have likewise concluded that those with a more optimistic outlook demonstrate decreased mortality rates from various causes ranging from heart disease to kidney failure. However, there’s more to the happy-health picture than just that. An intriguing study from the December 2009 issue of the Journal of Personality determined that participants with “positive affect” reacted to stressful circumstances in a healthier manner than those with negative affect. Specifically, those possessing negative affect produced larger amounts of substances associated with poor health outcomes (cortisol, fibrinogen and interleukin-6) than the happier study volunteers. This indicates that a sunnier disposition protects the body against both immediate and long term challenges and threats we all face in life.
The above information is only of value if there’s a pragmatic way of attaining greater happiness. Fortunately, science has a few suggestions about how we can access more of it. The key is to practice, much like a form of physical exercise, two strategies every single day. The first is to express more optimism. The second concept is to frequently convey gratitude. Both can be done as part of a journaling protocol and/or by sharing verbally with family and friends. An added tip, direct from the medical literature, is to remind yourself why you’re taking the time to express gratitude and optimism. You want more happiness in your life. And, as your capacity to experience joy increases, so too will your capacity to get well and stay well.
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Study 1 - Distinctive Biological Correlates of Positive Psychological Well-Being … (link)
Study 2 - Positive Affect and Psychobiological Processes Relevant to Health … (link)
Study 3 - Positive Psychological Well-Being and Mortality: A Quantitative … (link)
Study 4 - A Longitudinal Experimental Study Comparing the Effectiveness … (link)
Study 5 - Becoming Happier Takes Both a Will and a Proper Way: An Experimental … (link)
Negative and Positive Affect Impact Fibrinogen Production
Source: J Pers. 2009 December; 77(6): 1747–1776. (link)
Tags: Heart Health, Kidney Health, Stress
Posted in Alternative Therapies, General Health, Mental Health