Finally, medical science is beginning to look at how happiness affects our ability to stay healthy, heal and age.
I was listening to the YouTube video of the First Annual Healthy and Active Aging Conference at UCSD, October 2012. and I was happy to hear the first speaker (Colin A. Depp, Ph.D.) discuss how wellness studies are trying to catch up with studies of illness.
Later speakers talked about hip/knee replacements and Alzheimer’s, completely different approaches to healthy aging. (Were they not able to find more doctors willing to talk about wellness?) But the first speaker had some great information about what activities and circumstances enhance happiness across the age spectrum, as well as some differences between ages. For instance, young people are not so happy to work. Older people tend to enjoy work. Younger people tend to have the most happiness with their spouse and older people tend to find happiness with anyone but their spouse. (Great audience response there!)
Of note: exercise and antidepressant medication seem to have the same amount of effect on our ability to be happy; positive moods help increase longevity; TV watching is not good for happiness; paying attention to what activities make us happy has the ability to make us happy for longer periods; getting older is good for happiness.
Here’s what’s funny: we often spend a lot of time doing what is not in the interest of our own happiness. This “disconnect” surprises researchers because happiness is a strong motivator for humans. Why would we choose illness over wellness? Sadness over happiness? No rewards over satisfaction?
Happiness is a key element of wellbeing and general health. Happiness is infectious; it improves our vital social connections. “Happiness,” according to Aristotle “is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
Recently, I recorded a video for YouTube called “Healing the Rift,” and it talks about healing the rift between our spiritual and physical selves. And before we can actually heal the rift, we must get rid of what’s holding us back. I called it the “BARF” in our lives. BARF is an acronym for “Bitterness, Anger, Resentment and Fear. These forces reside strongly in our physical chemistry and have a habit of arising without our awareness and, on occasion, spiraling out of control. I would suggest in this post that it’s the BARF that is in our way of choosing wellbeing, happiness and satisfaction.
Do you want wellness, happiness and satisfaction? It’s not that hard, but we must choose it and choose to become aware of what is holding us back. Are we telling ourselves that we are happy as we deserve to be? Are we settling for money, convenience or safety? Are we aware that these diversions to happiness are feeding depression, anxiety and illness?
Please take stock of your happiness level. To find out more about improving your wellbeing, without any hype about products or motivational techniques, watch the video from the UCSD linked above. See if my “Healing the Rift” video series (Videos 1a, 1b, 2 and 3) helps get the BARF out of your life. (Link is above.) Alternatively, we can get to happiness right now by getting some additional oxygen to our head with exercise, some belly laughs or deep breathing. Wellness and happiness are not hard, we just have to choose them consistently.
See “Optimism Rewires Our Brains” post.