THE 2006 MOVIE OF the same name was not that far off giving us emotional reasons why we can all do with “happyness” in our lives. According to Dr Mercola of Mercola.com, psychological well-being affects our physical wellness in a big way. You knew this all along but here’s the science behind it:
♥ Why Happiness Is Healthy
1. A review of more than 200 studies found that positive psychological well-being is linked with a lower risk of heart disease, as well as lower blood pressure, normal body weight , and healthier blood fat profiles.
2. For those 60 and over, feelings of happiness and enjoyment were associated with improved mobility and a lower risk of developing a disability over an eight-year period.
3. It’s even been scientifically shown that happiness can alter your genes! A team of researchers at UCLA showed that people with a deep sense of happiness and well-being had lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and stronger antiviral and antibody responses This falls into the realm of epigenetics — changing the way your genes function by turning them off and on.
4. People who are happy are less impacted by everyday stressors, and this ability to deflect stress is responsible for many of the gains to their health. Past research has found that positive emotions – including being happy, lively, and calm – appear to play a role in immune function. One study found that when happy people are exposed to cold and flu viruses, they’re less likely to get sick and, if they do, exhibit fewer symptoms. The researchers said:
“We need to take more seriously the possibility that positive emotional style is a major player in disease risk.”
1. In a study of nearly 200 heart failure patients, those with higher levels of gratitude had better mood, better sleep, less fatigue, and less inflammation, which can worsen heart failure, than those with lower levels.
2. Keeping a gratitude journal, a simple task in which you write down several things for which you are most thankful each day, appeared especially beneficial.
♥ Is Being Happy in Your Genes?
There is some research to suggest that some people are naturally happier than others. In one study of nearly 1,000 pairs of adult twins, researchers at the University of Edinburgh suggested that genes account for about 50% of the variation in people’s levels of happiness.
The underlying determinant was genetically caused personality traits, such as being sociable, active, stable, hardworking, or conscientious.
But this does not at all suggest that you’re born with a certain level of happiness and powerless to change it. Anyone can improve their level of happiness, and your environment and life circumstances also play a role, as there are many other indicators of happiness outside of your genes (or your age).
CNN recently highlighted some of the most interesting research on what makes people happy:
1. Emotional well-being rises with income (but only up to $75,000 or RM281,000 after which no additional rises are seen)
2.Research suggests experiences make us happier than possessions; the “newness” of possessions wears off, as does the joy they bring you, but experiences improve your sense of vitality and “being alive” both during the experience and when you reflect back on it
3. Older adults tend to have a greater sense of happiness than younger adults, perhaps because they regulate emotions better, are exposed to less stress and have less negative emotions (and perhaps a diminished negative response)
4. Happiness typically follows a U-shaped curve. Happiness starts high, trends downward into middle-age, and then climbs back up among older people if they do not have severe health problems.
♥ Probiotics May Help Improve Your Mood
In addition to the brain in your head, embedded in the wall of your gut is your enteric nervous system (ENS), which works both independently of and in conjunction with the brain in your head.
This communication between your “two brains” runs both ways and is the pathway for how foods affect your mood. However, this gut-brain connection is about far more than just comfort food or butterflies in your stomach.
According to Scientific American:
“The gut-brain axis seems to be bidirectional—the brain acts on gastrointestinal and immune functions that help to shape the gut’s microbial makeup, and gut microbes make neuroactive compounds, including neurotransmitters and metabolites that also act on the brain.”
In one recent study, a multispecies probiotic supplement taken for four weeks reduced cognitive reactivity to sad mood, which is a strong marker for depression (the more a person reacts to sad mood with dysfunctional thoughts, the more prone they are to a depressive episode). The strongest effects were seen for reducing rumination and aggressive thoughts. According to the researchers:
“These results provide the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood. Probiotics supplementation warrants further research as a potential preventive strategy for depression.”