The simple truth is, happy people generally don’t get sick. One’s attitude toward oneself is the single most important factor in healing or staying well. Those who are at peace with themselves and their immediate surroundings have far fewer serious illnesses than those who are not. Bernie Siegel, MD, in Love, Medicine & Miracles (quoted in Never Be Sick Again, by Raymond Francis).
In the last installment of our Beyond Health Journey to Become Stronger and Healthier in 2017, we began focusing on the heart. We talked about the importance of positive emotions like optimism, gratitude, kindness and happiness to our health, especially the health of our hearts.
Chief among these is happiness.
Happiness is often considered a product of good luck. But in fact, once basic needs, like food, shelter and clothing, are met happiness is usually a choice.
Sure, you’re going to be sad if you experience a significant loss, and especially happy if you win the lottery. But research shows that people who’ve experienced either losses or windfalls eventually adapt to their new circumstances and return to their previous “baseline” of happiness.
What constitutes this baseline? Social scientists who’ve been studying happiness have found the happiest people on earth have a strong sense of community support; a simple, healthy diet; and a relatively unstressful way of life in which basic needs are met. Having lots of money, success/fame/status, a beautiful appearance, or the “perfect” mate is not necessary for happiness.
Though you don’t need to be in perfect health to be happy, there is a clear link between a healthy diet and emotional health. The brain needs nutrients, while toxins like sugar, processed food and fluoridation have been linked with depression. Overall, a healthy lifestyle supports happiness.
Genetics are also a factor. But probably the most influential factors are our own habits. Are we constantly thinking about what we lack, especially in comparison to others? Or are we grateful for what we have and optimistic that the future holds good things for us as well? Are we constantly down on ourselves, or do we give ourselves credit and appreciation? Do we take responsibility for mistakes we’ve made and move on, or hang on to unproductive guilt? Do we forgive others their mistakes, or cling to feelings of bitterness and revenge?
There’s always going to be something to complain and worry about; and there’s always going to be something that gives you joy. It depends on where you look. It’s very human to be aware of discomfort and lack, but with minor effort, it is quite easy to shift our awareness to our many blessings.
A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other. One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.
The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”
The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feed.
- Francis R. Never Be Sick Again. Health Communications, Inc., 2002, p. 197.
- Levine S. It’s probably not a great idea to give Meryl Streep acting advice. New York Magazine. November 1, 2016.
- A documentary film investigating what makes people happy films happy people and cultures around the world along with interviews with social scientists who are studying happiness. It was written and directed by Roko Belic, released in 2011, and is available for viewing online at no charge.
- BH Staff. Sugar and Depression. October 10, 2016.
- The aging brain may need additional support for optimal cognitive function and good emotional health. See BH Staff. Supplements that Nourish the Brain. June 28, 2012.
- For more detailed information on factors influencing depression, see also Francis R. The Depression Epidemic. Reprinted from Beyond Health News July 20, 2012. Also see BH Staff. Depression—Prescriptions are Fooling People—Look at Our Natural Solution. April 9, 2011
- Reynolds CF. Early intervention to preempt major depression among older black and white adults. Psychiatric Services. June 2014;65(6):765-773.
- Dalai Lama XIV & Cutler HC. The Art of Happiness. Riverhead Books, 1999, pp. 19-22.