Coliseum Health System - January 06, 2017

It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and lose sight of what makes you happy. Really happy. But it's important to make sure your happiness meter is giving optimal readings so you can reap the health rewards of being happy.

Happy people have younger hearts, younger arteries, and a younger-feeling body. Happy people recover more quickly from surgery, cope better with pain, have lower blood pressure, and have longer life expectancies than unhappy people.

Studies also suggest that happy people may have stronger immune systems - making them less likely to get colds and flu viruses. And when they do, their symptoms tend to be milder.

Not surprisingly, happy people are better at looking after their health, too. When people's happiness levels improve, so do their health behaviors. They exercise more, wear sunscreen and go for regular checkups.

Do you feel like there's no way for you to be happy and worried you are clinically depressed? Attend a seminar to find out more about depression! It's a free seminar on January 17 at 6pm at Coliseum Medical Centers.

What is happiness?

Defining happiness is no simple feat. We all know when we're happy and when we're not. But ask a roomful of people what makes them happy and you're likely to get a wide range of responses, from "watching the sunset" or "spending time with good friends" to "finding a great shoe sale" or "winning the office football pool."

Research reveals that happiness is partly in your genes. Your level of happiness is not entirely predetermined by your genes, but genes do play a part, just as they play a part in your general health. Some researchers estimate that as much as 40 to 50 percent of a person's capacity for happiness may be genetically predetermined. And although that means some lucky people may start off with a greater propensity for happiness, it's no guarantee they'll lead a charmed life. Fortunately, evidence suggests that even the gloomiest of us can learn to be happier.

And learn we must. Left to our own devices, we tend to focus our energies on things that will give us the greatest instant pleasure. Even when we know better.

How to get happy

Everyone wants to be happy, and the benefits are clearly plentiful. But the fact is that people aren't always great at predicting what will make them happy. If it's long-term happiness you're after, you may need to learn a few new tricks:

  • Do all that you can to maintain a healthy lifestyle and you'll be well on your way to a long life rich in happiness. Be your healthiest and happiest by eating a balanced diet with lots of fruit and veggies, keeping stress levels to a minimum, getting regular checkups, wearing sunscreen, laughing often, moderating alcohol intake, getting plenty of exercise and not smoking.
  • Exercise, but don't overdo it or underdo it. Moderate exercise offers the biggest boost in happiness. In general, increasing the amount of physical activity in your life increases well-being, whether it's yoga, weight training, or daily walks around the neighborhood.
  • Get treated. If you have symptoms or signs of depression, obesity, diabetes or if you think you may be living with a mood disorder, get it treated. Appropriate treatment can help reduce your symptoms, increase your sense of well-being and get you back on track to a happy life.
  • Developing your social side is crucial for well-being. Studies show that people who are socially active, who are compassionate and who are emotionally generous have higher levels of happiness and live longer than people who lead a more solitary life. And it isn't only receiving support that makes us happy; it's being able to give support to others as well.
  • Invest in things that mean the most to you. Research reveals that participants' subjective well-being is directly affected by the fulfillment they derive from the activities they spend most of their energy on, whether that is raising children, working or volunteering. Research on aging shows that being actively involved in life is linked to increased levels of happiness as well.

As you focus on bringing meaning to your life, be sure to set realistic, attainable goals. People who do so report being happier than people who focus on grandiose long-term goals. Being able to realize goals that reflect your personal values and interests can help reinforce your sense of autonomy, purpose, and achievement. This has been shown to contribute significantly to overall well-being.

There is no mysterious magical formula that you have to follow exactly in order to achieve happiness. Happiness is a personal journey of self-discovery. What makes you happy is not necessarily the same as what makes your friend, your partner, or your son or daughter happy.

Do you feel like there's no way for you to be happy and worried you are clinically depressed? Attend a seminar to find out more about depression! It's a free seminar on January 17 at 6pm at Coliseum Medical Centers.