There is enough evidences to support the idea that one way to stay healthy is to be happy. Happiness is a positive emotion, and we all want to be happy. But how do we stay happy? There is no single answer to this question. However, experts offer several suggestions based on professional experiences and critical review of systematic works on happiness. Here are few tips on how you can be happy.
Make kindness the central theme of your life. – “It’s really all about kindness” says Dr. Christine Carter of the University of Berkeley. An act of kindness doesn’t have to be a huge philanthropic act. Doing even something small for a person is an act of kindness and that can make us feel elated. It brings so much meaning to life. Perhaps you can think about helping an old lady cross the street, or sharing a warm greeting to a lonely stranger, or something else like giving a caring touch to somebody ill. And don’t forget to forgive. Forgiveness is an act of kindness too.
Science has also confirmed our observation that we feel happy when we do something for someone else. This works on an individual basis where we can see the impact to the other person directly and on a global basis where we believe we are doing something larger than ourselves. Not only do we feel good when we do something selfless, but we also often attract other kind people to our life.
Think of somebody else when you feel down. – It may feel like the world is totally crumbling down when you are at your low moments, especially during times when you are at the height of emotional depression. Being in a depressed emotional state triggers stress response which results to the release of hormones and chemicals that can lead to hypertension, increased blood sugar levels and accumulation of body fat. Certainly these are recipes for physical illness. So, if sadness has been your constant companion, experts suggest that redirecting your thoughts onto someone else who needs your help would be a help for yourself too. By opening yourself and reaching out to others, you are on your journey to personal recovery and healing.
Acknowledge negative feelings. – Dr. Carter asserts that most kids and adults numb feelings that are negative like fear. She suggests that by ignoring those feelings, we become blinded of the positive feelings. Therefore, in order to feel the positive feelings, we want to feel the negative feelings as well so we can gain a better perspective of these contrasting emotions based on our experiences.
Forget about achievement and focus on the journey. Staying healthy is not about how much money we earn, what position we have advanced into during our career life or the degree we have obtained. Studies show that people who make a lot of money are not necessarily happy. Dr. Carter believes that it is not the achievements that bring us joy. If we send our kids to school, do we push them too hard to get straight “As”? Or do we make want our kids feel that schooling is fun? Does it really matter that we earn a PhD? Or is it in the journey towards the achievement that we find the feeling of satisfaction?
Make informed choices based on evidence. “Happiness depends to some extent on the choices we make in life”, says Ruut Veenhoven, of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Life choices are for the most part, based on expected happiness; for instance we typically choose a profession we like. Borrowing some concepts that economists use, Veenhoven explains that our actual experiences may differ from what we expect as we often make decisions based on incomplete information. By doing so, people make mal-informed choices like accepting a high paying job that requires more commuting with the expectation that the extra money will compensate for the travel time. However follow-up studies show that such cases are mostly wrong and that happiness diminishes over time. In other words, if we could act on informed choices, we are more likely to experience happiness over the long term. To put it simply – learn how to choose.
Learn to enjoy. Our innate ability to enjoy life can be cultivated, as Veenhoven offers. He says that it is possible to enjoy the common things in life like eating breakfast and taking the pleasures of breathing a fresh morning air.
Choosing to be happy is, in many ways, a matter of personal choice. It is choosing a personal path to positive thoughts and deeds for others. Remember, staying healthy is not just about eating the right stuff, or getting enough sleep. It involves the many aspects of our being as we journey through this life. So stay happy.
Carter, Christine and Ronna Renner. The Greater Good: The Science of Meaningful Life. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu
Veenhoven, R. (2008). “Healthy happiness: Effects of Happiness on Physical Health and the Consequences for Preventive Health Care“. Journal of Happiness Studies. http://www.springerlink.com/content/0474658172222350/
Happy Life U: Because Happiness can be Learned: “The Science of Happiness – Five Important Findings to Help you e Happier Now.” http://www.happylifeu.com/ScienceOfHappiness.html