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Be Happy, Be Healthy

DCF_0013There is no real way for us to strictly define what is happiness for all people. Sure, we can choose some vaguely defined words to add clarity to what we mean, but the fact is that how I define happy for me probably differs somewhat from how you define happy for you. That said, there does seem to be a common theme for everybody: Those who describe themselves as happy also tend to enjoy better health.

The photo leading off this blog post is one of my own legs and feet that was taken during one of my favourite pastimes: barefoot walking in the woods. And now that we’re firmly into summer in Tokyo, I’ve been enjoying another of my great loves: swimming in the ocean. No matter how busy I tend to be, I try to ensure that each day has some time devoted to nothing but nurturing my happiness. Often, that involves exercise, but it may be nothing more than some sunbathing out on my balcony on a warm afternoon.

Happiness really shouldn’t be overlooked as an essential component of your life. Happiness improves one’s immune system, relieves stress, decreases inflammatory response and increases positive emotions. People who are consistently happier are consistently healthier, by every possible metric. You’ll have lower risk of heart disease, reduced chance of stroke, increased libido (a good thing in my view), a better sense of self-worth and more. And if you’re happy, you’ll tend to make better health-related decisions. Whether we’re talking about exercise, diet, sleep or other lifestyle points, happy people consistently make better decisions that affect their health.

Happiness is such a powerful adjunct to personal well-being that it can even affect your gene expression. For example, chronically happy people typically enjoy a reduction in inflammatory gene expression. Just as chronic stress can turn on disease-causing genes, chronic happiness can turn them off. So, focus on happiness as much as you can. You’ll possibly live longer, all while enjoying a better quality of life while you’re here.

It might be challenging for some of you to keep that chipper outlook, so you may want to employ a few tricks to help you maintain that positive focus. One of the things that has proven beneficial for many people is the writing of a gratitude journal. It doesn’t need to be a big deal; just take some time out of each day to make a note of all the things for which you have reason to feel grateful. Writing it down is an important part of that, as the process of writing distills and strengthens our thoughts. Writing about our positive feelings and thoughts creates a powerful matrix within our memory systems that makes recalling these positive life events/aspects easier. The more we write about such things, the more important we tag these events for our brain. As we get used to ascribing greater importance to these positive events, we naturally gravitate towards these thoughts.

Do you have any tricks that help you maintain a positive focus and outlook? If so, I’d love to have you share them in the comments.

 

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