Do happier people live longer and are healthy people happier?
In recent years there has been an increased focus on happiness. From the United Nations to the UK government, happiness is a hot topic and if you’re like me, you’ll love the annual World Happiness Report and scour the top countries to see what secret they hold to being happy. (It was Norway in 2017).
So, here are some reasons why lifting your happiness levels can lead to better health and how maintaining good health can make you happier.
Small amounts of regular exercise are vital for both health and happiness. A stroll in the park, bike ride or jog around the block reduces blood pressure and cholesterol, boosts your immune system and strengthens bones. It also increases energy levels and confidence, improves sleep quality and concentration, reduces stress and jump starts creativity.
Intuitively, most of us know that connecting with nature is good for both health and happiness. Walking in the park, feeding birds and planting flowers have been proven to help people suffering from both physical illness and mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Interacting with nature can help people control their symptoms or even recover, alongside conventional medication.
Thinking beyond yourself leads to happiness. Human beings are social animals and evidence shows that helping others is actually beneficial for your own mental health and well-being. It can reduce stress and improve your emotional well-being which has a positive impact on your physical health.
Loneliness and isolation can be detrimental to your health. Conversely, connecting with others can have a positive effect on your health. According to research, loneliness increases the risk of mortality, obesity and heart disease. Isolated individuals are also more prone to depression and suicide.
Physical symptoms don’t lead to unhappiness - stress does. The biggest predictor of unhappiness is stress and it is often stress that leads to poor well-being, as opposed to the psychical symptoms of a health condition. According to the World Psoriasis Happiness Report, for people living with the skin condition, stress is the biggest indicator of unhappiness, not physical symptoms.
Social media causes stress. People on Facebook are 39% more likely to feel unhappy and 55% more likely to feel stressed. Social media is a constant flow of edited lives – seemingly happy, healthy people – and this distorts our perception of reality. We compare our own lives, for the worse, and this has a detrimental impact on both our happiness and health.
Support from others
A lack of public awareness can make it more difficult to live with a health condition. Often, the impact of a health condition will be more significant if there is low public understanding about it.
Support from health professionals
A lack of trust in your doctor can lead to higher levels of unhappiness. If we look at the World Happiness Report, all the countries in the top five have some form of socialised medicine. There is an intimate connection between trust in your healthcare system and levels of happiness. Health professionals who prioritise the impact of a health condition on our happiness can contribute to higher levels of happiness for their patients.
Family and friends
Lack of social support from those close to you can increase the negative effects of a health condition. Indeed, recent research shows that friendships are a stronger predictor of health and happiness than relationships with family members.
Visible health conditions
Finally, the effect of a health condition is not blanket and it will vary depending on where you’re affected. Different body areas can have different impacts on happiness. If you are affected on visible and intimate areas of your body, you are likely to less happy.
So, you can see how health and happiness are interlinked. Happiness is being prioritised increasingly as a measure of progress because it encourages us to focus on what really matters - how we feel.
However, happier countries don’t necessarily lead to happier people with health conditions. A healthy person is not necessarily a happy person but a happy person is more likely to be a healthy person.
What can you do today to improve your happiness?
About the author
Catalina Cernica is the project owner of PsoHappy, a global movement built in partnership with The Happiness Research Institute, dedicated to understanding the impact of psoriasis on happiness.
She recently ran a research project looking into the effects of psoriasis on happiness - and will be investigating other conditions very soon - and found that happiness and the impact of a health condition are deeply interlinked.
The World Psoriasis Happiness Report is the first global report on the happiness and psoriasis and contains insights from 121,800 people living with psoriasis from 184 countries. It found that the UK ranks third from bottom in The World Psoriasis Happiness Index. Find out more here: https://goo.gl/am7FFv
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