The Missing Piece of Your Happiness

We Know Happiness is a State of Mind.

We think positively, we see the world optimistically, our minds are clearer. Like other emotions, our state of happiness is rooted in our thoughts, and in turn, how we perceive our surroundings. 

When we are earnestly seeking happiness, we:

  • Guard our minds by thinking positive thoughts
  • Take Care of our Mental Health
  • Look for things to cheer us up
  • Surround ourselves with good people
  • Engage in positive activities

…all good things. 

But What is Missing?

Pause for a moment and think about a happy moment and recognize how your body reacts.

  • Does your chest inflate more, like you’re breathing deeper?
  • Did a small smile move across your face?
  • Does the tension in your neck and shoulders relax a little? 

This is what happiness feels like.

Without a doubt, happiness isn’t relegated to only a mental state.  A state of happiness is intricately connected to our physical being as well.   

So, are you feeding your body happiness?

Happiness is Health

Our state of happiness and our physical health is a symbiotic relationship—meaning, they take care of each other.  We feed happiness and health to our bodies, and our body returns in kind by blessing us with good sleep and increased immune function. 

When we are unhappy or worried, this symbiosis breaks apart, and it’s “every man for himself”.  We neglect exercise, we eat poorly, and in turn, our body counters with poor sleep and decreased immune efficiency!   

In other words, when we stop doing our part, our body reacts by trying to take care of its own needs, in an almost combative manner. 

When we are unhappy, our emotions and bodies are at war with one another. 

What We Need to do for Our Bodies

1. Prioritize a Healthy Diet

Maybe it’s just me, but when I feel happy, I also feel like I have a more manageable grip on my schedule.  I’m more focused and therefore able to accomplish more throughout my day.

On the other hand, when I’m unhappy, over-worked, and exhausted, what’s one of the first things that gets sacrificed?  What I eat. 

Unfortunately, for a large part of the population, food isn’t a priority, it’s an afterthought.  We make whatever we have time and energy to make, or we don’t make anything at all, and we eat nutrient-barren fast food. 

If someone sat you down, looked into a crystal ball and told you that “future you” was energetic, had a clear and focused mind, clean skin, shinier hair, muscles that didn’t ache, no headaches, no tension in your back or neck, woke up in the morning feeling refreshed, and all she had to do to become that person was one thing, would you do it?

That one thing is our diet! 

One study published by the National Institute of Health found that “increased fruit and vegetable consumption was predictive of increased happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being.”

The study cites that the measured increase in our psychological well-being is comparable from being unemployed to employed. 

Yeah, I read that more than once, too.  Comparable from being unemployed to employed.

Like many of you, I’ve been unemployed, and felt the weight, burden and stress it carries.  I’ve also felt the palpable difference that comes from becoming employed.  That’s the power our diet can have over our happiness. 

2. Exercise

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the benefit exercise has on our state of happiness as well. 

There are countless studies that have been done that unequivocally prove that exercising releases a flood of endorphins—one of the “happiness hormones”—into our system.  We can’t help but feel happier after exercising.

Does that make exercising easy?  No. 

The biggest hurdle to the happiness we are able to reap from exercise, is our lack of consistency.  In fact, our failure to be consistent with our exercise can have an even greater detrimental effect on our happiness when combined with feelings of guilt or shame for failing to follow through with our goals.     

Start small.  And when I say small, I mean smallAtomic Habits author, James Clear, says to start with only 5 minutes a day.  5 minutes!  Clear literally recommends going to the gym, working out for 5 minutes, and then leaving!  Absolutely no more than 5 minutes.  Why?  Because it’s not about building rock-hard muscle, it’s about building rock-hard habits, which in turn produces rock-hard happiness

No matter what the exercise: a crazy, high-paced spin class, a quiet, meditative yoga flow, or a solitary walk around the neighborhood, the invigorating nature of exercise in any form has the same positive effects on our mental and emotional health

Our happiness increases exponentially when we combine good eating and exercising habits, because our minds can’t help but respond to the positive way our bodies feel.

In other words, diet and exercise makes us happier, period.

What Our Bodies Will do for Us

1. Better Sleep

It’s true, we may feel so exhausted and run-down by the end of the day, that nothing could keep us from falling asleep.  But what about staying asleep? 

A good night’s sleep isn’t necessarily connected to the number of hours we sleep, but the quality of that sleep.  When we are stressed, anxious, suffering from grief or any other number of negative emotions, it prevents us from sustaining a good night’s sleep. 

We are less likely to have these interruptions to our sleep when we feel content and happy. 

The worst part is that sleep disorders breed other sleep disorders.  Studies report that people who struggle with insomnia or 5x more likely to develop depression, and 20x more likely to develop anxiety disorders

In turn, depression and anxiety prevent us from maintaining good, quality sleep.  Additionally, one study, conducted by U.C. Berkeley neuroscientist Matthew Walker found that patients who were exhausted reacted significantly more negatively to a series of images than their well-rested counterparts.  He concluded, “not sleeping enough makes our brains more negative”.

So, how do we dig ourselves out of this cyclical nightmare?  Seek happiness.  The good news is that the same way negative emotions create negative sleep patterns, and vice versa, the opposite is also true!

Happiness helps us achieve better quality sleep and better-quality sleep helps us to be happier.  It’s almost like our bodies want us to be happy!

2. Increased Immune Function

Is it possible that when we are happier, our body responds by boosting our immunity?  It looks like one study sought to prove just that.     

Somehow a group of researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University were able to convince 334 healthy adults to “inhale” one of two strands of rhinovirus.

The results showed that those individuals who self-reported being happier, more positive people, were three times less likely to develop symptoms of the common cold.  Perhaps even more interesting, those individuals who reported being typically more negative: “anxious, hostile, and depressed” also reported having symptoms that were medically “unfounded”. 

Scientific studies, like the one described above, show that the immune systems of happier people appear stronger, but at the same time, happier people tend to eat better and exercise more often. 

So, once again we see again that symbiotic relationship between our state of happiness and our physical health.

Whole Body Happiness

Achieving happiness is a result of putting all the pieces of a puzzle together. For many of us, neglecting our physical health is like trying to feel complete with that one missing piece!

While you’re being mindful of positive thinking and surrounding yourself with happy, supportive people, don’t neglect your diet, exercise and sleep!

Otherwise, your happiness might feel just slightly incomplete.

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