Happy People = Healthy People

March 25th, 2012 by Dr. Keith Nemec

Happy HealthyA happy person is a healthy person, say British researchers who have found evidence of a biological connection between a positive sense of well-being and reduced risk for disease among middle-aged men and women. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors report that simply being happy — at work and at play — is directly related with specific bodily functions that protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune deficiencies and stress-related illnesses.

“There’s a direct link between how we’re feeling and the biological processes which relate to illness and illness risk,” said study author Dr. Andrew Steptoe, the British Heart Foundation professor of psychology at University College London. “Biology is going to be on the side of those people who are going to be in a more positive state of mind, and it may well stand these people in good stead for their future health.” Steptoe and his colleagues administered laboratory stress tests and standardized mental health questionnaires to more than 200 men and women, aged 45 to 59. All the participants were employed civil servants, with income levels ranging from high to low.

Medical exams had determined that all were in relatively good physical health, with no prior history of heart disease or high blood pressure. The researchers reported that age, marital status, gender and income appeared to have no impact on how happy the participants said they felt while at work.

Steptoe and his team also observed that those men and women who demonstrated the lowest levels of psychological distress on the earlier mental health screenings appeared to be generally happier people. And those men and women who were happiest at work seemed to be happiest at play, they said — although, for all participants, happiness was in more abundance during days off at home than during days “on” at the office. Cortisol readings did appear to firmly back the notion of a biological connection between stress and happiness. The researchers found the happiest men and women had the lowest levels of cortisol. Cortisol levels were, on average, more than 32 percent higher among the least happy individuals. The researchers noted the danger that high stress hormone levels can pose over time, highlighting the association between elevated cortisol and a higher risk for developing high blood pressure, diabetes, abdominal obesity and a decreased resistance to infection.

On another biological front, the authors reported that blood tests revealed up to 12 times higher levels of a liver-produced protein known as plasma fibrinogen among the least happy men and women. Fibrinogen works to stop bleeding by helping clots to form, but elevated levels of the protein have been associated with a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. The researchers concluded that a having a strong sense of well-being and happiness may help boost biological systems, ultimately helping to lower the risk for developing a range of illnesses down the road. And they emphasized that this happiness-healthiness pathway appears to be a direct mind-body link that is independent of lifestyle choices, such as exercise, smoking and drinking. “There’s no doubt that people should do the healthy lifestyle things — being physically active, and more prudent in their diets, and not smoking — irrespective of this biological link,” Steptoe advised. “But we need to think about things that will lead to more positive states as well.

Doing things that you want to do, and getting gratification from those things.” “Most of our sense of happiness seems to relate to having good relationships with family and friends, and that’s not something that can be maintained without some investment of effort, and keeping an appropriate balance. That balance, of course, is going to be different for different people.” Dr. Albert Ray is regional coordinator for health promotion and preventive care for Kaiser Permanente Southern California in San Diego said, “There’s no question that people with a positive attitude have lower blood pressure, suffer less illness, usually have lower cholesterol and better resistance to most infections,” he said. “And when they do get sick, usually a positive attitude can result in shorter illness.” – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Dr. Keith & Laurie Nemec Comments “Happy People = Healthy People”

What is important in this study is when people are happy, they have higher levels of health.  The question though is this:  “What does happy mean and what does joy mean?”

Does happy mean I am healthy, I have a lot of money, I have a great paying job, I am an important person in my workplace, I have a healthy family, I am doing very well in school or job place.

If this is happy, then yes when everything is going your way you will secrete less adrenaline (the hormone that regulates stress response) you will have a stronger immune system and life will be good.  This is why the study showed that they were happiest (and healthiest) when they were not at work.  (See above about work.)

The question is this:  “Would you rather be happy or filled with joy?”  Before you answer this, let me tell you the difference between the two.  Happy is a state of mind and being so it has the opposite of sad always being connected to it.  This means when the world goes my way such as I get a promotion, my family is healthy, I have investments for a financially secure future, I am happy.  But when I get fired from my job, my wife or husband is diagnosed with cancer and my investments meet with unexpected disaster and are all gone I am sad.  You cannot take happy without taking sad also.  What is joy?  It is a spiritual state of being.  It is a part of God’s nature within you and being such it has NO OPPOSITE.  There is no opposite to God and no opposite to His nature which He places inside of us.  So, joy is seeing His presence in everything.  Joy is the excitement of living every moment to the full in Him.

Joy is what the Apostle Paul had when he had been beat, was in great pain and was imprisoned in Philippi.  It was the joy in his heart that caused him to sing songs of praise to God.  It was not dependent upon the environment, the situation, or the people.  It was the unchangeable nature of God that was flowing in him and through him.

So, once again, would you pick happy and healthy or joyful and in total health?

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