The Side Effects of Being Happy

Ralph Waldo Emerson said ” For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness”, This is such a profound statement, and so true.

Do you know that children smile on an average of 300-400 times a day, and adults average 20, and that there are over 60 books written on the art of being happy? When did we forget how to be happy?

Happiness researchers ( yes there are happiness researchers) define happiness as ” The overall
appreciation for your life”. What that translates into is: Do you live with enthusiasm, or is everyday
just another day?

What researchers found was that happier people lived longer more productive lives, sometimes up
to 10 years longer. And even when they were sick, their recovery time was significantly faster, even
from heart surgery, fractures, and strokes.

Martin Seligman, who is the author of ‘Learned Optimism’, studies optimism and the effects it has
on health and longevity. What he found was that the pessimist view most situations in their life that were negative as permanent, the norm. Whereas, those who were more optimistic, saw negative situations
as speed bumps, or temporary. In following both groups for a number of years, what Seligman found was that by the age of 45, those who were more pessimistic, were already less healthy, and by age 60, had
significantly higher bouts of illness, and twice as many infectious diseases because their immune system
was compromised. That’s why it is so important to listen to your inner voice. We are talking to ourselves all day long, and on average, have about fifty thousand thoughts a day. So think about this quote by Robert Allen: ” No thought lives in your mind, rent free”. I love that quote. There is a price to pay for every thought that enters your mind, good or bad.

Did you know that our immune system depends on the signals it receives from the brain? When we are in a state of joy and happiness we release chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, serotonin, and nitric oxide, and these have amazing effects on our body when we are happy.

Dopamine is synthesized deep in the brain, and when released, it gives you that feeling of pleasure. It makes people more talkative, excitable. Oxytocin, is known as the ‘cuddle hormone’, and is released when you are cuddling your child, or falling in love. Its a bonding hormone. A wonderful side effect of oxytocin, is that it also reduces inflammation in your body and stimulates the release of endorphins, which is called ‘ Natures Morphine’. Endorphins are released by the pituitary gland, when you are exercising ( like the runners high),
making love, or anytime you are excited. It also releases nitric oxide, which is a very powerful vasodilator.
This increase blood flow and allows for a continuance of blood in organs where it may have been previously restricted. And last, but certainly not least, is serotonin. This hormone helps maintain that ‘ happy feeling’, and seems to keep our moods under control by calming anxiety, and even mild depression.

These are all natures chemicals, and studies have shown that our mood has a significant effect on either turning on or turning off these chemicals. When we are happier, our body has time to heal and self-repair. Now I am not saying by just being happy all the time you aren’t going to be sick, but I would rather bathe my body in healthy chemicals, than those that are caused by stress. That is what I teach my clients to do, change their perception, because when you change your perception, you change your reality.

One study that I found fascinating was conducted by The University of California San Francisco, and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. What they found was that those with strong friendships, had much higher levels of health inducing hormones, than those who did not. In fact, the data showed that friendships ranked even higher than spouses, because issues like money, child rearing, and infidelity can interfere in the spouse to spouse relationship. Whereas, deep friendships are there to emotionally support you through good times and bad.

I have a friend who is Greek, and he was telling me that when he goes back to Greece, his parents who are in their late 70’s, don’t even begin socializing until after 10 pm and it goes well into the the early morning
hours. It isn’t uncommon to live into the 90’s and even 100!! In fact, the New York Times wrote an article about a Greek Island called ‘Ikaria’, and it is known as ‘ The island where people forget to die’.

They have much lower levels of heart disease, cancer, dementia and maintain very healthy sexual lives well into their 70’s and 80’s without pharmaceuticals. They use herbs and food like watermelon which contains citrulline. Citrulline is converted into arginine which produces nitric oxide and that is the power vaso-dilator I talked about earlier. And we all know areas of the body that need healthy blood flow to perform at optimal levels!!

So nurture your friendships, laugh as often as you can, find something to be grateful for, and smile. It will do your body good!

If you would like more information, go to my website and under the ‘Resources’ tab, and there will be a wonderful article by Dr. Wayne Dyer entitled ” The 7 secrets of Happiness”.

Until next time…..

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