The Connection Between Health and Happiness

Image courtesy of marin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of marin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Everyone knows there’s a link between health and happiness. I know, duh, right?

However, there’s a bit of a twist you may not be aware of, which I’ll discuss in a bit.

First, let’s talk briefly about the connection between health and happiness. No doubt, you already know that if you remain healthy and physically strong, you’ll be happier. And you’re probably aware that since negative emotions harm the body, a positive, optimistic, and happy outlook on life will help your physical health.

For example, a 2012 review by Harvard School of Public Health researchers published in the journal Psychological Bulletin looked over the results of more than 200 studies and found a connection between positive psychological attributes, such as happiness, optimism and life satisfaction, and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.

All the more reason to take care of yourself physically by eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising as well as having a positive attitude – especially as you age. By the way, if you want a pep talk to help you get you off the couch and start exercising, check out my blog, How Exercise Makes You Happier.

But want to hear something surprising?

While it’s true that good health is a major predictor of happiness, studies have shown that people in poor health – including those with life-threatening illnesses like cancer – are often happy as well.

I know – watchu talking ‘bout Willis, right? I was as surprised as you.

A study that appeared in the Journal of Happiness Studies a couple of years ago found this was the case, excluding those whose daily lives are disrupted by their condition, such as people with chronic severe pain or urinary incontinence. Psychiatrist Bryan Bruno, MD, Chairman in the Department of Psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, says many people adapt remarkably well to changes in their health status as long as the decline is not too rapid. The exception to the rule is people with a history of depression or anxiety.

Why is this good news for baby boomers?

These studies show that people can adapt to health impairments that often come with old age. So if you’re one of those people who worry excessively about the inevitable health declines that accompany old age – stop stressing out so much!

As a matter of fact, getting old may not be as bad as you think it will be. A recent Pew study found a sizable gap between the expectations that young and middle-aged adults have about old age and the actual experiences reported by older Americans themselves. People in the study generally reported feeling happy, touting the many of the benefits of growing old. The list included having more time to be with their families, traveling, volunteering, and enjoying hobbies, as well as more financial security, less stress, and having fun with their grandchildren.

So as the famous song says, “Don’t worry, be happy.” And in the meantime, stay healthy and happy so you can enjoy life to the fullest.

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