The Happiness Factor
We underestimate the value of happiness in our lives. But the truth is that by following our hearts—in our lives—and taking time to truly enjoy every moment of every day, we can make a huge impact on our happiness and on our health.
One way to do this is to take positive steps to happiness through friends and family: studies have shown that healthy relationships are good for us emotionally and physically. People with happy relationships—and an overall positive view of life—are less stressed overall and have a better immune system, decreased health issues (like heart disease), decreased levels of stress, and increased longevity[ii].
And I would argue—from what I see in my own busy practice—happiness plays a huge part in radiant, healthy skin, too. The happier you are with your life, the better your outlook, and the more likely you are to take positive steps to care for your body, your skin, your hair, and your overall health.
Just feeling positive—and looking at life from a glass-half-full perspective—can do wonders for your health. Friends and family are a huge part of this, but the other part is making the choice to be happy and to not let the bad things in life get you down. Compelling research continues to show that these positive, happy emotions and an overall enjoyment of life contribute to better health and a longer lifespan[iii]. (One Dutch study found that just cheerfulness helped older people live almost 7.5 years longer.[iv])
In fact, in research conducted by University of Illinois, this happiness/health/longevity link is stronger than the data linking obesity to reduced longevity[v]. One possible reason for this link between happiness and health: researchers have found that being happy increases our antibodies—critical proteins utilized by the immune system to fight off viruses, bacteria, and more—by a whopping 50 percent[vi]!
So if you do one thing this month, do this: go out and embrace your friends, family, and loved ones. You'll be healthier...and a whole lot happier.
"Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry," Suzanne C. Segerstrom and Gregory E. Miller, Psychological Bulletin, July 2004, 130(4), 601-630; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/
[ii] "Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-Being Contributes to Health and Longevity," Ed Diener and Micaela Y. Chan, Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, March 2011, 3(1), 1-43; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2010.01045.x/full
[iii] "Happiness and Health," Sara Rimer, Harvard School of Public Health News, Winter 2011; http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/magazine/happiness-stress-heart-disease/; "How Happiness Affects Your Health," March 27, 2013; http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/03/27/how-happiness-affects-your-health/
[iv] "Dispositional Optimism and All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of Elderly Dutch Men and Women," Erik J. Giltay, Johanna M. Geleijnse, Frans G. Zitman, et al., JAMA Psychiatry, November 2004, 61(11), 1126-1135; http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=482087
[v] "Study: Happiness Improves Health and Lengthens Life," Diana Yates, Illinois News Bureau, March 1, 2011; http://news.illinois.edu/NEWS/11/0301happy_EdDiener.html
[vi] "Study Probes How Emotions Affect the Immune System," Jane Collingwood, PsychCentral, May 22, 2014; http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/05/22/study-probes-how-emotions-affect-immune-system/70192.html