Studies show that a person’s health is one of the strongest predictors of happiness. But the link between health and happiness is complex. Research shows little correlation between a person’s objective health — as defined by medical assessment — and happiness. It’s our subjective health — how we view our health — that affects our well-being. So is happiness all in your head?
Not necessarily. For example, adverse changes in health do have a negative impact on happiness levels, at least temporarily. Poor health has the potential to significantly affect almost every aspect of your life: your independence, your self-image, your personal relationships, your ability to work and carry out basic daily activities. So it’s no surprise that when your health takes a hit, your happiness does as well.
But people are resilient. We become accustomed to new life circumstances, good or bad. We adapt. Within a month or two of an adverse health event, most people have gravitated back toward the level of happiness they enjoyed before their health took a turn for the worse.
When the change in health status is severe, however — for example, involving chronic pain or multiple disabilities — the impact on happiness can be long lasting.
And both physical health and emotional health influence happiness. Mood disorders diminish quality of life even more than chronic physical ailments, such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes.
What can you do
Do all that you can to maintain a healthy lifestyle and you’ll be well on your way to a long life rich in happiness.
Be your healthiest and happiest by eating a balanced diet with lots of fruit and veggies, keeping stress levels to a minimum, getting regular check-ups, wearing sunscreen, laughing often, moderating alcohol intake, getting plenty of exercise, and not smoking.
Exercise not only helps keep you healthy but also keeps you happy. In general, increasing the amount of physical activity in your life increases well-being, whether it’s yoga, weight training, daily walks around the neighbourhood or dancing with your kids or loved ones in the evening. One study of nearly 7,000 men and women revealed that walking, jogging, or running between 11 and 19 miles per week was optimal for improving emotional well-being. Another study showed that dancing slows down aging.
But don’t overdo it! Moderate exercise offers the biggest boost in happiness.
And if you think you may be living with a mood disorder, get it treated.
Appropriate action can help reduce your symptoms, increase your sense of well-being, and get you back on track to a happy life.