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How Happiness Makes Our Health Smile

By Sandy Schroeder

Diet and exercise are key ways to improve health, but happiness may be important, too. Current research shows how happiness works to boost our health.

Happiness Boosts the Immune System

Researchers have found the level of our happiness can impact the immune system, making the body more or less resistant to germs. Researchers exposed 350 volunteers to a cold and interviewed them to check their emotions. The results showed participants who were the happiest before exposure were less likely to catch a cold.

Happiness Keeps the Heart Healthier

Researchers have found people who expressed contentment and happiness tended to have lower blood pressure and a lower heart rate. Researchers also studied a group of workers, noting their levels of contentment, stress, disagreements and happiness. After 10 years the findings indicated the workers who were generally happier and less stressed had less heart disease.

Happiness Reduces the Impact of Stress

When pressure builds in our lives, stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which increases blood pressure and elevates tension and blood sugar levels. In contrast, happiness triggers the release of endorphins and serotonin to boost our mood and reduce the negative effects of stress. Whatever you can do to make your life happier will be worth the effort in less stress.

Happiness and Exercise Lift Our Mood

Exercise such as daily walking triggers the release of endorphins which works as a natural pain-killer and helps the body relax. Recent research has shown exercise helps reduce anxiety and depression, too. If you exercise regularly, you may already know how you can lose a bad mood in a hurry. If you don't exercise much, get moving and find out how effectively it works. Whenever your day takes a bad turn, step away for a brisk walk. That works every time for me.

Happiness May Help Us Live Longer

A recent study of nuns revealed a link between a long life and happiness. The nuns' descriptions of contentment and gratitude correlated with their ages of 75 to 95. Ninety percent of the happiest nuns were alive at 85, in contrast to only 34 percent of the least happy ones.

How to Make It Happen

As you consider the effects of happiness, you may want to rate contentment levels for you and your family. This might be a good topic for your next sit down dinner. Each person could describe what makes them happiest. When I have done this with my family, the comments have often been surprising. Little things turned out to count a lot, and big efforts not so much. Just knowing that your family is there to support you can be a boost. You might also poll your family for new ideas to make everybody happier. When I did this we added a new pet, started taking more weekend trips, and took turns cooking dinners.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Zionsville, Ind.

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