One Quest Meets Another:
Over time, mankind has set itself many challenges to find purpose & meaning in life.
And one of those big goals is counterintuitive. One that doesn’t necessarily involve outward achievements.
-But Inward ones. All of which lead to it: Happiness.
And once you’re actually surviving, perhaps it’s The Only Goal.
Strangely enough, researchers are finding out some of our dearest desires have significant, yet unexpected side-benefits.
Including, among other things, actually keeping you alive longer…
Ed Diener’s A Happy Guy, But Don’t Piss Him Off:
So it all started with something like Anger.
Happiness Researcher-In-Chief Ed Diener got mad. -Or as mad as Ed gets..
You see, a study came out a few years ago that contradicted what he knew to be true, saying that Happiness did nothing for you.
So he and a few of his colleauges got together to prove them wrong.
And in a meta-analysis of 20 reviews and 150 different studies on potentially 1,000s of subjects, the Diener Team concludes that there is no doubt whatsoever that happiness improves health.
Actually, it’s good to have the results, but they’re not surprising.
100s Of Studies & 1,000s Of Subjects Can’t Be Wrong:
If Meditation alone can influence the expression of 1500-2200 genes, then what if you’re in an awesome state for most of the day, -Every single day?
So it’s no surprise then that the team found that despite confounding-factors & imperfectly-even distribution, happiness can still effect at least these changes:
1) Better Self-Care
2) Better Sleep
3) Better Nutrition
4) More Exercise
5) Better Cardio Health
6) Lower Inflammation
7) Better Wound-Healing
8) Better Hormone Function
9) Increased Youthfulness Even In Parts Of The Body’s Cells
10) Possibly Slower-Aging From Better Mitochondria Function
The Chicken And The Egg:
But one of the things the study did question is: Does Happiness Cause Healthiness, or Are Healthy People Already Happier?
It’s an interesting question, and with all the associated postive behaviors, you would think that people just start out happy & that’s it.
But according to the study, even when controlling for existing happiness on all of the not-exactly-perfect self-reported data, there is still evidence that happiness does result in better health.
Reduced Stress Happily Reduces Inflammation:
And if you think about it from a Stress-perspective, there’s probably enough evidence right there.
If you have a mental state that results in fewer fight-or-flight hormones, you’re probably going to see many of the benefits from that one change.
Especially in the modern age. Because those hormones all used to result in what was a truly Massive energy-expenditure in response to a threat.
What happens if you don’t use them for that & just sit and stew?
It doesn’t sound good.
What About Your Brain?:
So bear with me here.
Back in the Sandrine Thuret TED talk, we learned that:
1) Many behaviors actually hurt your brain
2) Anti-depressants work by rebuilding it
3) Stress is toxic to brain-cells.
So, what if people who are already sad tend not to engage in brain-building activities like running, but many of the things on the bad list?
And if Anti-depressants build-up your brain, what trough do they build it up from? And how high do they build it back up?
(especially because several people report having their brains changed Permanently for the better after a course of anti-depressants & never get depressed again)
What If Happiness Is Just A Spare-Tank Of Brain Cells?:
The idea I’m getting-at here is: The Brain’s Gas Tank.
What if different people are born with different brain-structures?
And you can only let your “tank” of Hippocampus connections get so low, before you qualify as Depressed?
And also, what if Healthy nutrition, socialization & exercise all build the brain back up, like Dr. Sandrine suggests?
Vicious Cycles & Virtuous Cycles:
So, maybe it’s just a case of a “Gas Tank” that can go through either Vicious Cycles, or Virtuous Cycles?
*Either one of which will accelerate its own effects, the longer & farther it goes? (like the widening-gyre of WB Yeats)
-You have X-number of connections in the right brain-regions and you’re good.
More than that, better.
Less than that, depressed.
Laughter And Other Medicines:
On a farther-out note, maybe that’s also why they say most stand-up comedians start out as sad.
Because sad people can help it by becoming experts at doing something that instantly dispels stress & increases happiness, even without nutrition, socialization & exercise.
So, if you couple Team Ed’s results with Dr. Sandrine & Dr. Neal Barnard’s, you should be able to increase your happiness from the brain-cells up with easy stuff that:
1) Reduces your Peak & Chronic Stress.
2) Stops brain-toxic behaviors
3) Builds your brain back up with the brain-healthy stuff
4) Utlimately increases your health as the effects of the first 2 seep-in over time.
And in addition to things like Magnesium for Anxiety and Niacin for Depression, Running sure doesn’t hurt, either. (in moderation)
So, go check out the other posts for the Brain-fixers and the rest of the Links for Team Happy’s great study on health!:
Photo Credits: “sysy_119”, by Flickr user Nova
• Source: U. Utah
• Via: Time
• Source Study: APHW-If, Why, and When Subjective Well-Being Influences Health, and Future Needed Research
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