The Connection Between Happiness and Health
Can happiness ever be unhealthy? When R and B artist Pherell Williams felt his song “Happy” needed a visual, he and his team created “24 Hours of Happy,” the world’s first all day music video. The groundbreaking project featured a cast of hundreds of Angelenos dancing to the song round the clock, with Pherell appearing at the top of each hour to lend his support. The New York Times referred to this as “punishment level glee.” Leave it to the Times to add a touch of cynicism to a celebration of bliss. While staying awake for 24 hours may take its toll, it is generally believed that happiness may be a major component in maintaining physical health. Not convinced? Read on!
Why You Should Be Happy
So what’s so great about being happy? A 2012 review of over 200 studies found a correlation between optimism and a lowered risk of heart disease. This is not to say that happiness directly prevents heart attacks, rather that happy people are more likely to maintain good habits, like exercising, eating well, and getting a good night’s sleep. However, some research seems to suggest that there are direct health benefits to a positive mental state. Studies published in the Psychological Bulletin show that optimism may help decrease levels of inflammation and a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that unhappy people 60 and older were more likely to develop disabilities, suggesting that merely being cheerful can lead to an improved physical state.
Genes and Environment
So, when it comes to happiness, is it nature or nurture? Research shows that identical twins have similar levels of happiness and that one twin’s happiness can be used to predicts the current and future happiness of the other with more accuracy than income and achievement. This would offer substantial evidence that genetics play a big role in happiness. However, if you were not lucky enough to hit the genetic jackpot, there are alternatives. Your environment can also have a lot of impact on your mental state.
Ways to Get Happy
Susan Albers, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic suggest practicing a technique she calls mindfulness, or being present in the moment. Activities like keeping a diary of gratitude or helping others are known to increase happiness and there are also smartphone apps available to help you monitor your moods.
Are you insanely happy or insanely healthy or just insane? If so, or if not, tell us how you manage to be all or none. We love to hear it.