We all have different goals in life, but most of us hope that we will generally be happy. “Happiness” is an abstract goal, but there are some very specific reasons to strive for it, and there are particular techniques that can help you achieve it. For this week’s Focus Point, we will discuss the important connection between health and happiness.
Health and happiness are deeply related. How many times have you gone into a workout feeling tired and reluctant, only to discover you felt much better when you were done? In the long term, the health that comes with increased physical fitness can offer us confidence, resilience, and personal strength, all of which can lead to happiness.
The converse is also true: happiness can lead to increased physical health. Scientific research has demonstrated this dozens of times. Optimism and emotional well-being decrease the risk of heart disease, immune dysfunction, diabetes, and stroke, while negative emotions like stress and anger can contribute to negative health outcomes and shorter life expectancies (see, for example, Rimer & Drexler 2012, Kubzansky & Thurston 2007, Rasmussen, Scheier & Greenhouse 2009, Chida & Steptoe 2008).
Since being happier can make us healthier, and being healthier can make us happier, it’s time to start focusing on what we can do in the short term to improve our health and happiness! Most of what we talk about at One on One focuses on health goals. In order to focus on your overall emotional well-being, consider some of the techniques that Sonja Lyubomirsky offers in her book The How of Happiness. Since everyone is different, not all of these techniques will work for you, but including just one or two of these practices in your daily life can help increase your happiness, health, and overall well-being.
- Do more activities that truly engage you. Whether at home or at work, find activities in which you can “lose yourself.”
- Dwell on joyful moments. Whether you meditate, journal, or simply chat with friends, make a point of remembering and considering joyful, pleasurable moments and occasions.
- Forgive. Whether you communicate directly with a person who has offended you or simply “let go” of anger, working towards forgiveness can increase your own well-being.
- Cultivate optimism by envisioning your future in a positive way.
- Intentionally nurture relationships that you value.
- Do not compare yourself with others.
- Develop and practice ways to overcome stress, such as meditation, mindfulness exercises, or physical activity.
- Express gratitude for things you feel thankful for, either privately or by thanking people directly.
- Reflect on your spirituality and/or religious practices; many people find great satisfaction in spirituality.
- Commit to your goals. Thoughtfully select a few goals and regularly “check in” to see whether your day-to-day practices will help you achieve those goals.
Lyubomirsky’s final suggestion brings us full circle: she observes that taking care of your body can also increase your happiness.
This week, consider ways that you can jump-start the positive feedback loop of health and happiness. Use the suggestions above or simply renew focus on your workouts to help increase your overall well-being.
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