Which came first: health or happiness? There’s a chicken-and-the-egg sort of debate about it; are happy people healthier, or are healthy people happier?
According to the 2012 U.S. Census, people who consider themselves healthy are about 20 percent happier than the average Joe, while those who are unhealthy are about 8.25 percent less happy. So what can happiness do for your health?
Here’s a look at five great health benefits of happiness:
- It boosts your immune system. Repeated studies on the immune system show that people with a high level of positive emotion who were exposed to viruses were better able to ward off illness.
- It strengthens your heart. Chronic anger and anxiety take a toll on your cardiovascular system; studies show that people with a high level of hope and optimism have a lower risk for coronary heart disease.
- It may help reduce pain. Many studies dealing with arthritis have shown happier people have less pain and stiffness; it also has been shown to reduce pain related to other conditions.
- It helps you sleep better. Sleep’s role in our overall health is becoming more widely recognized. We know now that when you sleep better, it improves your cognitive function, your ability to regulate your weight and boosts your immune system. (Not to mention making you way less grumpy!) Studies show a link between happiness and better sleep, contributing to that much-desired “upward spiral” of happiness.
- It lengthens your lifespan. There’s a strong link between positive well-being and longevity. Even with chronic conditions like heart disease, happier people tend to outlive their grumpy counterparts.
Healthy Happiness Habits
If you want to boost your happiness so you can increase your health, try some of these scientifically proven methods:
Get outside. Being in nature is a natural mood-booster.
Practice gratitude. Gratitude refocuses your attention and makes you appreciate the good things in your life.
Develop a mindfulness or meditation practice. Slowing down and looking inward has medically proven benefits, and also helps you sleep better.
Exercise. It’s good for your physical well-being but also plays a key role in boosting your mood.
Eat a healthy diet. Healthy foods lead to a happy brain—and you’ll improve your health, too!