Happiness and your heart are like the classic chicken-and-egg situation.
Great philosophers have often declared that where there’s no heart there’s no happiness. Research now hints at the fact that where there’s no happiness there’s no heart.
Happiness and your heart support each other. And it’s not just philosophical belief, it’s a medically proven fact.
Wherever you are in this cycle, the good thing to know is that you have the power to make it all positive. It’s all in your hands, so read on …
Everybody knows what happiness feels like, but it’s actually hard to define. While medical science can now tell us what happiness can do for our health – and especially our hearts – we often have to look to the philosophers to explain to us what such a vague idea as “happiness” means.
Deepak Chopra, M.D., one of the finest examples of a medical specialist who is also a philosopher, probably has the best explanation. He says: “Real happiness is when you are happy for no reason at all …”
But like any doctor, he too agrees that happiness is a great support to heart health, just as heart health is a great support to happiness.
Moreover, as doctors will tell you, ailments like hypertension, obesity, diabetes, or cholesterol – or if you have a family history of heart disease – can all multiply the negative effects on your heart. So, if you have such ailments, you need to give your heart more care by keeping your mind as happy as you can.
It may sound like a difficult idea to actually measure happiness but researchers and psychologists these days are trying to find some ways. A lot of research on happiness-measuring seems to be checking out 5 factors – like biology, behavior, positivity, readiness to interact with others, and self-esteem.
Scientists are interested in seeing if high levels of such factors can directly connect with a high level of happiness.
There appears to be a lot of interest in the medical world in the area of studying happiness and its medical value (especially, its impact on heart health).
Here are glimpses of just some of the interesting research findings we have in this area …
Karina W. Davidson, Ph.D., lead researcher at Columbia University Medical Center, (talking to WebMD.com) says that “ …the happiest people are 22% less likely to develop heart disease than people who fall in the middle of the negative-positive emotional experiences scale.”
In fact, she says, people with the most negative emotions have the highest risk of heart disease, and people who score highest for happiness have the lowest risk.
She has also tried to pinpoint some of the factors why she believes happiness may affect heart health:
Lisa R.Yanek, MPH, of Johns Hopkins University, has published a paper in The American Journal of Cardiology, which finds that happy people have less risk of a heart attack — even if their family history puts them in the high-risk category.
Her happiness research study indicates that having a bad attitude can even affect the length of your life because negative emotions are connected to developing cardiovascular disease.
On the other hand, the good news she gives is that happy people have significantly lower chances of heart attacks and other cardiac problems. She measures happiness by levels of positive emotions, cheerfulness, and life satisfaction. Interestingly, she finds that happiness can be increased if people make an effort to be happier. For example, smiling can help improve mood and reduce stress.
Sophie Bostock, Ph.D., in a paper published in PubMedCentral, a highly respected database from the US National Institutes of Health, says happiness protects the heart by reducing blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Her study of over 6,500 people over the age of 65 has found that positive well-being is linked to a 9% lower risk of high blood pressure and less strain on heart muscles.
If you believe happiness cannot be artificially created, you could be wrong – because there is again some research that says happiness can be self-created and controlled …
Bertram Pitt, MD, the Professor of Medicine at the University of Michigan (talking to WebMD.com) explains the findings of his study on happiness and heart health. He says that previously experts believed some people were by nature happier than others. But research increasingly shows that it is possible for negative people to become happier and help their hearts by focusing on acts like these:
Sonja Lyubomirsky, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside has authored the bestseller book “The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want”.
Her research has made her discover that up to 40% of our happiness may be under our control. Happiness levels, she believes, can be increased through dropping grudges, building relationships, enjoying happy events, practicing kindness, expressing gratitude, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.
Sleep is a very essential part of health. The stress of having many late nights can rob both your happiness and your heart health.
If you aren’t naturally joyful, join a laughter club in your neighborhood. The heart-health advantages of laughter (or even just smiling) are too good to miss.
Being idle or lazy never kindles joy. On the contrary, activity – any activity – perks you up. It revs up your blood circulation and gets your mind, heart, and body together for performance of tasks.
Eating wholesome food is one way of showing your heart that you care about its health. Your heart will brim over with happiness and energy.
Almost every scientist seems to have found that an attitude of gratitude, and getting pleasure in giving to others (more than you receive), creates a great sense of self-satisfaction and happiness.