The Science Of Happiness How Happiness Helps Your Body, Mind & Relationships
Authored by William G. DeFoore, Ph.D.
The science of happiness is exploding daily with new and surprising information about how positive emotions and simply feeling good benefits your body, mind and relationships.
Health is on the forefront for many of us, and you'll be pleased to see how happiness and health go hand-in-hand. You literally can't have one without the other.
Science Of Happiness & Your Physical Health
Your body loves it when you're happy. You have better immune function and greater resilience when you're engaged with the positive emotions of joy, love, excitement and enthusiasm.
Let's look at some of the specific benefits:
Higher energy level - Everybody wants more energy, right? Well, when you're happy, your mind is sending signals to your body saying, "This is good. Let's get going. Everything's going to be okay." And this becomes self-perpetuating, because when you have energy, you have more motivation, so you're more likely to get things done, which help you to feel good about yourself...which gives you more happiness and energy.
More likely to exercise - Yep, when you're happy and have more energy, you're more likely to exercise...and exercise is good for everything. My favorite book on this subject is Chris Crowley's Younger Next Year: The Exercise Program. Physical exercise becomes more important with every year of life that passes, and it's important from the very beginning. So, get happy and get moving!
What About The Scientific Research?
The wonderful site, Happify.com has put together a fabulous page compiling all of the scientific research on the benefits of happiness for your body, mind and relationships. Be sure and check it out here.
More prone to optimism - Happiness activates the same regions of the brain that are active when you're optimistic. In many ways this goes without saying...but it really needs to be said. Optimism naturally shows up when you're happy, and when you're optimistic, you're more likely to face your challenges and surge forward toward your goals and dreams.
More prone to healthy choices - When you're feeling good, and optimistic, you're more likely to be able to forego some of those food choices that you'll later regret. You'll want to eat healthy food in moderate portions, because you will be motivated to maintain that happiness you're feeling.
Science Of Happiness & Your Mental Health
You were designed for your mind to run the show in your life. In many ways, it's in charge whether you are aware and participating actively or not.
Creating happiness on purpose means using your brilliant mind to create joy and well being for you and those you love. That's so much better than the alternative...feeling like your mind is working against you, or just not working right at all.
Here are some ways that happiness helps your mind and mental health:
Activates higher brain function - Think about this for a moment. When you're stressed out, sad, afraid or angry, that literally means your "lower" brain is operative and dominant in your mental and emotional process. When you're happy, however, you activate the higher brain and mammalian parts of the brain that are more focused on connection and big picture thinking.
Increases creativity - That's right! When you're happy, you're more likely to be courageous enough to be creative...which at its most basic level just means trying something new--it's all happening in that higher brain function area. And, creative expression has been found in many cases to increase positive emotions such as fulfillment, satisfaction and a sense of purpose.
Increases motivation - Happiness feeds optimism, which definitely helps you get motivated toward those positive outcomes you're seeing in your future. Of course, fear is a great motivator as well, but only short term. If you want long-term motivation, get happy and inspired, and it will keep you going and going.
Improves problem solving - Watch the video above, and you'll see how the happy folks were better at problem solving. All of this ties together, as you can see...when you get those higher brain functions going along with some motivation and creativity, it logically follows that your problem solving skills will get better.
Science Of Happiness & Your Social Life
A lot of us think we'd be happier if we had more friends, but it actually works the other way much better--you'd have more friends if you were happy.
People want to be happy, so they're simply more likely to want to hang out with you if you're upbeat, fun-loving and smiling.
Let's cut to the chase, and look at some specific findings in the science of happiness and how it affects your relationships with friends and family.
Makes you attractive - You've probably noticed that a genuinely happy person is more attractive than someone who looks anxious, angry or stressed out. This is not about looks...however, you really do look better when you're happy. Check it out...set the goal for a day to watch for people who look happy, and people who look unhappy, and ask yourself who looks more attractive to you.
Increases kindness & generosity - This one is known as a "positive feedback loop," in which being kind to others makes you happier, and being happy makes you more likely to be kind. Kindness and happiness literally work together, each adding to the strength of the other. Check out this article for more on this connection.
Increases empathy & compassion - When you're happy, your "cup is more full," which means you have enough good feelings to share with others, to put yourself in their shoes (empathy), and to care deeply for their well being (compassion). Negative feelings, by contrast, shrink our circles and make us more self-centered.
Motivates the desire to connect - Our deepest need and desire as human beings is to connect with others, to fulfill the need to love and be loved. Positive emotions automatically make you reach out more to others, while the negative emotions are more likely to make you want to isolate. Get happy and get connected!
As you can see, the science of happiness shows you just how essential these good feelings are to everything you want in life. I suggest that you consider that you were actually designed to be happy. That is a conclusion I've drawn in my own lifetime of personal and professional experience. Try it and see what you think!