The Happiness Connection  

Happy ways to get healthier

As I was reading positive psychology studies published in 2020, I found one that captured my attention.

Kostadin Kushlev, of Georgetown University, worked with colleagues at the University of British Columbia and the University of Virginia to examine if improving the happiness of individuals who weren’t hospitalized or undergoing medical treatment, increased their physical health.

There’s already a large body of evidence that shows a strong link between happiness and health. This study was intriguing because it wasn’t just interested in the link. It wanted to test whether physical health could be improved by boosting a person’s sense of wellbeing.

155 adults aged 25-75 were randomly assigned to a waitlist or enrolled in a 12-week happiness course, which the scientist referred to as an intervention.

The waitlist represented the control group.

The course was broken into three sections.

  • Core Self – identifying personal goals, strengths, and values.
  • Experiential Self – learning emotional mastery, mindfulness, and ways to identify patterns of thinking that interfered with a sense of wellbeing.
  • Social Self – discovering tools to increase positive social engagement and cultivate gratitude.

The content was made up of information and activities that previous studies had found to boost happiness. None of them focused on sleep, exercise, or diet.

During the 12-week positive psychology intervention, participants reported feeling happier than those on the waitlist. They also took fewer sick days not only during the initial 12 weeks, but also during the three months after the intervention had concluded.

This shows that diet and exercise aren’t the only things that improve your physical health.

This would be an important finding at any time, but it seems especially significant during a global pandemic.

Happiness isn’t just about feeling good, it’s about your values, beliefs, and intentions. It’s a way of approaching life.

Among other things, happy people:

  • Are life-long learners.
  • See humour in challenging situations.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Understand their emotions.
  • Are interested in the greater good.

If practising happiness sounds like something you’d be interested in trying, the following are evidence-based activities proven to help.

  • Commit Random Acts of Kindness. This means doing something for another person without expecting them to do anything in return. This could be as simple as opening the door for another person, smiling when you pass a stranger, or giving your server an extra good tip.
  • Give to charity. Helping a cause by donating items, contributing money, or becoming a volunteer have all been shown to make you feel better.
  • Smile, even if you don’t feel like it. Even a fake smile will make you feel happier. When the muscles involved in smiling are activated, a message goes to the brain. This triggers your brain to release feel-good chemicals. If you don’t believe me, try it.
  • Spend time outside. If you can surround yourself with nature, so much the better.
  • Establish a regular habit of journaling.
  • Meditate daily, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.
  • Connect with someone. Pick up the phone, arrange a virtual meeting, or strike up a conversation with your neighbour – while maintaining a suitable distance between you, of course.
  • Be creative. The sky is the limit here. Paint, write, compose, build, or organize. They’ll all make you feel better.
  • Limit the amount of negative information you expose yourself to. I’ve discovered that I always find out about important things, even though I rarely watch the news.
  • Do something that makes you laugh. Watch a funny movie, read a humorous book, or share comical memories with a friend or family member.
  • Listen to uplifting music. Feel free to dance.

Don’t limit yourself to just one strategy. Listen to inspiring music while you walk in nature, smiling at everyone you meet. If no one else is there, smile anyway.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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